Land of the cow’s ear

Tucked away in Uttar Kannada, is Gokarna with its choice of beaches. The town is steeped in mythology, and the temple architecture is outstanding.

May 06, 2017 10:18 am | Updated 10:19 am IST

On the map

I f your idea of a seaside holiday is without the nagging summons of your gadgets, Gokarna, tucked away in Karnataka, 483 km away from Bengaluru, is the place for you. Gokarna means “cow’s ear” in Sanskrit. Legend has it that when the 10-headed Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, tried to pull the Atmaling gifted to him by Lord Shiva, it came out of the ground in the form of a cow’s ear, hence giving the place its name.

There are buses from Bengaluru, Panaji or Mangaluru. The closest airports are Goa International Airport and Mangalore International Airport. Trains halt at the Gokarna station.

At Gokarna, there are vehicles available for hire.


The drive up the winding path that leads to Gokarna is scenic, with the rocky mountains and Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other. Enter Gokarna and you will find yourself in a town of contrasts — an amalgamation of all that is old and modern. While you see priests chanting slokas in praise of Shiva, the residing deity, and the faithful devotees in attendance, you also spot tourists, both local and foreign, some tattooed and chilling out.

This town is known as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centres. It is built on what was once an unspoiled beach near the estuary of the river Aghanashini.

Gokarna is mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana as being the home of the brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari.

Mahabaleshwara temple

Built in Dravidian style architecture with granite, the temple houses Lord Shiva’s Atmalinga on a square pedestal. The presiding deity is a 1,500-year-old carved stone image of Lord Shiva in a standing position.

Om beach and Half-moon beach

Enough with the austerities. It is time to soak in the sun and sand, and feel the cool embrace of the waves. A boat-ride or a breathless trek, the choice is yours, but the view of Om beach is worth the effort of a trek. Shaped like Om , it is a natural wonder, or as locals believe, nature’s homage to the lord of Kailasa. You can soak yourself in the cool waters, or work up a sweat throwing a frisbee, or simply lie in the sun. The Half-moon beach is a lagoon, and is far more secluded with few restaurants and shacks.

Kudle beach

A short trek through a green pathway, for, the route to Kudle abounds in leafy canopies, the beach is a stretch of magnificence, particularly on a starry night. If you crave a walk after dinner, this is your best bet. Relax, burrow your feet in the sands, and count the stars. The vast expanse of brown sand, shore and sea is a vision in tranquillity.

Paradise beach

The beach is aptly named, for, it seems otherworldly — uninhabited and unsullied by commercialisation. You have an hour-long trek on mountainous terrain to reach Paradise, the first sight of which is guaranteed to take your breath away. Small hammocks dot the beach, kids and adults alike, stretched out on the sand, soak in the warmth. This is one beach where not knowing swimming won’t take away your enjoyment — the sea is friendly, and you can wade in and bob around in the cool waters. Boat rides are also common here.

Do not miss

Beach walk

A trek with a difference, soothe your tired feet with the cool waters of Gokarna’s five main beaches — Gokarna beach, Kudle, Om, Half moon and Paradise.

Yoga by the beach

Get your daily dose of fitness by yourself or by joining groups from resorts such as the Namaste Yoga Farm or the Swarswara resort.

Water sports

Whet your adrenaline rush by opting for para sailing, banana boat rides, snorkeller or kayaking. However, ensure you have adult supervision.

Flea markets

From trinkets, hippie clothes and more, Gokarna’s flea markets are a treasure trove of memorabilia. Grab your share of the place’s culture.

Trekking in Yana

Yana is a village located in the Sahyadri mountain range of the Western Ghats, about 31 kilometres from Kumta, near Gokarna. Get a taste of the rustic village life here with mud roads, mushroom-like huts and a laidback lifestyle.

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