Rubina P. Banerjee recounts the sights, smells and tastes on her pilgrimage to the temple town of Murudeshwar, on a beautiful beach


Statue of Lord Bahubali in Karkala


he car seemed stuck in an impasse as we made our way through the tra c-logged streets of Bangalore, yet today, nothing seemed to matter and every aspect of the journey – the jams, the innumerable packets of peanuts and the incessant chatter – was proof of the excitement that could scarcely be repressed. Yes, we were on a long drive to Murudeshwar, a beautiful beach in Uttar Kannada. Once the city limits receded, the drive was a dream. Small villages seemed to melt away as we passed Hassan, Kunigal, Sakleshpur, and the names seemed to y by. At Sakleshpur we noticed the signs indicating that the Gomatheshwara statue was but a few kilometers away. A detour was in order. Leaving the road to Bantwal we took the road to Mudigere and from there to Karkala! is is the beauty of a trip spurred by pure wanderlust …roads to be taken at will without conforming to any plan or having to meet a deadline.

Down the mud roads we went, leaving the black asphalt roads to Karkala, and quaint little villages unfolded with their open skies, embracing the vast stretches of green. Canopies of huge tamarind trees shielded us from the midday sun and shimmering lotus ponds beckoned as we turned into a small red mud road, lined by humble huts which skirted the monument. Karkala, the name of the town derives from kari-kal, meaning black stone in Tulu. Located in the Udupi district of Karnataka, the town is known for its black granite from which it derives its name. Karkala or Pandya Nagari as it was called, shot into prominence from the time of the Hoysalas. Its history hails back to antiquity, the Vijaynagara period. One of the eminent Kings of Karkala was Veera Pandya, who built the famous single stone 42-foot (13 mt) black granite statue of Gomateshwara (Lord Bahubali), at the insistence of his Jain guru in 1432. It was he who installed the Brahmadeva Pillar in front of the statue in 1436. e statue of Lord

Bahubali towered over us and gleamed in the sun. It is second to only Shravanbelagola’s 67- statue of Bahubali. From the base of the hill, a slightly curving set of steep steps leads to the top. Enroute to the top is the Parshwanatha Padmavati Basadi, a Jain shrine. e statue is enclosed by a square compound in front of which stands the Brahmadeva Pillar. e midday sun beating down on our backs was reason enough reason to beat a hasty retreat. is huge exquisitely carved monolith seemed like such a contradiction amongst the small huts it stood amidst. It seemed like the past was mocking the present! Shops selling Mogra malas, kumkum, pujaware, lined the lane and at one of these I found a beautiful Ganapati, carved out of a single black granite stone for a mere hundred rupees. e route from Karkala to Mangalore is one of the most picturesque routes I’ve ever taken, surrounded by dense vegetation and groups of monkeys, who sat on the skirting, indi erent to speeding cars. A slight nip


in the air and the beautiful smell of foliage announced our spectacular ascent into the ghats! Little streams hidden in the dense green, gleamed like strings of pearls, as the road rose and fell, a ording breathtaking views that only the mind’s camera could click and record for posterity. e drive lasted for an hour and we found ourselves welcomed by the smell of the sea in the coastal town of Mangalore. It was almost 3pm. e heat, the drive and the salty sea air stirred up quite an appetite. Food was the need of the hour! Asking around at MG Road, we settled for e Village restaurant on Bondel Road. e ambience was in keeping with the name, thatched roofs and a waterfall to boot! Since we were the late lateefs we got a table immediately, which only made us like the place all the more. We wolfed down the starters – Prawn sukka and Kane fry – and were ready in a trice for the Mangalorean sh curry with the traditional unpolished rice, ghee roast crab, lobster Neeruli and some so sannas, complimented by a spicy sambar and some papad. e meal nally over, we waddled out and the car groaned under our collective bulk. Now we needed a break and maybe a short siesta. It was almost evening and the sun’s rays had mellowed when we hit the Panambur beach. Picturesque is the only apt word to describe the orange ball of the sun as it emblazoned the waves with a vermillion glow and the catamarans riding the waves, framed by the silver sands of the beach and a wisp of a sea breeze. Lying on the sand was one of the the most beautiful moments for me – sun-warmed sand and the so lapping of the waves and the feel of freedom that only the sea can give. When we woke, a sliver of moon had appeared in the yet-to-darken skies. It was time to catch the aarati at the famous Krishna temple in Udupi. e drive to Udupi is only 58 kms, but the roads were narrow and crowded and it took us some time. What a wealth of myths surrounds the town of Udupi. It derives its name from the Tulu Odipu or alternately from the Sanskrit words Udu and Pa, which means Lord of the stars. Legend has it the the moon’s

Murudeswar Temple

An elephant blesses a tourist

Murudeswara Linga

light was once reduced due to a curse by King Daksha, whose 27 daughters (the 27 stars), were married to the moon. e moon prayed to Lord Shiva to get back his original sheen and the Lord answered his prayers. It is said that the moon and his wives then o ered salutations to the Lord at the Chandramouleeshwara temple at Udupi, which till today boasts of the Linga at which the moon and the stars prayed. Hence, Udupi means the land of the “lord of the stars,” the moon. And indeed it was the moon and a sprinkling of stars that lit our way to Udupi. e journey was a short one but we were already late. ousands of people thronged for the Darshan and we wandered from one line to another. Whenever I’m waiting in a queue in a temple, my bhakti seems to evaporate! I kept walking around the temple and then I saw the Kanakana Kindi.

People jostled there too but I was able to get a glimpse of the Lord. It is believed that in the 16th century, Kanakadasa, an ardent devotee, was turned away from the temple as he was not a brahmin. He tried to see Lord Krishna from a small window, but was only able to see the back of the deity. It is believed that Sri Krishna was won over by his bhakti and turned to face the window. To this day, the deity of Lord Krishna faces the back of the Mutt towards the Kanakana Kindi and while all Hindu temples have their Vigraha (Deity) facing the entrance of the temple, the Krishna Mutt is the only exception. e Kanakana Kindi is decorated with carvings depicting the dasavatars of Vishnu. rough one of its nine small holes, I saw the deity of Sri Krishna. e statue was of Krishna as a very young boy, holding a butter churning rod in his right hand and a rope in his le ,


Lord Shiva gazes down on his devotees on the beach

Waterfall near Murudeswar

Pilgrims in te temple town

reminding us o his Makhan Chor days. us, like Kanakadas, I was privileged to see the Lord despite the milling crowds. I felt blessed! Strains of “Krishna nee begane baro trijagavanne toro. Krishna nee begane baro (Come soon Oh Krishna and show your blessed face),” seemed to ring around me as I made my way out of the temple. e town of Udupi is perhaps more famous for its cuisine. Crisp masala dosas with sambar and coconut chutney, so u y idlis, tasty rawa upma, all these are what make Udupi famous the world over. When in Udupi, masala dosa is a must and what a sumptuous dinner it makes. Checking in to the Sai Vishram resort, we retired for the night. A blissful sleep was the reward for our weary bodies! e sunrise was serene and the sands were inviting. Walking on the beach, I was delighted to nd beautiful speckled shells in the dew-drenched sand. What could be a better memento than this! But there was little time to linger as we had to start our drive to our destination, Murudeshwar! A short drive and we were in the small town of Manipal, which sits majestically atop

a hill and is renowned as a seat of learning. Home to the Manipal University, the town houses 19 colleges, in the elds of business, engineering and health sciences. Students walking with headsets, internet cafes, gleaming contemporary buildings, Manipal seemed to be the perfect compromise between open and urban living. It commands a spectacular view of the Arabian Sea and is named a er the 400 metre-lake (Mannu or mud and Palla or lake) at its centre. It was once a barren hill and was transformed into this cosmopolitan university town with the e orts of Dr TM A Pai in the 1950s. Leaving the civilized streets of Manipal, we reached End Point at Manipal, where a small cli overlooks the Swarna River. e view of the Arabian Sea from here is truly a sight to see! From here our drive began along the coast. e serene sea meeting the sky at the horizon, the golden sands skirting the road and the sea-kissed balmy breeze, what more could we ask for. Before reaching Bhatkal we came to a little village, where market day was on in full swing. Women in large kumkum bindis and the typical green or maroon Karnataka weave saris, lined the little road

with their vegetables, fruits, rewood strewn in piles on the dust road. Raw tamarind was hard to resist and I picked up a few, relishing it with a little salt, while I took in the colours. At one end under a circle of trees we chanced across a group of men dancing. Later, we learnt this dance is known as Kolata. Kolata or stick dance is a kind of valour dance involving groups of people who indulge in bending, swaying and jumping to the tune of rhythmic clashing of sticks. With two sticks in hand, each dancer can strike in various patterns and rhythms. Sticks clicking ebony bodies move to the beat, all sweat and smiles…truly magical! Leaving beautiful Bhatkal behind, we nally catch sight of Murudeshwar! Astoundingly beautiful is the initial reaction… e vast expanse of the beach and the blue skies, with only Lord Shiva looking on! is statue of Shiva is the tallest in the world (127 )! Seated in the posture of the ascetic, with his trishula and damaru, the Lord looked a bit troubled. His eyes seemed to express his displeasure at being drawn away from his abode in Kailasa and the beati c smile of Shiva was missing from his


lips. e towering Raja gopuram (249 ) was also visible. It has been built in recent times, as testimony to our living heritage and cra s. Despite these new additions the town of Murudeshwar is ancient, and nds mention in the Ramayana as “Mrideshwara . An ancient myth surrounds the origins of the temple. e demon king Ravana won over the Atma Linga from Shiva with his penance. Lord Shiva agreed to give him a boon, with the condition that it should never be placed on the ground, for if the AtmaLinga was placed on the ground, all the powers would return to Lord Shiva. Sage Narada realised that with the Atma Linga, Ravana may obtain immortality and create havoc on earth. He approached Lord Ganesh and requested him to prevent the Atma Linga from reaching Lanka. Lord Ganesh was well aware of the devotion of Ravana and his ritualistic prayers every evening. He came up with a plan to trick Ravana. As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk. Ravana was worried, because with the AtmaLinga in his hands, he would not be

able to do his evening rituals. Lord Ganesh arrived, disguised as a little Brahmin boy. Ravana requested him to hold the Atma Linga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return, he would place the Atma Linga on the ground. Before Ravana could return, Ganesh had already placed the Atma Linga on the ground a er calling out to him. Ravana, realising he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy the Atma Linga. Due to the force exerted by him, one piece fell in Surathkal. e famous Sadashiva temple is said to be built there. He decided to destroy the covering of the Atma Linga, and threw the case covering it to a place called Sajjeshwara, en he threw the lid of the case to Guneshwara (now Gunavanthe), and Dhareshwara, 12 miles away. Finally, he threw the cloth covering the Atma Linga to a placed called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill), and it became the Aghora linga, later renamed as Murudeshwara. Learning of the incident from Lord Vayu,

Lord Shiva, along with Goddess Parvathi and Lord Ganesha, visited these places and consecrated the lingas. He declared these lingas as his ‘pancha-khshetras’ and said that worshipping these idols can wash o the sins of his devotees and free them from the cyclical re-incarnation of the soul. Inside, the temple was entirely modernized with the exception of the sanctum sanctorum which was still dark and solemn. e main deity, Sri Mridesa Linga, is about two feet below ground level. e Lingam is essentially a rough rock inside a hollowed spot in the ground ad is illuminated by oil lamps. As devotees we could only view the deity from the threshold of the sanctum. As we le the temple a er Darshan it started raining torrentially and we were completely drenched. Taking refuge in the RNS hotel, we sipped our steaming hot lter co ee, watching the rains lash the beach and the waves crash against the rocks. Lord Shiva seemed to be raining his blessings on us and a silent prayer rose to my lips “Om Namaha Shivaye!” 

Murudeswar beach




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