September 21, 2014

GOKARNA DIARIES: AUG'14 - Part XVIII

GOKARNA - WALKING THROUGH THE STREETS


It was 3 in the afternoon and the main temple opens only in the evening. However, instead of just lazing around in our hotel room, we decided to go and explore the town. This is something that Da and I love to do. Gokarna is a petite town and the Car Street as well as two other roads running perpendicular to it form most of its core.

Mired in myriad myths, soaked in countless traditions and blessed with nature's bounty, the temple town of Gokarna is indistinguishable from many such places that dot the Karavali coast. Located along the shore line in the tiny strip of land drained by the rivers Aghanashini and Gangavali on either side, it is home to the most holiest Shivaite shrine in this part of Karnataka - the Mahabaleshwar Temple. A host of other temples and mutts of several religious orders, further add to the aura of mystique and spirituality surrounding this place. These mutts are fast emerging as important centers of Vedic learning where vast knowledge of ancient Sanskrit scriptures and texts is imparted to students. A large number of devotees come here to perform the last rites of their loved ones since there is a belief that performing the Shraddh here will liberate the departed soul from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Apart from the hordes of pilgrims that come here to pay their obeisance to the Atma Linga, off late, the relatively quiet and unspoilt beaches around the town have become magnets for city dwellers as well as sizable number of foreign tourists. Well connected by road and rail, Gokarna with its unique blend of holy shrines, virgin beaches, an old world charm and friendly people is fast becoming one of the most visited tourist destinations in the state.

Known as the 'Kashi of the South', life in Gokarna is still centered around the Shiva shrine. The way to the temple, known as the 'Car Street' is lined by small shops selling a host of items like colorful garlands, scented incense sticks, bronze idols of numerous gods from the Hindu pantheon and so on. Keen to cater to foreign travelers, you will also find few shops selling second hand books, both travel guides and novels in several different languages including French, German and Hebrew. As you walk towards the temple, watch out for the lovely graffiti on the walls, ranging from the life-size Ganesha to the humorous Aghori Baba, a refreshing reminder that the holy town was once the favorite haunt of the hippies in India. Besides, there are several building, most of which can do with some repair that have remarkable windows and galleries made of wood.





 


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