Gokarna in Karnataka, just over the border with Goa, first Hindu outpost reachable from South Goa in one easy stage by the spectacular Konkan Railway, a winding line through a thousand kilometres of the Western Ghats, tunnel after tunnel & in between, spectacular views of the coastal regions, travelling down South.
It’s worth clicking on this remarkable wall notice, glued with tape to the peeling pink paint of Gokarna Station Hall, reminiscent of a South Indian temple design, secularised for the Transport Devata, whoever he may be. One feels he must be a God as a female deity would have run things better!
Only in India could a railway notice contain exhortatory quotations from (in order), Mahatma Gandhi, the Atharva Veda, Oprah Winfrey, Quintillian, Kant, Thoreau, the Lord Buddha & Ruskin.
Let me bow in respect to the anonymous railway official who composed this poster & let me now add the penguins of the Gokarna Road Railway Station into the mix.
Gokarna is a temple town, one of those ancient scruffy working pilgrimage centres that dot the landscape of Hindu India & come complete with their own myths, their own special castes of Brahmin priestly administrators & their own special look & feel.
Gokarna was isolated, a tiny village/town on the Karnataka coast, until first the metalled road, winding North/South through the Western Ghats, was built; and then only recently the Konkan Rail road has opened more this remote place to the outside world.
I went with a friend down from Patnam, just for two nights; I wanted to see the famous Mahabaleshwar temple & walk some of the three beaches that ring Gokarna, a triptych of golden sands.
Waking up early I walked to the temple area & found that non-Hindus are banned; instead of going in I sat for several hours with an engaging, charming Brahmin, sitting on the platform of his tiny ‘religious’ shop outside the temple gates.
My Brahmin chatted, we drank tea, I bought several mythological pamphlets. The day rolled into evening.
I strolled down to the beach, only a few hundred metres from the temple area. As the sun set blood red over the sea I watched pilgrim children dancing in the waves, their families sedate in offering flowers & incense & sweets to the sea; pilgrims take a sacred bath in the sea to purify themselves before visiting the famous Mahabaleshwar temple.
Here is an image of the Gokarna Atmalinga; it is said to wax & wane, even to disappear & regrow. Who knows, but it is the most extraordinary lingam & has the famous story of Ganesh & Ravana attached to it, below are several versions of the famous story that most Hindu children will know.
Ganesh & Ravana & the Atmalinga – written for children but very grown-up, a delightful rendering.
Story of Ravana & Aathma Lingam – another good version of the story.
Gokarna – Wikipedia.
Since I never got into the main temple (non-Hindus are banned) it would be great if anyone who has had darshan there could Comment here below or perhaps Contact The Flower Raj if you have any story about this; any experiences on the beaches & in the town would also be welcomed, Jai Shiva Shakti Mahadev!