If you are a fan of pristine white sand beaches and Indian mythology then you must plan a trip to Gokarna—a coastal temple town in the Uttara Kannada district of the Indian state of Karnataka. The town is considered to be the seat of Shiva’s Pranalinga and is thus similar in stature to Brahma’s seat at Pushkar in Rajasthan, which is also a major tourism site in its own. Similar to the Brahma Sarovar in Pushkar, the holy lake of Kotiteertha marks the centre of Gokarna. It is a land of historical and mythological stories that locals would narrate to you. One amongst these is the story of Atmalinga, of Ravana’s two failed attempts to install this prized Shiva lingam in Lanka–which led to the establishment of many temples and the emergence of Gokarna as a major centre of penance. A close second is the story of Shatashrunga, the abode of Brahma. Most of the places of religious interest here are within walking distance of each other, and are in some way connected with either the story of Atmalinga or that of Shatashrunga Mountain. Though the temple premises remain open through the day (unless otherwise noted), the sanctorums welcome devotees between 6:00 am to 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Specific timings for aarti (prayers) and the time to complete a darshanam may vary. In general, the temples linked with the story of Atmalinga are more popular, while the ones associated with that of Shatashrunga will offer a quieter experience.
Some of the temples currently remain out of bounds for international travellers and may also not permit photography. So if you are travelling with friends from overseas, or are trying to capture these deities in your camera, these restrictions are something to bear in mind. Our guide lists the places of importance to Hinduism that you must visit while you’re in Gokarna.