Gokarna - Mahabaleshvara temple
Gokarna is about 200km north of Mangalore (7 hr by bus) and 56km southwest of Karwar on the seashore. According to the Gokarna Purana, “By mere entrance into this Ksetra (holy place), one becomes liberated from hundreds of sins, including even brahma-hatya (the killing of a Brahmin).”
Mahaballeswara Temple This Siva temple is said to be next in sanctity only to the Vishwanath Siva Temple in Varanasi. It is often called the Kashi of the South. Hindus come here to perform the death rites for departed ancestors. Tradition states that Lord Rudra (another name for Siva) was sent to Patalaloka by Brahma to undergo penance. He eventually returned through the ear of Mother Earth and blessed her with the name of Gokarna (go, “cow”; karna “ear”). Thus this place served Rudra as a womb.
It is also known as Rudra Yoni and Adi Gokarna. As time passed, Rudra collected the essence (sakti) of all Brahma’s creations as well as his own essence and created a golden deer with four legs, three eyes, and three horns. Eventually, the three horns (representing the three guna-avataras) were placed at Pushkar (Brahma), Shaligram (Vishnu), and Gokarna (Siva).
These places are known as Siddhi Ksetras. Ravana desired to possess Siva’s powerful horn-linga, also known as Prana-linga or Atma-linga, so he performed penance and received the linga in a box at Mount Kailash. Ravana then returned south with the linga on the condition that wherever he placed it, it would become permanently rooted. At the demigods’ request, Lord Vishnu contrived a means to trick Ravana through Ganesh, disguised as a brahmacari. Eventually the Atma-linga was placed at Gokarna, rooted all the way through to Sapta Patala, and became known as Mahaballeswara (maha—great and bal—strength).
Many long-term foreign visitors come to Gokarna, as there are nice secluded beaches nearby. A half-hour walk south of Gokarna are four good, secluded beaches popular with long-term travelers. The most popular time to visit is between January and February. Many people come from Goa after New Years, especially for the full moon.
OM Beach, thirty-minutes further south. The beach got its name because it is shaped like the auspicious Om sign. There are some really basic huts and some chai shops to eat at.
There are two more beaches—Half-moon and Paradise—each a thirty-minute walk from one another. You can get bottled water and food on all the beaches near Gokarna including the Main beach, Kudle, Om, Half Moon and Paradise beaches.