Any place in our country will surely be associated with a legendary fascinating tale. Our mythological stories are bountiful and Gokarna is no exception to this. It is said that angels, yakshas, Gandharvas, and nagas visit our planet frequently. They make a few places as their abode and a few others as casual visiting places. Over the generations, these tales of extraterrestrial beings and sages have been passed down. In today’s blog let's dive into the legend of Raavan - the King of Lanka and his association with Gokarna.
Let the story begin…..
Once upon a time,(mandatory for a story!!!) Okay.. now serious …
Once upon a time, there lived a great King who was many things all at once. He was enigmatic, pious, a great devotee of Shiva, a phenomenal scholar, a generous man, known to all the three worlds as a man of Great wisdom, knowledge, and devotion. But he was also known as a fierce, gruesome, and lustful individual.
Every day his mother would build a linga out of sand in the palace garden and offer her obeisance to it.
Her maids would help her with the flowers and kirtans. One day Raavan walks in and tells his mother….. “Maa stops worshiping the sand linga, I will get shiva himself to you”.
His mother was extremely happy and asked how he was gonna do it. Then Raavan walked away and sat in deep meditation for a long period of time.
But even after his penance, Lord shiva was not appearing.
See… Without the indulgence of our Narad, none of the mythological stories will be thrilling… Hence we see Narad’s entry here…
As Narad was aware of Raavan’s penance he went directly to Vishnu and asked him to stop Raavan from succeeding in his sadhana. Vishnu was still processing it…
By then Raavan, agitated by Shiva’s non-appearance even after his Saadhana, shook and was going to take mount Kailash away with him to Lanka.
Just then Shiva and Parvathi both appeared before him and stopped him.
Raavan was extremely happy to see his Lord and was just going to ask him to come to Lanka and make Lanka his home. Just then, Vishnu cast a spell on Raavan by which he became extremely lustful and instead asked Shiva to send Parvathi with him to Lanka to marry her.
Shiva being Bholenath without further questions asked Parvathi to go with Raavan to Lanka. Parvathi was aghast by this but still, she yielded to Shiva’s request. Both Raavan and Ma Parvati were heading toward Lanka together and Narada appeared before them. Naarad told Raavan,
“O great king, the woman who is with you is Maha Kali and not Parthi. Maa Parvathi is in Patala Loka (Underworld). Vishnu has tricked you into taking Kali and not Parvathi.” Raavan was bewildered and turned back to witness that Kali was actually with him, not Parvathi.
Pent up with anger, Raavan went to Paatalaloka and saw the daughter of the king there…. Mandodari. Due to the spell cast by Vishnu, Raavan was able to see Mandodari as the beautiful Parvathi. He asked for Mandodari's hand in marriage and married her instantly.
He then went to Lanka with Mandodari and presented her to his Mother. Raavan’s mother was surprised to see that his son had bought a woman home instead of Lord Shiva.
She then reminded Raavan of his purpose leading to the breakage of Vishnu’s spell. Mandodari was wholeheartedly accepted by his mother and the people of Lanka.
But as the king of Lanka realized his purpose, he set out to do his Saadhana.
He intensified his meditation trying to please Lord Shiva and convince him to make Lanka his abode. When Shiva didn’t appear even after his penance Raavan decided to hurt himself by cutting his hands and legs.
As he began, Lord Shiva appeared before Raavan and stopped him.
Raavan this time asked Shiva to come with him to Lanka. Shiva refused and told Raavan, “Due to your intense penance, I will send my soul with you ie., Aatma Linga.” Shiva also told Raavan not to place Atma linga on any ground until he reaches Lanka. If Raavan places Atma linga down then it gets consecrated right there and Raavan’s mission will fail.
Raavan, utterly satisfied with this, started his journey south toward his kingdom. In the background, our Naarad started plotting a scheme and approached Lord Ganesh to stop Raavan.
He also stated that, if Raavan will succeed in this endeavor then he will be invincible and immortal posing a huge threat to the existence of devatas. Ganesh gave in to the logic of Naarad and started following Raavan.
Raavan walked all the way from Kailash, barefoot and reached the coastal region of Karnataka. Just then, Lord Vishnu cast a spell to make it look as though it was dusk. In the Hindu religion, dusk is called Sandhya kala where they have to pay their obeisances and pray. Raavan, being the astute bhakt he was, did not want to miss the ceremony.
He scanned the place around him to see if anyone was in sight and asked them to hold atma linga till he performs his rituals. Ganesha who was following him all the way disguised as a cowherd boy and was seen by Raavan. Raavan called the boy and asked him for help.
The cowherd boy instantly agreed but on the condition that he would call out to Raavan thrice and he had to come and take the linga from his hands. Raavan believed and agreed to the boy’s terms and stepped into the ocean to offer his prayers.
Taking this as an opportunity, the boy (Ganesha) called out to Raavan thrice in the same breath and placed Atma linga on the ground immediately.
Raavan tried reaching the boy but failed at it.
The linga was rooted and consecrated itself there and could not be moved no matter what. Raavan tried uprooting the linga with all his might but failed miserably. Even 20 hands of Raavan could not lift the Linga. The linga lost its shape completely.
Enraged by this Raavan took hold of the boy and was about to thrash him.
That’s when Lord Shiva appeared along with Parvathi to pacify him. Lord Ganesh showed him his true form and calmed Raavan.
Even to this day, Atma linga has been rooted in the same place just about 200 meters from the main beach of Gokarna.
Humans over a period of time have constructed the Mahabaleshwara temple and visitors can see the distorted Atma linga and offer their prayers.
This is one of the fascinating legends I came across on my recent visit to Gokarna.
Whether the legend is true or not, Gokarna is not a place; but a feeling.
Until next time.