Gokarnam Mahabaleshwar Temple
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Gokarnam Mahabaleshwar Temple in Karwar district of Karnataka is one of the 275 Shaiva Tirupathies (Shiva shrines) glorified by the Tamil hymns of the Nayanmars around 1300 years ago, one of the 7 Mukti Stalas of Karnataka (the other six being Udupi, Kollur, Subramanya, Kumbasi, Kodeshwara and Sankaranarayana), one of the three Siddhi Kshetras (the other two being Pushkar and Shaligram) and one of the 108 Shivalayams. Gokarna is 60 km south of Karwar and 7 hours from the city of Mangalore.
Ravana, king of Sri Lanka, did penance for the grace of Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash. Lord Shiva agrees to give Atmalingam with condition that the atmalingam should be physically carried and not placed anywhere on the ground, and it establishes wherever it is placed on earth. On his way, Ravana stops for bath and gives the atmalingam to Lord Ganesha who dressed up like a cowhered brahmin who promptly puts it down. His efforts to extricate it resulted in his throwing the coverings of the Linga to Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwara, Murdeshwar and Shejjeshwar temples (the last places is very near Karwar). In spite of the might exerted by Ravana (Maha Bala), the Shivalingam stayed fixed, hence the name Mahabaleshwar. The pull exerted by Ravana, is said to have caused the Shivalinga to resemble the shape of a cow's ear and hence the name Gokarnam. The Ejjeshwara, Gunavanteshwara, Murudeshwara ,Dhareshwara and Mahabaleshwara temple are known as the Pancha Maha Kshetras.
Gokrana means cow's ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow here. It is also located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Agnashini. However, according to the popular belief, it is named so to commemorate Lord Shiva's emergence from the ears of a cow. A mere visit to this temple liberates one from hundreds of sins including the deadliest ones such as 'brahma-hatya' (the killing of a Brahmin or a pious person). Even a glimpse of the Atma-linga of Lord Mahabaleswara, helps one to attain salvation and frees one from the cycle of births and rebirths. According to a legend, Lord Rudra went to Patalaloka for penance on the advice of Lord Brahma and returned through the ear of Mother Earth, often symbolized as a cow. Since the place served as the womb for him, it is also known as Rudra Yoni or Adi Gokarna.
Shivaratri festival is celebrated here with great enthusiasm. Each year a team builds up two great temple chariots which is used during the Shiva Ratri festival. The two great temple chariots lead a procession through the town's narrow streets, while priests and pilgrims chant hymns in praise of Shiva. More than a hundred people are needed to pull the chariots with thick ropes while priests conduct religious ceremonies inside.
Gokarna is also mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagvatha Purana as being the home of the two brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari and the Bhagvathz also gives details of the difference in their temperament and nature and their exploits.
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