Forget your religious affiliations or beliefs, visit the Murudeshwar temple town, with its picturesque setting – it is surrounded by the Arabian Sea on three sides.
As I drove into the town, I was dwarfed by the 249 feet high Rajagopuram, or tower at the ancient temple entrance. This was inaugurated in 2008.
And standing next to the 25 year old, 123 feet high statue of Lord Shiva further reduced me to Lilliputian proportions.
Both these installations have multiple claims for themselves: the tallest or second tallest in the world in their respective categories. A fact finding mission is on a world tour to ensure the deserving get the medals. (I am just kidding about someone going around with a measuring tape).
The temple goes back centuries – I missed going inside as it was closed for lunch. The new structures have been developed and are maintained by the R.N. Shetty Group of Companies.
Darn! I later learned I could take an elevator the top of the Rajagopuram – it is 21 floors high! No one mentioned it as a possibility while I was there.
Here is an interesting mythological legend behind the temple: The asura (demon) king of Lanka, Ravana, of the Ramayana fame, wanted Lord Shiva’s Atmalinga in order to obtain immortality and becoming invincible by worshipping it. After severe penance, Lord Shiva was pleased and granted Ravana his wish – with the rider that he should not place it on the ground before reaching home. Fearful of his new found power, the other Gods conspired to deny Ravana the same. Knowing Ravana to be a pious devotee of Shiva who would perform his prayers at sunset daily, Lord Vishnu blocked out the sun with his Sudarshan Chakra before time. A perplexed Ravana asked a passing Brahmin boy (Lord Ganesha, the Elephant God, posing as one) to hold the Atmalinga for him while he prayed. The latter agreed to, provided Ravana claimed it back before the boy called his name thrice. As expected, Lord Ganesha ensured Ravana did not hear the calls and placed the Atmalinga on the ground and left. The Atmalinga firmly rooted to the ground, it became light again and Ravana realized he had been tricked by the Gods. He tried to uproot the idol, but of no avail. It took the shape of a cow’s ear, and the place came to be known as Gokarna (Go means cow, Karna means ear). He threw the cloth wrapping the Linga, and it fell 32 miles south at present day Murudeshwara. He pulled and threw the case of linga, which fell 23 miles away at Sajjeshwar. He threw the lid 27 miles south to Guneshwara in the form of Vamdev Linga. The thread winding the idol was flung further south to Dhareshwara, came to known as Tathpurusha Linga. Shiva learnt all this from Wind God Vayu. He came to earth along with Parvathi and Ganesha and visited all these five places and worshipped the linga. He declared that these would be his Panchakshetras and those who worshipped lingas at those places would be free from all sins and their wishes would be fulfilled, and they would then ultimately reach the abode of Shiva.
If you are looking for some adventure here, there are operators offering services like scuba diving, snorkeling, other water sports and whale and turtle spotting. Join in only if satisfied with safety measures.
The beaches are quite beautiful here – the north side if full of tourists (with bits of garbage too) but the south side with fishing boats is quieter. Can recommend a night halt here.
There are some hotels here, low to mid budget, if you want to stay here. The restaurants did not look very inviting but I ate to live.
Murudeshwar is located about 80 kms (50 miles) south of Gokarna just off the National Highway 17.
There is a site for the temple, seems an official one. Quite useful though: http://www.murudeshwar.org
Ajay Jain is currently on the Great Arabian Sea Drive, starting from Delhi and following the coastline all the way from Gujarat down to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Follow all updates on:
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