Gokarna: Place of Temples, Tracks and Beaches
Gokarna has a long association for me as I have been crossing it many times on my visit to Kumta (My Grandparent’s house) from Mumbai Science my childhood. However it was while making our yearly pilgrimage to Shiva’s Mahabaleshawr temple and other smaller temples nearby that I finally got to see the pristine beaches of Gokarna.
Eight of my cousins, grandparents and countless uncles and aunties crammed into three ambassadors excitedly for a day trip to Gokarna. The beach was empty, not a soul to seen. Odd, I thought for an otherwise crowded town. Along with my mischievous little cousin brothers I dipped my legs I the sea. We were not allowed to go in to the sea – It just was not a done thing. Prashant a little devil of the group rather rapidly and before anyone even knew decided that dipping fee was not enough and he began entering the sea deeper and deeper trying to jump the waves. The ten year old had no idea that the evening tide was getting stronger and that too he had gone in memory of Gokarna – sandy clean and empty beaches and of course no lifeguard to save you from the strong undercurrents.
Twenty five year later Gokarna is no longer exclusively a temple town – it has become a place of contrast. A prime spot of Hindu devotees to perform certain rituals, the town has also become a haven for hippies and backpackers Beach shakes and cafes have mushroomed along the sea after the pristine beaches were discovered by the outside world. But for part of the town, time has stood still. Prayers, obsequies (death rites) and darshans continue on a daily basis as do age old festivals such as Shivratri. The town continues to be an important holy site and the Mahabaleshwar temple management along with the Gokarna town leaders is now promoting it as a major place of pilgrimage.
I have grown up hearing stories about Ramayana and Mahabharata. So even today I believe the story of Gokarna’s Mahabaleshwar temple where Ravana was tricked into putting down the atmlinga which he has received as a boon from Shiva to make him invincible (Ravana was told by Shiva to never place it down). After he laid it down on the ground and realized what he had done he picked part of the Atmlinga up and threw it up in the air with force. Its four pieces reached Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwara, Murdeshwar and Shejjeswar and all four towns have temple with the atmlinga. I can imagine Lord Ganesha, the one who tricked Ravana at the exact place where I stand near the temple. An instant feeling of calm comes over me.
My reason for visiting Gokarna this time, however, was the beach. I love everything associated with the ocean – the smells, the sound, air and seafood. Today 25 years since my last trip, there are many hotel choices in Gokarna, hip places to eat yoga classes and water sports. It is a mini Goa without the hustle-bustle. The main attraction of town is the serenity it offers – quite beaches for long walk nearby hills for nature treks and sense of calm. It is the ideal place to write a book, meditate, think or simply watch the ocean waves. The five beaches are within close proximity and all should be visited during a stay here. Gokarna Beach is next to the town and is the least clean as it has many visitors. With the proliferation of plastic bags and containers and picnicking tourists much of the garbage gets strewed on the beach. The further south you go – the more tranquil and clean the setting become Kudle beach, a few kilometers from the town is the largest. However Om Beach, which gets its name from its shape, is the most populated beach with resort and café. Paradise and Half Moon Beaches are only accessible by foot or boat and are truly scheduled. Both have restaurant and basic hut like accommodation available. If you prefer to have your own bathroom then this type of accommodation is not for you.
Hills between each of the beaches make for a perfect trekking route. The trek from Om beach to paradise is straightforward and the path is quite clear. Do stop often as the beach views are spectacular. Every beach has small café and in the hot sun a cool drinks hits the spot. You cannot set the time constraints in Gokarna – it doesn’t suit the place. If you want to head into the town then the walk is an hour from Om beach. But after a long walk I decided to settle in the shade on the beach with a cool beer, lingering on the watch the wave.
How to Go: Gokarna is connected by airways, railways and roadway as well.
Dabolim Airport (Goa)
Distance from Gokarna: 170 Kms
Nearest Railway Station:
Gokarna Railway Station Distance: 20 Kms
Kumta Railway Station Distance: 20 Kms
Ankola Railway Station Distance: 20 Kms
Gokarna is also connected with national highway 17 that 9 kms from Karwar destination.
Bangalore- Goa highway passes through Ankola which 20 km from the Gokarna.
Tags: Gokarana Temple , Gokarna Beach , Gokarna Pilgrimage
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