Gokarna is tiny temple town in coastal Karnataka. It lives in the shadow of the more glamorous Om beach. There’s an interesting mythological tale about Gokarna. It is said that after creating the universe Brahma became too arrogant. At that time, Shiva stood up to him and showed him the error of his ways. To redeem himself, Brahma began meditating near a river here. Eventually, Shiva appeared, from the ear of cow (Go-Karna) thus ending Brahma’s penance. Temples here are dedicated to Lord Shiva, with one of them said to house the first Shiv linga (Atmalinga).
How the Atmalinga Came to Gokarna
In Hindu mythology, every story leads to another. And there’s one about the Atmalinga and Gokarna. Ravana, lord Shiva’s supreme devotee, performed rigorous penance and received the Atmalinga as a reward. “This Atmalinga will take root the moment its placed on earth” warned Shiva. On his way to Lanka, Ravana stopped by at Gokarna to perform his daily rites. At that moment, Ganesha, disguised as a brahman boy, offered to hold the linga. However, he added a condition – if the Atmalinga became too heavy he would call for Ravana thrice and then keep it down.
The moment Ravana went for his ablutions, Ganesha whispered his name thrice and promptly kept the Atmalinga on the ground. On realizing that the Gods had tricked him, Ravana tried to uproot the linga. Such was his force that the coverings of the Atmalinga shattered and fell on Surathkal, Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwar, Murudeshwar and Shejjeshwar temples.
Gokarna has a unique dual identity – the holy side with ancient temples and devotees offering prayers and the hippie side with beautiful beaches/islands and typical markets selling hippie stuff.
Many, many years ago, I had traveled to Murudeshwar and Gokarna. It was my very first trip alone, done with public transport. This is a place I’ll always remember with a lingering smile …
Ten to fifteen years ago, Gokarna had mostly priests, fishermen, florists, farmers, and a people who would come in for the pilgrimage seasons. Some of the residents reminisce about the clean and sparse beaches and the laid back lifestyle.
I remember staying in a small hostel near Gokarna main temple, having Mangalore buns for breakfast, making some friends with the hippie crowd on their Indian sojourn, and trekking to Ohm beach.
The houses had a unique architecture, and it was my first brush with sketching plein air in this part of the country. Looking back at these images, I still can’t help but wonder about these traditional houses … who lives in them, what are the aspirations of those people, and their relationship with their houses.
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All artwork is copyrighted by Lonely Canopy.