Gokarna is a small, scenic temple town in the state of Karnataka. This place is considered among the Mukti Stalas (a place where Hindus perform last rites of their kin). The biggest attraction of this place is the Mahabaleshwar Temple – famous for being home to what is called “Atmalinga”. It is said that the Atmalinga was given by Lord Shiva to demon-king Ravana. Besides this shrine, another similar place to visit in the town is the Maha Ganapati Temple, which lies in the vicinity of the Mahabaleshwara Temple. A common protocol to follow here is to visit the Maha Ganapati Temple before paying a visit to the Mahabaleshwara Temple. There are two other well-known attractions in the town that are a must visit, and these are Mirjan Fort and Koti Tirtha. While the former can be visited to admire its architecture, the latter can be visited for a holy bath.
In addition to religious activities, the town of Gokarna is also known for its serene beaches, including Om Beach, Kudle Beach, Paradise Beach and Half Moon Beach. Each of these beaches has its own charm, but one common attribute among them is their unspoilt beauty. Om Beach is the most popular one among the four, and it has been named after its shape that resembles the holy Hindu symbol of ‘Om’.
Besides sightseeing, indulging in swimming, trekking and surfing can be really enjoyed here. Also, Yoga classes can be joined for some relaxing time. Shopping in the town is limited to religious souvenirs, jewellery and clothes, which can be easily purchased from local markets. Seafood delicacies are quite popular here among the tourists. There are a handful of local restaurants in the town, where Indian as well as other international delicacies can be relished.
The best time to come here is from October to March, when the weather is favourable for sightseeing. It is better to avoid coming here during monsoons. Coming here in February/March can be quite fruitful as this is the period when the Mahashivaratri Festival is celebrated with full vigour. During this occasion, the entire town is decorated and a procession is carried out.
Reference of this town can be found in both the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Legends suggest that it was here where Lord Shiva appeared from the ear of a cow, after he was summoned by Lord Brahma to go to Patal Lok. This is the reason why the place has been named Gokarna, derived from the two words ‘Gau’ and ‘Karna’. It is also believed that the place has been named so as the confluence of the rivers Aghanashini and Gangavali resemble the shape of a cow’s ear.
Recent history suggests that a Brahmin community fled from Gomantak and settled at Gokarna to escape conversions by the British and the Portuguese. During that period, it was part of the Vijayanagar and Sodhe kingdoms. However, it came under the rule of Portuguese, when they annexed the Konkan region. In 1714, some of the temples in this place were destroyed by the Portuguese; however, they were later rebuilt in 1928 by Guru H. H. Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji.
The town of Gokarna lies in the Kumta taluk of the district of Uttara Kannada, on the western coast of the country. It is spread over an area of approximately 10.9 sq km and has an elevation of more than 586 m above sea level. The town is situated between the rivers of Aghanashini and Gangavali, along the coast of Karwar by the Arabian Sea. Some of its neighbouring villages are Torke, Maskeri, Madangere, Bijjur, Sanikatta and Adigone. This small town lies at a distance of about 229 km from Mangalore, 490 km from Bengaluru and 61 km from Karwar.
According to Köppen and Geiger climate classification, Gokarna has a tropical climate. The average annual temperature of this place is 27.1 degree Celsius. It receives heavy rainfall most part of the year, with an annual average of 3649 mm. January is the driest month in Gokarna with 0 mm precipitation. July is the wettest month with an average precipitation of 1227 mm. The warmest month in Gokarna happens to be May, when the temperatures average around 29.5 degree Celsius. January is the month when the average temperature is at its lowest in this place. The average variation in temperatures across the year in Gokarna is 3.6 degree Celsius.
The summer season here starts in the month of March and continues till May. Monsoons commence in June and last till August while the winter season starts in November and continues through January. The winter months are considered to be the best period to explore this scenic town.
How to reach
The small town of Gokarna in Karnataka lies at a few hours distance from both Bengaluru and Goa. It is well connected to these places by road.
By Road – Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) connect Gokarna with various cities within the state like Mangalore, Bengaluru and Hubli, on a regular basis. Bus services are also available from Madgaon and other cities of Goa till here. This destination is only about 10 km from National Highway 17, which connects the cities of Kochi and Mumbai.
By Air – The nearest airport to this place is Dabolim Airport in Goa. It lies about 154 km away. This airport caters to flights from across the globe. Regular taxi and bus services are available from this airport till Gokarna.
By Rail – The closest railhead to Gokarna is in Ankola, which is about 20 km away. This railway station receives regular trains from cities, including Thiruvananthapuram, Mangalore and Mumbai, among others. Both bus and taxi services are readily available from this station till Gokarna. There is a railway station in Gokarna, which is well connected to Margao, Goa; however, not every train halts here.
The best way to explore this picturesque town is on foot. However, there are other alternatives too, especially when the need is to travel to the different beaches in the town. Besides opting for a taxi, rickshaw and boat ride, renting a scooter can be a good idea.