Gokarna, 180 kms from Udupi, is famous all over India for the Atmalinga of Lord Shiva in its ancient Mahabaleshwara temple. This temple is considered as important as the famous Kashi Viswanatha temple in Benares. According to the legends, Ravana obtained the Atmalinga from Lord Shiva whom he worshipped through great penance. He was, however, told that the Linga should not be put on the ground till he reached his place. While Ravana was on his way back home, Lord Ganesha, in the guise of a small boy, offered to hold the Lingam on his palms, when Ravana had to answer the Nature’s call, on the understanding that the boy would call him thrice and if Ravana failed to come, he would put it down. Ravana did fail to come when called, and the Atmalinga got embedded in the earth. Ravana could not extricate it with all the effort at his command. In doing so, one part, which came off, had the shape of a cow’s ear (Gokarna). Hence the place came to be known as such. The Lingam at Gokarna came to be known as Mahabala since it could not be lifted from the ground.
It is said that the second part of the Lingam got twisted around and came to be known as Murdeshwar. Overlooking the sea, there is a lovely temple constructed over this part of the Lingam. This place known as Murdeshwar is situated between Bhatkal and Honnavar, on the west coast highway. There is a Guest House nearby for the convenience of the pilgrims.
The remnant of the Atmalingam which came off like a blade, is known as Dhareshwar (Dhar means a sharp edge) and is at a place called Dhareshwar nearby.
At Gokarna, Tourist Home provides accommodation to the pilgrims.