SPECTACULARLY SITUATED by the Arabian Sea, Gokarna has now become a favourite destination of visitors in search of sun, sea and sand. A charming little town with two principal streets and clusters of traditional tile-roofed brick houses, Gokarna is also an important centre of Sanskrit learning.

The ancient Mahabaleshvara Temple, at the western end of the main street, was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1714 and then rebuilt later in the 18th century. In the sanctuary is a stone linga, encased in brass, placed on a coiled stone serpent. The floor of the hall in front has an intricate engraving of a giant tortoise. Shiva’s birthday (Feb/Mar) is celebrated here with great fanfare. The two great temple chariots lead a procession through the town’s narrow streets, while priests and pilgrims chant hymns in praise of Shiva.

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