Gokarna
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Gokarna   |   uttara kannada

Gokarna is a small temple town on the western coast of India in the Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district of the state of Karnataka. The main temple and deity is Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahabhaleshwara. Gokarna means Cow's Ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (Prithvi, the Mother Earth) here. It is at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini.

This temple houses what is believed to be original image of Lord Shiva's lingam(Atmalinga). There are many other temples all over this small town. Ankola and Kumta on Highway 17 are the main towns near Gokarna.

Gokarna is known as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centers. It is on what was once an unspoiled beach near the estuary of the river Aghanashini. Recently, due to the number of tourists, the character of the town has changed; it is no longer just a center of pilgrimage, though large numbers of devotees visit to offer prayers and worship to Lord Shiva. Due to its laid-back, unspoiled and rustic nature many younger western tourists started visiting Gokarna about a decade ago. The beaches around Gokarna were hardly used by the locals until these mainly western tourists started coming. Enterprising locals started stores, restaurants, and now the resorts also cater to wealthier tourists.

Beach

The drive up the winding path that leads to Gokarna is scenic, with the rocky mountains and Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other. Gokarna is known for the beaches. The Gokarna main beach in town and Kudle beach are west facing. Om beach, Half moon Beach and Paradise Beach (also known as Full moon) are south facing. Heaven beach and Nirvana beach are across the Aghanashini river.

The Gokarna beach forms the coast of the town and is followed by Main beach in northern direction while the other four beaches lie to the south. Gokarna Main Beach is mainly used by Indian pilgrims. Main Beach is a long open beach, known for surfing. Kuddle and Om are around 6 km from Gokarna town along a muddy hill; they are accessible by rickshaw or foot. Half moon and Paradise are beyond Om beach and are accessible only by foot or boat. Nirvana beach is accessible by boat and road from Kumta town. Om beach is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious ॐ Om symbol. Om beach is the only naturally Om-shaped beach.

Gokarna is about 583 km from Bangalore, 238 km north of Mangalore and about 59 km from Karwar. It is between the Gangavali and Agnashini rivers along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea. It is 200 km north from the college towns of Suratkal and Manipal.

Photography: [Karthik Dwarakanath: #1] [Anurag Dutta: #1] [Jo Kent: #1]

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