Mahabaleshwar Temple, one of the seven Muktisthala shrines in Karnataka
, is located at Gokarna
in Uttara Kannada District
. The Atmalinga of this temple attracts thousands of devotees. It is a huge shivling
, which according to myth, got rooted here when lord Ganesh
set it down on the ground. The atmalinga was granted as a boon to Ravana
by Lord Shiva
, which would make him all powerful. The gods who were terrified at this, approached Lord Ganesh to save them. Lord Ganesh managed to secure the atmalinga from Ravana and cleverly put it on the ground where it got fixed and could not be pulled out. The pull exerted by Ravana, is said to have caused the shivling to resemble the shape of a cow's ear and hence the name Gokarna (cow's ear).
The six foot tall shivling can be seen only once in 40 years, when the Ashtabandhana Kumbhabhishekam is performed. A temple enshrining Lord Ganesh is located nearby. Apart from the chief deity, the temple houses the idols of Gokarnanayagi, Chandikeswara, Aadi Gokarneswara and Dattatreya.
Before entering the temple, devotees usually have a bath in the sea and worship a shivling made out of sand. Mahashivratri is of great significance in this shrine. Kollur Mookambika Temple is located near Gokarna. Also located around Gokarna are Sejjeshwara, Gunavanteshwara, Murudeshwara and Dhareshwara temples. These four temples along with Mahabaleshwara are known as the Pancha Maha Kshetras.
To access this place Mangalore Airport is the convenient airport. Mangalore Central Railway Station and Mangalore Bus Station are also nearby boarding points.