It looks like a small temple in the middle of the road… a common sight across India. However, this is no ordinary temple, but has a history going back centuries. This is the Mahaganapathy Temple at Gokarna.
In an era long before the events of the Ramayana took place, Ravana, it is said, brought a lingam from Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. There are many stories regarding this Lingam. Some legends attribute it to Ravana’s ardent penance, and insistence on cutting off his heads if Shiva did not appear before him; while others say that Ravana wanted a special lingam for his mother to pray to. No matter what the reason, Lord Shiva did indeed hand over a special lingam to Ravana – the atmalingam – to take home to Lanka.
Lord Shiva may have been pleased with his devotee and the lingam was a token of his appreciation, but, to the Gods, this was a sign of danger. They feared that Ravana would soon grow invincible, and asked Ganesha for help in stopping Ravana from taking the lingam to Lanka. Ganesha approached Ravana in the guise of a young boy, while the Gods darkened the skies and created the illusion of sunset. Ravana, being the devout believer in rituals, realised he had to perform his evening rituals before sunset. He had been told by Shiva not to place the lingam on the ground before reaching Lanka, so he asked the young boy who appeared so obligingly, to hold the lingam while he performed the rituals.
|Even the dwarapalakas or door guardians |
are shown like standing Ganeshas.
The young boy agreed, but placed one condition – he would only hold it for as long as he could. And then he would call out thrice. If Ravana had not returned by then, he would place the lingam on the ground. Ravana was in a quandary, but having little recourse, agreed, and started his prayers. As if on cue, the young boy called out “The lingam is too heavy. I cannot hold it any longer. Come and take it back!” Ravana panicked, but he had already started his prayers. He signalled the boy to wait, and hurried on. To his utter consternation, the boy called out once more, and then, immediately after that, once more. Leaving his prayers unfinished, he ran, only to find the boy keeping the lingam on the ground.
Leaving the boy for the moment, Ravana turned his attention to the lingam, trying to pull it off the ground, but all his efforts were in vain. The lingam seemed to have struck roots in the ground, and, though he twisted and turned and pulled, it remained there forever. It was only when he realised the futility of his actions that Ravana turned his attention to the cause of the problem - the young boy. The boy, sensing danger had begun to run, but Ravana caught up, and hit him on the head. That’s when the boy revealed his true identity. Ravana was shocked that the gods would play such a trick on him. However, it was too late to do anything, and he gave up.
It is said that Ravana was the first to build a temple here over the lingam which had fixed itself to the ground. It came to be known as ‘Mahabaleshwara’ – the powerful one. Later, someone built another temple, to the one who responsible for the lingam stuck here – Ganesha. He is called ‘Mahaganapathi’, and he is shown here in standing posture, a form he is seldom seen in. Moreover, on his head is a small depression, which is said to be a reminder of Ravana’s blow. Photography is not allowed inside the temple, so here is a pic from the internet of Ganesha as he is seen here.
|Image from the internet :|
Interestingly, there are 6 temples, all along this coastline, which show Ganesha in the same form. We had visited these temples on our tour of Coastal Karnataka in 2008, and have written about them here.
These 5 other temples are located at Idagunji, Anegudde, Hattiangady, Mangalore and Kasargod, and if you are ever in the area, do go and visit. Here are some details to help plan your trip:
- The temples are open roughly from 6 AM to 12 Noon and again from 5 PM to 9 PM. The exact time varies from temple to temple, but this should help you plan ahead.
- Idagunji is about 15 Km from Honnavar, 66 Km from Gokarna and 20 Km from Murdeshwar. This area is known for its Lavancha, or vettiver, and around the temple are plenty of shops selling the fragrant grass as well as items made with it. For more information about the temple, visit the temple website at http://www.idagunjidevaru.com
- The temple at Anegudde or Kumbhasi is located at a distance of 96 Km from Mangalore, 9 Km from Kundapura and 30 Km from Udupi.
- Hattiangadi, located just 15 Km from Anegudde, is known not just for the Ganesha temple, but also for its many other temples as well as Jain basadis. If you are in the area, do visit these too.
- Sharavu Mahaganapathi is located within Mangalore city, and is quite well known. This is the only one among the 6 temples to house not just Ganesha, but also his parents, Shiva and Parvati.
- The last among the 6 temples is the southernmost one, located at Madhur, 5 Km from Kasargod, which is now in Kerala.