We continued our Gokarna trip by visiting four other Shiva temples in the vicinity, all connected to the same story of Gokarna.
The story of Gokarna mentions the Mahabaleshwara Lingam as the one brought from Kailas by Ravana, and kept at this place on the ground by Ganesha. (See my earlier post- Gokarna – Pilgrimage and Pleasure). However, the story does not end here. It is believed that, in his anger, Ravana flung aside the materials which covered the lingam- the casket, its lid, the string around the lingam, and the cloth covering it. All these items became lingams as soon as they touched the ground. These four lingams, along with the main Mahabaleshwara lingam are collectively called the ‘Panchalingams’. These are:
- Mahabaleshwara – the main lingam
- Sajjeshwar – the casket carrying the lingam. This temple is about 35 Kms from Karwar, and is a 2 hour drive from Gokarna.
- Dhareshwar – the string covering the lingam. This temple is on NH17, about 45 Kms south of Gokarna.
- Gunavanteshwar – the lid of the casket carrying the lingam. This temple is also on NH17, about 60 Kms south of Gokarna.
- Murudeshwar – the cloth covering the lingam. This temple is also on NH17, about 70 Kms south of Gokarna.
The first temple we visited was Sajjeshwar, since it is the only one in a different direction. We hired a car from Gokarna for the purpose, and he charged us about Rs.800/- for the 4 hour trip. The route is a scenic one along the sea, passing through Karwar. The Sajjeshwar temple is a small one, not much visited, and, as a result, calm and quiet.
The 3 other temples are all along the same route towards Udupi. First is the Dhareshwar temple, about an hour’s drive from Gokarna. This temple is open from 6AM to 10 AM and again from 4 to 9 PM. This is also a small temple, not very well maintained, but serene and calm. The temple precincts are huge, but need a lot more work to draw crowds.
The Gunavanteshwar Temple
From Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwar is another hour away. This temple is open from 6 AM to 1 PM and from 3 to 8:15PM. This is another huge temple, but better maintained. Both these temples have a huge pond nearby.
The pond outside the Gunavanteshwar Temple
From here, Murudeshwar is another hour away. Murudeshwar is probably the most popular and the most well maintained among all these, including Gokarna. The temple is right on the seashore, and is an extremely picturesque sight by itself. Moreover, the whole place has been taken up and re-developed by one Mr. R.N.Shetty, and he has completely transformed a simple temple on the shore to an attraction for tourists. A huge Shiva statue is visible miles away, and is the major attraction for the average tourist. Under this huge statue is a sort of sound and light show which explains the story of Gokarna. Presently this show is available only in Kannada, but even then my 5 year old son enjoyed it immensely. He now knows the story by-heart, and takes great pleasure in explaining and enacting out the story to everyone he meets.
The Shiva Statue at Murudeshwar
A view of Murudeshwar
Besides this, a number of facilities have been constructed for tourists, with accommodation ranging from dormitories to AC suites. There is a wave pool near the complex, water sports facility, as well as a beachside restaurant.Recently, a huge Gopuram has been built, which is the largest in Asia! There are plans to have a museum inside this gopuram, and a lift has been installed inside. So, there is a lot more to look forward to!!!! We spent more than 2 hours at Murudeshwar, and it was truly great!! For more details, visit their website at http://www.naveenhotels.com/
Even apart from this, there are a number of places to stay at Murudeshwar, and in fact, it is a good place to stay if you want to visit temples in coastal Karnataka.
Our visit to Murudeshwar completed our circuit of the five lingams, or Panchalingams of Gokarna, but our trip wasn’t yet complete. We visited many more temples, so keep looking out for more…………….