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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Gokarna (गोकर्ण) is a small temple town on the western coast of India in the Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district of the state of Karnataka. The main temple and deity is Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahabaleshwara. This temple houses what is believed to be original image of Lord Shiva's linga (Atmalinga). There are many other temples all over this small town. Gokarna was a King in the history of Kashmir in 340 BC.[1].



Gokarna is about 238 km north of Mangalore, 483 km from Bengaluru and about 59 km from Karwar. It is between the Gangavati and Agnashini rivers along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea. It is 200 km north from the college towns of Suratkal and Manipal.

Ankola and Kumta on NH66 are the main towns where as Bhatkal and Karwar are the main small cities near Gokarna where almost all trains have halts and are connected to major cities like Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Madras and Mangalore with private buses.

Gokarna bay, Trincomalee

Trincomalee, also known as Gokanna/Gokarna,[2] is a city, a District and major resort port city of Eastern Province, Sri Lanka.

The Trincomalee Harbour, a circular natural harbour which the temple crowns towards the north, is referred to as Ko-Kannam or "Lord's Cheek", alluding to the cheek shape of Shiva's bull Nandi. The Sanskrit equivalent of the port town's harbour bay is Go-Karna, meaning "Cow's Ear" or Gokarna Pattana and the deity's name Gokarneswara or Go—Natha in Sanskrit. Pathmanathan offers the etymological link Thiru-Gokarna-Malai or Thiru-Gona-Malai based on this connection.[3] The ethnographer Megasthenes writing in his Indica from 350 — 290 BCE, describes the island as being divided by a long river, productive of a large number of gold and pearls in one half and that the inhabitants of this country are called Paleogoni, meaning Old Goni in Tamil and Greek, who Pliny adds worshipped Hercules and Dionysus (Bacchus) like the Pandyans of Tamilakam. The Vayu Purana, written in 300 CE specifically mentions the tallest mountain peak of the great gold and silver rich mountain range Malaya on the island, and that "to the east of this island at the shore of the sea lies a great Siva temple in a holy place called Gokarna."[4] The bay is also referred to as Gokaranna according to a Sanskrit inscription in Grantha script excavated on a doorjamb at the Hindu temple dated to Tamil New Years Day 1223 CE.[5]

Gokarna is also a place name in Karnataka, India, Kalinga, Tamil Nadu and Nepal all associated with ancient Shiva temples. The associated Bhadrakali Amman Temple of Trincomalee, significantly expanded by Rajendra Chola I, stands on Konesar Road before the entrance to Swami Rock.[6]


Gokarna means cow's ear. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (Prithvi, the Mother Earth) here. It is at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavati and Aghanashini.


Gokarna was a King in the history of Kashmir in 340 BC.[7].

Rajatarangini[8] tells us that in the history of Kashmir Gokarna succeeded his father Gopaditya, and set up a god Gokarna after his name, and reigned for fifty-seven years and eleven months.

King Gokarna was succeeded by his son Narendriditya otherwise called Khingkhila. He set up a god named Bhutesvara, and a goddess Akshayini. His religious instructor was Ugra, who set up another god Ugresha, and ten goddesses who were called Matri Chakra.

In Mahavansha

Mahavansa/Chapter 37 tells....The king Mahasena built also the Manihira-vihara and founded three vihäras, destroying temples of the (brahmanical) gods: the Gokanna (vihara), (and another vihara) in Erakavilla, (and a third) in the village of the Brahman Kalanda; (moreover be built) the Migagama-vihara and the Gangasenakapabbata (vihara). To the west, he built the Dhatusenapabbata (vihara); the king founded also the great vihãra in Kokaväta. He built the Thuparama -vihara and the Hulapitthi (vihara) and the two nunneries, called Uttara and Abhaya. At the place of the Yakkha Kalavela' he built a thüpa, and on the island he restored many ruined buildings.


Gokarna is mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana as being the home of the brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari. In order that Brahma who out of arrogance arising out of his power to create the universe, sat penancing to redeem himself from curse of Shiva, Lord Shiva appeared in front of him from the ears of a cow. So the place came to be known as gokarna or ear of the cow. Hindu mythology says that when Lord Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu created Kerala, it was from Gokarna to Kanyakumari.

In Mahabharata

Gokarna (गॊकर्ण) (Tirtha) in Mahabharata (I.32.3), (III.83.22), (III.86.12),

Gokarni (गॊकर्णी) (Lady) in Mahabharata (IX.45.25), (IX.45.28),

Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 83 mentions names of Pilgrims. Gokarna (गॊकर्ण) (Tirtha) is in Mahabharata (III.83.22).[9]....Touching next the waters of the tirtha called Kanya (कन्यातीर्थ) (III.83.21) on the shores of the sea one is cleansed from every sin. Proceeding next to Gokarna (गॊकर्ण) (III.83.22) celebrated over the three worlds, and which is situate, O best of kings, in the midst of the deep, and is reverenced by all the worlds, and where the gods headed by Brahma, and Rishis endued with wealth of asceticism, and spirits and Yakshas and Pisachas, and Kinnaras and the great Nagas, and Siddhas and Charanas and Gandharvas, and men and Pannagas, and rivers, Seas and Mountains, worship the lord of Uma...

Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 86 mentions the sacred tirthas of the south. Gokarna (गॊकर्ण) (Tirtha) is in Mahabharata (III.86.12).[10].... Listen, O son of Kunti, I shall now describe Tamraparni (ताम्रपर्णी) (III.86.11) . In that asylum the gods had undergone penances impelled by the desire of obtaining salvation. In that region also is the lake of Gokarna (गॊकर्ण) (III.86.12) which is celebrated over the three worlds, hath an abundance of cool waters, and is sacred, auspicious, and capable, O child, of producing great merit. That lake is extremely difficult of access to men of unpurified souls.

Shalya Parva, Mahabharata/Book IX Chapter 45 gives list of the mothers who became the companions when Skanda was installed. Gokarni (गॊकर्णी) (Lady) is in Mahabharata (IX.45.25)[11] and (IX.45.28)[12].

गोकण (मैसूर)

विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[13] ने लेख किया है ...गोकण मैसूर (AS, p.296), कर्नाटक में गंगवती-समुद्र संगम पर, हुबली से 100 मील (लगभग 160 कि.मी.) दूर, उत्तर कनारा क्षेत्र में स्थित एक प्राचीन शैव तीर्थ है। महाभारत आदिपर्व 216, 34-35 में इसका उल्लेख अर्जुन की वनवास यात्रा के प्रसंग में इस प्रकार है- 'आद्यं पशुपते: स्थानं दर्शनादेव मुक्तिदम्, यत्र पापोऽपि मनुज: प्राप्नोत्यभयं पदम्।'

पांडवों की तीर्थयात्रा के प्रसंग में पुन: गोकर्ण का वर्णन महाभारत वनपर्व 85, 24-29 में है- 'अथ गोकर्णमासाद्य त्रिषु लोकेषु विश्रुतम्, समुद्र मध्ये राजेन्द्र सर्वलोक नमस्कृतम्।'

वनपर्व 88, 14-15 में गोकर्ण का पुन: उल्लेख है और इसे ताम्रपर्णी नदी के पास माना गया है- 'ताम्रपर्णी तु कैन्तेय कीर्तयिष्यामि तां श्रुणु यत्र देवैस्तपस्तप्तं महदिच्छदिभराश्रमे गाकर्ण इति विख्यातस्त्रिषु लोकेषु भारत।'

गोकण स्थान पर ही अगस्त्य के शिष्य 'तृणसोमाग्नि' का आश्रम था। (वनपर्व 88, 17)

महाकवि कालिदास ने 'रघुवंश' 8, 33 में भी कोकर्ण को दक्षिण समुद्र तट पर स्थित लिखा है- 'अयरोधसि दक्षिणोदधे: श्रितगोकर्ण निकेतमीश्वरम्, उपवीणयितुं ययौ रवेरुदयावृतिपथेन नारद:।'

उपर्युक्त उल्लेख में गोकर्ण को भगवान शिव का 'निकेत' अथवा 'गृह' बताया गया है।

External links


  1. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/List of Kings, p.xx
  2. "Trincomalee – Sri Lanka". britannica.com.
  3. "Trincomalee – Sri Lanka". britannica.com.
  4. H.N. Apte, Vayupurana, Chapter 48 verses 20–30, Poona, 1929
  5. de Silva, K. M.; Ray, C.M. (1959–1973). History of Ceylon. Colombo: Ceylon University Press. p. 112. OCLC 952216. "The inscription, found in the Hindu temple premises dates the landing of Chodaganga Deva at Gokaranna to Friday 14th April, 1223 CE (recorded as Saka Era Year 1145), and details donations this royal made to Konamamalai temple"
  6. An inscription of the Cola king, Rajendra I (1012–1044 AD) was found recently at the goddess Kali's Temple in Trincomalee, detailing his expansion of the shrine. Indrapala, Karthigesu (2007). The evolution of an ethnic identity: The Tamils in Sri Lanka C. 300 BCE to C. 1200 CE. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa. ISBN 978-955-1266-72-1
  7. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/List of Kings, p.xx
  8. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/Book I,pp.22-23
  9. अथ गॊकर्णम आसाद्य तरिषु लॊकेषु विश्रुतम, समुद्रमध्ये राजेन्द्र सर्वलॊकनमस्कृतम (III.83.22)
  10. यत्र देवैस तपस तप्तं महद इच्छद्भिर आश्रमे, गॊकर्णम इति विख्यातं तरिषु लॊकेषु भारत (III.86.12)
  11. चतुष्पद निकेता च गॊकर्णी महिषानना, खरकर्णी महाकर्णी भेरी सवनमहास्वना (IX.45.25)
  12. प्रतिष्ठा सुप्रतिष्ठा च रॊचमाना सुरॊचना, गॊकर्णी च सुकर्णीच ससिरा सथेरिका तदा, एकचक्रा मेघरवा मेघमाला विरॊचना (IX.45.28)
  13. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.296