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The holidays were nearing and we wondered about the next destination in our itinerary. My colleague informed me about this beautiful place in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka state called Gokarna. I googled and decided to include Murudeshwar and few other places around Gokarna in our travel plan. The next question was on the mode of transport. Konkan Railways is a great option that could be explored considering the scenic beauty en route. The stretch between India’s commercial capital Mumbai and Mangalore that traverses across Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka is a great eye tonic. The paddy fields, mangroves, coconut trees, waterfalls and the Western Ghats are a tourist’s delight.

Driving Down to Murudeshwar

We decided to give the whole trip a new dimension by driving down. We left early from office, hit the Pune Bangalore National Highway NH4 and reached Kolhapur a city at the south western tip of Maharashtra in 3 hours. We headed straight to the famous Mahalaxmi (Ambabai) temple. As it was a Friday the temple was crowded and we took some time to pay our respect to the goddess. It’s said that a visit to Balaji Temple in Tirupathi is incomplete without the blessings of the Mahalaxmi at Kolhapur. Just outside the temple you will find the state transport bus stand and stalls that sell chappals (footwear) synonymous to Kolhapur; the well known handmade leather Kolhapuri chappals. You will also find an array of jewellery shops with various items on display.

Kolhapur is famous for its spicy food, be it the Bhadang, Misal Pav or the Lasun Masala chutney. Bhadang is a snack made of puffed rice, salt, and a liberal serving of spices that gives it a lip smacking taste but is sure to fire your senses. We then headed to Hotel Opal, well known for its Kolhapuri Mutton Rassa a spicy mutton curry that will leave your tongue hanging. This curry is had with Bhakri or chappatis (Indian breads). Other accompaniments to this curry are the tambda rassa (red curry) and the pandhra rassa (white curry) made of coconut milk.

We had made our reservations at Hotel Tourist well in advance. The hotel is bang opposite Kolhapur railway station and is a decent enough place to spend a night. We rose early, had our breakfast and headed further south. The drive from Kolhapur to Murudeshwar takes six hours and you have to travel through the towns of Karnataka – Belgaum, Gokarna, and Kumta. We had booked our accommodation at RNS Highway Hotel.

As the name suggests, it’s right on the highway next to the diversion for Murudeshwar temple. The other resort RNS Residency is located next to the temple and was running at full capacity. It was past the lunch hour, but the kitchen staff obliged us with some fish fry, khichadi and chicken curry. It was here that I first tasted rava fish fry, a Goan and Karnataka delicacy. The marinated fish is coated with rava (semolina) and fried. This version though crunchy isn’t as spicy as the non rava version. My son loved it and gorged on it during our stay in Murudeshwar. All stuffed, we returned to our room and took a nap after which we drove down to the Murudeshwar temple.

And what a sight it was! The Lord Shiva statue on the Kanduka Giri hill made a towering presence. The statue is around 120 feet tall and could be viewed from miles away. It had an imposing presence and everything around looked and felt miniscule. The soaring gopuram (entrance to the temple) that is common in South India gave it a majestic look. Add to that, the Arabian Sea as the backdrop and it makes for such a beautiful, panoramic view !

The Legend Of Murudeshwara

Murudeshwara is one of Lord Shiva’s many names. The story of this temple is set on a leaf from the epic Ramayana in Threthayuga. It is told that Ravana, the asura king of Lanka did penance to become immortal. Pleased with him, Shiva offered the atmalinga idol to Ravana saying that if placed on the ground before reaching his destination, it would lose its power. The Gods were worried because with this power, Ravana could wreck havoc on Earth. Lord Vishnu decided to play a trick and blocked the sun with his Sudarshan Chakra (wheel). Mistaking it to be evening and time to perform his daily puja Ravana asked a a Brahmin boy passing by him to hold the atmalinga till his puja was done.The boy was Lord Ganesha in disguise.

The boy agreed, but on one condition. He would hold it till he could bear its weight after which he would call Ravana thrice and if he didn’t return, the atmalinga would be left on the ground. Ravana didn’t return by the third call and the boy placed the atmalinga on the ground where it got entrenched. Vishnu then withdrew his chakra and it was broad daylight again. Furious with rage, Ravana tried to pull the idol out of the ground, but it didn’t budge and took the shape of a cow’s ear (Gokarna). He flung the case of the idol, which fell at Sajjeshwar, the lid landed at Guneshwar and the cloth tied around the idol at Murudeshwar. When Shiva got to know about it he visited all these places and called them his Panchakshetra. You can find the beautiful depiction of this story in the Murudeshwar temple premises.

On To Gokarna

The next day we headed for Gokarna via Honavar and Kumta. The drive along the coastline is scenic, with the blue sea shimmering around. Gokarna is a small town and the temple of Mahabaleshwar finds devotees thronging here. Here men need to unclad their torso while in the temple. This place is one of the seven Mukthisthalas in Karnataka, the others being Udupi, Kollur, Subramanya, Kumbasi, Kodeshwara and Sankaranarayana.  You can find many foreigners in Gokarna, as in Goa. There are many stalls outside the temple selling various handicraft items and souvenirs. Something to watch out for is the handiwork made of the roots of a plant.

After paying homage to the deity we drove to the well known Om beach. The beach has acquired this name as its top view resembles that of the Hindu symbol Om. It isn’t as crowded as the beached of Goa. The waves wash the shores, almost making the sound of Om. The coconut trees on the shore, the gentle breeze and the saline smell around you give a mesmerizing feel. You are at peace and wouldn’t desire for more. One can sit on its shores for hours and watch the beautiful sunset. You would wish to stay for eternity in its calm, un-spoilt and serene expanse. Gokarna – bliss of life!

Fact File

•    By Road – Gokarna is close to 489 km from Bangalore and around 150 km from Goa
•    By Train – Kumta rail station is close to Gokarna
•    By Air – Panaji airport is closest to Gokarna and is at a distance of 150 km.

* All images, except lead picture, courtesy, Rathina Sankari N.

About The Author

Rathina Sankari is a mother of two lovely kids. A voracious reader, software professional and an avid blogger, she loves spending time with her children and cooks up delicacies of their choice. Rathina is busy juggling several balls, but manages to keep them all in the air. You can find more about her at Rathinas View Space.

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