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Travel Guide to Mahabaleshwar Temple in Gokarna, Karnataka

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About Gokarna

Gokarna is a small temple town also known as Srikshetra. It is one of the most important pilgrim places for Hindus. Gokarna is located on the west coast of North Karnataka along the Karwar coast, about 60 Km from Karwar. It is a small and peaceful town with full of divine vibes and tranquil atmosphere.

The nearest Railway Station to Gokarna is Gokarna Road on the Konkan Railway. There are good number of auto-rickshaws available at the station. They charge around Rs.250/- or Rs.300/- from railway station to the town. Many buses also ply from Mangalore and Mumbai which halt at Kumta village. From here one has to take a cab / auto-rickshaw to Gokarna which costs around Rs.200/- or Rs.250/-. However, it is very difficult to get one from this place. Gokarna is not easily accessible.

About Shree Mahabaleshwar temple

The main temple of Shree Mahabaleshwar is situated on the banks of Arabian Sea, facing the sea. Sri Mahabaleshwar is the main deity of the temple. Gokarna temple is spiritually important as it has the 'atmalingam' of Lord Shiva and is the only temple on Earth to have 'atmalingam'. The place is referred as 'Bhoo Kailash' in the Skanda Purana, which means Mount Kailash on Earth.
Most of the devotees take a holy dip in the sea and then walk to the temple. Devotees must first visit Shree Mahaganapati temple which is to the left of the main temple of Mahabaleshwar and to one's right when one faces east.
After offering prayers / abhishekam to Lord Ganesha, devotees walk inside the temple premises. Those who wish to perform special pooja / abhishekam to the 'atmalingam' need to buy ticket at the counter and engage a temple priest.
The prices are different for different poojas / sevas (inclusive of all pooja items / materials) which are subject to change. The temple priest whom the devotees engage, will get all the pooja materials. They are seated in the 'alaya prangana' i.e. temple premises where pooja is performed by the priest.
Devotees who perform 'abhishekam' need to draw water from the well inside the temple premises. It gives the devotees some kind of self-satisfaction as they put their efforts and are involved in performing abhishekam.
The temple priests perform pooja with 'gotra namalu' and then the devotees who performed pooja are taken inside the 'garbha griha' i.e sanctorum for performing abhishekam i.e. pouring of milk / water/ panchamrutam / navadhanyalu (i.e. 9 varieties of cereals)  /bilwa patra etc.
The middle one in the above picture is the image of 'atmalingam' which remains deep under the ground. The 'atmalingam' is covered with a square shape 'kavacham' (shield) which has a hole in the centre. Devotees are allowed to put their finger inside the hole to touch the topmost part of 'atmalingam' is not visible. Though the temple priests say that, the topmost part of 'atmalingam' is visible, but it is difficult to spot due to the heavy crowd of pilgrims inside the sanctorum.

On getting inside the sanctorum, devotees who perform pooja, are allowed to directly pour water / milk / panchamrutam / bilwa patram / nava dhanya into the hole. They then touch / feel the topmost part of the 'atmalinga'.


During our recent visit to the Gokarna temple on December 8th, 2018, the temple priest told us that once in every 60 years, the 'kavacham' / shield from the 'atmalingam' is removed and it remains uncovered for one month. The devotees thus get the wonderful opportunity of directly seeing / touching the 'atmalingam' during this one month period when it remains uncovered. After that once again it is covered with the shield. The 'kavacham' was removed in 1983. So, again the shield will be removed 60 years from 1983 or as and when the Samsthan decides.

The date and time of this event is announced in advance by the Samsthan. In addition to the spiritual elevation in the temple with divine vibes, tourists visit the nearby places and unspoiled beaches of Gokarna which are gradually gaining popularity.

One can relax in the beaches of Gokarna which is naturally beautiful with hills / mountains / coconut and palm trees on the banks. A cool place which is far far away from the maddening crowd and one of the best places for having a peace (not piece) of mind.

Temple Timings

The temple is not very heavily crowded but is moderately crowded with pilgrims mostly from different states of the country. The temple opens for devotees at 6 a.m and closes 12.30 p.m. It again opens at 5 in the evening and closes at 8 p.m (timings are subject to change)

Shopping

There is row of shops on either side of the street facing the temple. One can buy varieties of spices that spread aroma and dry fruits like khajur, cashew nuts etc at this place. These are sold at reasonable / fixed price and are worth buying.

Food

There are few small road side hotels. However, devotees can have free 'annaprasadam' offered by the temple. Free annaprasadam starts from 11.30 a.m till 2.00 p.m. Purely vegetarian food is offered at these places with one curry, rasam, sambar, sweet prasadam and butter milk. Food served here is okay from taste and hygienic point of view.

Devotees can donate money at the counter, however it is not compulsory.

Stay

There are few home-stays / guest houses very close to the main temple at reasonable price. They offer AC double bed room for around Rs.1500/- per night and non-AC double bed rooms for around Rs.800/- per night. These rooms are not with high comforts but are okay for a day's stay. 12.30 p.m is the check-in / check-out time in most of the guest houses.

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