Gokarna, India

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Kotitheertha temple tank in the centre of the town, Gokarna, India
Kotitheertha temple tank in the centre of the town, Gokarna, India
Gokarna is located in Karnataka
Location in Karnataka, India
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Country  India
State Karnataka
District Uttara Kannada
 • Total 10.9 km2 (4.2 sq mi)
Elevation 586 m (1,923 ft)
Population (2001)
 • Total 25,851
 • Density 2,400/km2 (6,100/sq mi)
 • Official Kannada
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Vehicle registration KA-47

Gokarna (Kannada: ಗೋಕರ್ಣ) is a small temple town on the western coast of India in the Uttara Kannada district of the state of Karnataka. The main temple and deity is Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahabhaleshwara. 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 historically known as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centers. It is on what was once unspoiled beach near the estuary of river Aghanashini with palm trees, other colorful tropical fruit and flower trees. Of late, due to the number of tourists, the character of the town has changed. This town is no longer just a center of pilgrimage though massive 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 to undeveloped beaches around Gokarna. Enterprising locals started stores, restaurants, and now full-fledged resorts cater even to the well-heeled tourists.


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.

File:Gokarna beachline.jpg
The beautiful and serene coast of Gokarna


File:Kodalu beach at Gokarna.JPG
View of Kudlu beach from Gokarna

Gokarna is mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana as being the home of the brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari. The Bhagawat also gives details of the differences in their temperament, nature and exploits.

The sthalapuranam of Gokarna was then available in Tamil as it was a part of Tamil kingdoms during Sangam times, has the following account.

In order that Brahma who out of arrogance arising out of his power to create the universe, sat penancing to redeem himself from curse of shivan, Lord Shiva appeared in front of him from the ears of a cow. So the place came to be known as gokarnam or ear of the cow. The sangam period writings refer to a class of chieftains going by names kocar and kilans, in charge of the region between gokarnam and present day Mumbai. Even though the Tamil saints have revered this temple, their composed hymns on the same are not available today. Hindu mythology says that when Lord Parsurama the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu created Kerala it was from Gokarna to Kaniyakumariya.


The earliest history of the city is not known. Tamil saints like the Nayanmars Appar and Sambanthar from the 6th century CE praised the deity of Tulu Nadu in their hymn canon Tevaram. It is an established fact that Mayurvarma of the Kadamba kings brought Brahmins from Ahicchatra. A sect of Brahmins fled from the Gomantak to escape forcible conversions by the Portuguese and British and settled in and around Gokarna in the 15th century. It was part of the Sodhe and Vijayanagar kingdoms. When the Konkan region — including Goa — was occupied by the Portuguese, it became part of their rule. A few temples were destroyed by the Portuguese in 1714, rebuilt in the 18th century, and under the supervision of Guru H. H. Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji in 1928.


Gokarna is a temple town and a holiday destination. Gokarna is full of coconut, banana and other trees, blue seas and relatively clean sands. It is a laid-back town with two main streets lined with shops and traditional tile-roofed brick houses. The beaches near Gokarna have shacks (huts) for rent. Kannada is the main language spoken here; Konkani and English are spoken, too.

Religious attractions

Gokarna is an important centre of Sanskrit learning and houses Bhandikeri Math and Toggu Math. It is a place where Sanskrit knowledge is passed down from generations in Brahmin families. Many Hindus perform the last rites here.

  • Mahabaleshwar Temple (Maha: great, bal: strength) is a famous Shiva Temple and it houses the 'Atmalinga'. It was named after Ravana referred to the linga's great strength.[1] It is at the western end of the main street. The 'Athmalinga' is between the Saligrama Peethaa. The idol of Lord Mahabaleshwara is called Nagabharana. It is so named because of the Lord rests under the head of Naga (serpent). The floor of the hall in front has an intricate engraving of a giant tortoise.
  • Maha Ganapathi Temple built in honour of the boy Ganapathi, who deceived the demon Ravana by keeping Atmalinga on ground before Ravana returns from sandyavandanam. The deity here is two-armed, standing and at least 1500 years old.
  • Uma Maheshwara Temple
  • Bhadrakali Temple
  • Tamra Gauri Temple
  • Venkataramana Temple
  • Kotitheertha is a man-made tank that is used for immersion of idols and ritual bathing. It is surrounded by temples.
  • Shivaratri festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The temple has two chariots — named locally as 'Dodda Ratha' (dodda for big in Kannada) and 'Sanna Ratha' (sanna for small in Kannada). While Sanna Ratha is out in the open during winter and summer, the huge Dodda Ratha is brought out and made ready only during Maha Shivaratri. On the last day of the Shivaratri festival the Lord Mahabaleshwara idol is carried in Dodda Ratha in a procession through the town's big Car Street, while priests and pilgrims chant hymns in praise of Shiva. More than 100 people are needed to pull the chariots with thick ropes while priests conduct religious ceremonies inside. During the nine-day festival, the small town of Gokarna is visited by up to 20,000 pilgrims.

Community festivals

  • Mahashivaratri
  • Kartika Mahotsava
  • Suggi Habba is the main cultural festival of halakki vakkaligas


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.

File:Om beach at Gokarna.jpg
Panorama of Om Beach at Gokarna in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, India, showing its distinctive shape.

Gokarna is known for the beaches. The main beaches are the Gokarna beach (also known as Indian Beach), Main Beach, Kudle beach, Om beach, Half moon Beach, Paradise Beach (also known as Full moon) and Nirvana beach (3 km long with fine white sand).

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 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.[2]


File:Om beach Gokarna.JPG
Boating services seen in Om beach, 5km from Gokarna.
File:Gokarna temple beach.JPG
Gokarna beach near Mahabaleshwara temple.

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.

Gokarna can be reached by buses and maxicabs from Kumta (30 km), Ankola (26 km) and Karwar (59 km) on National Highway 17 (NH-17). Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) runs long-journey buses from cities like Panaji, Bangalore and Mangalore. Private buses (Vijayanand Roadlines - VRL, Sugama, Sea Bird, etc.) operate night journeys from the capital city of Bangalore to Gokarna daily.

It can be reached Konkan Railway on the Mumbai to Mangalore route. The railway station (called Gokarna Road) is 6 km from the town. The station has a retiring room at a nominal price. Many important trains like Matsyagandha Express halt here.

The nearest airports are Dabolim at Goa and Mangalore International Airport at Bajpe.

Neighboring villages

See also


  1. "Mahabaleshwar Temple".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Beaches".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Source: Karnataka State Gazetteer 1983

External links