Gokarna attracts both pleasure seekers and pilgrims from all over of the world. The tourist hub in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka is home to the Mahabaleshwar Temple and some of the most pristine beaches that one can come across anywhere. Often described as a temple town, tourists to Gokarna consider the laidback beach town as a mini-Goa. If you are an adventure junkie, the temple town has excitable things for you including jet skiing, parasailing, beach trekking, and so forth. If it is ancient history and heritage of South India you are looking forward to or getting a full body Ayurvedic massage excites you, then this is the place to be.
The Portuguese had once destroyed the main temple devoted to Lord Shiva in Gokarna during the early 18th Century, but rebuilt the same years later. No wonder, its high walls feature battlemented parapets and a divine dome that reflects the religious practice of ancient Marathas. The temple in Gokarna also comprises of a large hall in front with three porches, an engraving of a tortoise on the floor, and an ornate doorway full of frames made of embossed brass.
During the annual Maha Shivaratri festival, Gokarna comes to life with a religious fervor that is felt right down to its streets. During the festival that is held for four days, thousands of pilgrims visit the temple town to partake in a chariot procession known locally as the ‘Rath Yatra’. Thousands throng the narrow streets of Gokarna’s main temple, with pilgrims and priests chanting hymns in praise of Lord Shiva while hundreds pull the ‘Rath’ forward.
The serene tourist attractions in the temple town get back to usual routines afterward, with most of the beach bums going to Om, Kudle, Paradise, and Half Moon, that can rival the beaches even in Goa. These beaches are very much a part of the fabric of Gokarna, and although most of them have unique appeal the one with an ‘Om’ shaped rock formation sees the most crowd.
The Om Beach resides roughly six kilometers from the main town and along a swampy hill, and other main beaches in Gokarna within hiking distance of one another. You can also arrange a rental boat ride to explore the same waterways of the Arabian Sea. It is the beach exploration, which makes Gokarna a hippie’s paradise, with the temple still earning its place among the minds of the holy and the divine.