If there is a train ride I’ve spent being enchanted by the route it takes, it’s been along the coast of Karnataka. Rain kissed forests, misty mountains and swaying coconut trees make the journey seem like a standalone experience in itself. The first time I’d been to the state was to meet my brother at college, and had absolutely no clue it is so serene and beautiful. Thereafter, the prospect of being in Karnataka always manages to fill me with happiness!
Religiously, Karnataka is believed to be Lord Shiva’s Pancha Kshetra comprising of temples at Murudeshwar, Dharmasthala, Nanjanagud, Gokarna and Dhareshwara.
I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing a mix of places known for their natural beauty, religious importance and history. While I crave to be back in the state sooner than later, here are the experiences that have given me priceless memories.
As the train gets closer to the Karnataka railway stations, passengers are mesmerized by the sight of endless coconut trees passing by. The large Shiva statue visible from a distance catches most people’s fancy and it’s obvious that Murudeshwar is the next station.
Murudeshwar is a town located on the coast of Arabian sea, and is famous for the temple named after an incarnation of Lord Shiva. At 123 feet, it has the second tallest Shiva statue in the world. It was built by Shivamoga’s Kashinath and other sculptors, and financed by philanthropist R.N. Shetty.
It has a 20-storey Raja-Gopuram. It is 240 feet tall, and is the only one fitted with a lift. It offers tourists a glorious view of the temple, which is surrounded by sea on three sides.
The temple has massive sculptures of Arjun receiving geetopdesh from Lord Krishna, Sun Chariot and Lord Ganesha receiving the Atma-Linga from Ravana in the form of a young boy. It also has an artificial cave that has beautiful sculptures showing the story of Murudeshwar temple and Atma-Linga.
Netrani island, famous for scuba diving, is visible from the temple.
(In pictures: Murudeshwar temple, Raja-Gopuram)
One of the best places to be visited in monsoon in India, Jog falls are every nature lover’s dream! The mountains are wrapped in mist, and the spectacular falls cascade down dramatically.
It is the second highest plunge waterfall in the country, dropping from a height of 830 feet. When water from Sharavati river is released from the neighboring dams, the four cascades thunder down, forming the gigantic falls. The local names given to them are pretty interesting – Raja, Roarer, Rocket and Rani (left to right).
(In picture: Jog falls)
Walking up and down the trail leading to Yana caves, we expected them to be similar to Buddhist caves in Maharashtra. As we drew closer to them, we were surprised to see two uniquely shaped black limestone rock formations. They are called Mohini Shikhara (Mohini’s hill) and Bhairaveshwara Shikhara (Lord Shiva’s hill), and are 90 feet and 120 feet high, respectively.Nestled in greenery, the caves look surreal. There is a Shiva temple at the base of Bhairaveshwara Shikhara, the shiva-linga in the temple is self-manifested.
A short distance away is natural waterfall called Vibhooti waterfall (Vibhooti means ‘ashes’). It is named so as the tiered waterfall gets divided into three streams, resembling ashes.
There is a mythological story associated with Yana caves. Legend has it that Bhasmasura, the demon king, was granted a boon by Lord Shiva himself that anything he places his hand on would turn into ashes or bhasma. To test his powers, he wanted to place his hands on Lord Shiva’s head. The Lord escaped to Earth to seek Lord Vishnu’s help. The latter turned himself into a beautiful woman, Mohini, enticed the demon and challenged him in a dance competition. During the competition, Mohini tactfully placed her hand over her head. Bhasmasur, copying her, placed his hand over his head, and turned himself into ashes. It is believed that this is reason behind Yana rocks being black in color.
(In pictures: Mohini Shikhar, Bhairaveshwara Shikhara from outside and inside)
Nestled between lush greenery and a river, it is hard to believe that the quiet Mirjan fort was once a busy port. Part of Vijayanagara empire, it is a 16th century fort built by Queen Chennabhaira Devi. She was popularly known as ‘Pepper queen’, as she handled the trade of spices like pepper, nutmeg, saltpeter and betel nut in the region.
The fort has remains of a watch tower, wells and temples, and is believed to house many interlinked passages. It looks beautiful post monsoon, with scenic views of Agahanashini River flowing around the fort.
(In picture: Mirjan fort watch tower)
The lovely town of Gokarna, at the coast of Arabian sea, is famous for its ancient temples and pristine beaches. It is most famous for Mahabaleshwar temple, dedicated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. This temple houses the 6-feet tall Atma Linga in the shrine. The temple is considered as pious as the Shiva temple in Kashi/Varanasi, hence the Mahabaleshwar temple in Gokarna is called Dakshin Kashi.
Gokarna is also known for its beautiful beaches such as Kadle, Om, Paradise and Half-moon, which are famous for their laidback backpacking culture.
(In picture: Om beach, Gokarna)
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(All pictures are taken by me unless mentioned)