The Story of the Gokarna Temple in Karnataka
Ravana, the antagonist of Ramayana, who was the demon king of Lanka and an adherent devotee of Lord Shiva wished to possess immorality by obtaining atma linga i.e the soul of Shiva.Ravana desired Atmalinga to present it to his mother for her worship. Ravana’s mother was a staunch devotee of Shiva and when she was dutifully praying to a Shiva linga for her son’s wellbeing, Indra, the god of Heaven, out of spite and envy, threw the Shivalinga in the sea.Angered by this, Ravana underwent rigorous penance and abstinence to please Lord Shiva. He sang praises and made sacrifices to seek the boon of Atmalinga from Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva presented himself to Ravana and gifted him Atmalinga with a condition that he must not put it down to the ground. Agreeing to the same, Ravan heads back to his journey to his mother.Fearing that the Atmalinga would give Ravana immense powers that would lead to destruction, Lord Vishnu creates the illusion of dusk as Ravana makes his journey near Gokarna.As Ravana gets ready for his evening prayers, he is faced with a predicament and unable to fulfill his prayers or keep the Atmalinga on the ground. While he ponders for a solution, a Brahim boy passes his way. Ravana hastily calls out to him and instructs him to hold the Atmalinga and to not put it on the ground while he finishes his rituals.Lord Ganesha who is disguised as the Brahmin boy reassures Ravana that he will call out his name thrice and if he doesn’t return, he will place the Atmalinga to the ground and be on his way.Agreeing to this, Ravana engages in his prayers and hastily Ganesha calls out Ravana’s name thrice. Not getting any response, he places the Atmalinga to the ground and vanishes among his cows.When Ravana realised what had happened, he quickly chased after a cow left behind and only managed to get a hold of the cow’s ears while the rest of the cow’s body vanished below the Earth’s surface.Thus the etymology of the town Gokarna comes from this legendary tale where Gow means Cow and Karna means Ear in Sanskrit.Hopelessly, Ravan tried to lift the Atmalinga off the ground, unable to move it, a temple was built around with the name of “Mahabaleshwar” given to it symbolising the all-powerful Atmalinga it holds.