Gokarna a town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka state, is a Hindu pilgrimage centre as well as a popular tourist destination. Gokarna is about, 238 km north of Mangalore and about 59 km from Karwar. Gokarna, meaning Cow’s Ear, is also located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini and situated along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea.
Gokarna is a town of contrasts being both a temple town and also a holiday destination by the sea. Gokarna is full of coconut and palm trees, blue seas and clean sands. It is an attractive town with two main streets having shops and traditional brick houses with tiled roofs. The drive up the winding path leading to Gokarna is scenic, with the rocky mountains and Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other.
The place is famous for its beautiful beaches and serene landscapes. The main beaches in Gokarna are the Gokarna beach (also known as Indian Beach), MainBeach, KuddleBeach, Om Beach, Half moon Beach, ParadiseBeach (also known as Full moon) and Nirvana beach (3 km long with fine white sand). The Gokarna beach forms the coast of the town, to the north of which is the Main beach. The other four beaches lie to the south of Gokarna. GokarnaBeach is mainly used by Indian pilgrims. The MainBeach is a long open beach, also known for surfing. Kuddle and Om beaches are around 6 km from Gokarna town along a muddy hill, accessible only by rickshaw or foot. Half moon and Paradise are beyond Om beach and are accessible only by foot or boat, Nirvana beach is accessible by boat and road from Kumta town. Om beach is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious ॐ [Om] symbol. The beaches near Gokarna have shacks (huts) for rent
Gokarna is also an important centre of Sanskrit learning and houses Bhandikeri Math and Toggu Math, where the knowledge of Sanskrit is passed down from generations in Brahmin families. Many Hindus also perform the last rites of a person here. The temple town of Gokarna is referred to in a number of Hindu historical literature and in the Tamil Sangam literature. MahabaleshwarTemple, the famous ShivaTemple, with the ‘Atmalinga’ is situated at the western end of the main street. The floor of the hall in front has an intricate engraving of a giant tortoise. The MahaGanapathiTemple built in honour of the boy Ganapathi,is at least 1500 years old. The UmaMaheshwaraTemple, BhadrakaliTemple, TamraGauriTemple and VenkataramanaTemple are some other temples found in the place. Kotitheertha is a man-made tank that is used for immersion of idols and ritual bathing. It is surrounded by temples. Shivaratri festival is celebrated here with great glitter and enthusiasm. The two chariots in the temple called locally as ‘Dodda Ratha’ and ‘Sanna Ratha’ , are used at the time of festivals mainly the Maha Shivaratri. More than a hundred people join to pull the chariots with thick ropes while priests conduct religious ceremonies inside.
Gokarna is also a hippy paradise with drums, guitars and hammocks . The place was immortalized in the song Chai Chillum Chapati when the singer starts the song with “I don’t wanna go to Gokarna“. Kannada, Konkani and Marathi are the main spoken languages in Gokarna. Gokarna can be reached by train Konkan Railway on the Mumbai to Mangalore route. The railway station (called Gokarna Road ) is 6 km away from the town. The nearest airports are Dabolim at Goa and MangaloreInternationalAirport at Bajpe.