Gokarna is a village in Karnataka, in the district of Uttara Kannada of Karnataka state. Gokarna literally means “Cow’s ear”. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow here. Hence it is also known as the temple town and is an important pilgrimage center for the Hindus. Another probable reason for the name Gokarna could be due to its Geographical location. The area where it is located is the convergence of rivers Gangavali and Agnashini and resembles the shape of a cow’s ear.
The early settlements of this region can be traced back to the Brahmins. They escaped from Gomantak to avoid forcible conversions by the British and Portuguese and settled in and around Gokarna around the 15th century. At that time, Gokarna used to be a part of the kingdoms of Vijaynagar and Sodhe. However, it later came under the Portuguese rule as the Konkan region was vehemently taken over by them. Gokarna is also an important center for Sanskrit studies. It is the residence of Bhandikeri Math and Togu Math where Sanskrit knowledge is passed down from generations in Brahmin families. The main language spoken here is Kannada. However, Konkani and Marathi are also widely spoken.
Mahabaleshwara temple is one of the chief temples here. It is a famous Shiva temple. There is a custom that one has to bathe in the sea and pay respect to a Shivalingam, made out of sand. The famous Atmalinga is housed here. It is preserved in a square called Saligrama Peetha. It is opened for viewing once in forty years.
The other temples are Maha Ganapathi Temple, Uma Maheshwari Temple, Varadraj Temple and many more. Gokarna also has many mythological stories associated with it.
Gokarna is not just a temple town. It is also a popular tourist destination with its endless coconut and palm trees and clear blue seas. It is a paradise for beach lovers. Four of the most gorgeous beaches are located in the south of Gokarna. First is the Kudle beach, a beautiful beach that seems to go on forever and is surrounded by palm trees.
Next is the Om beach, which is shaped like its name.
The final two are Half-moon beach and Paradise beach. These beaches have huts (shacks) on them which are available for rent.
They also have hammocks and guitars which give a hippy feel to the small village. They attract both foreigners and Indians alike. You can explore this quaint little town by walking through the two main streets which are lined with shops and conventional houses.
The presence of beaches and temples together create a contrast that few other places in the world possess. The best time to visit Gokarna is from October to March.