Shivji is believed to be an easy to please Deity. Even though He is Mahadev (The most powerful of the Gods) and a destroyer, he is easily pleased with offerings from his devotees. When he is pleased, he happily give boons. He protects His devotees always. One of the many interesting stories of Shivji’s boon is the story of Sri Mahabaleswar Temple at Gokarna.
The Mahabaleshwar Temple at Gokarna is a 4th-century CE Shivji temple located in Gokarna, Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka , which is built in the classical Dravidian architectural style. The temple faces the Karwar city beach on the Arabian Sea in which pilgrims cleanse before visiting the temple for worship. The temple is considered as holy as the Shivji temple at Varanasi or Kashi on the banks of the River Ganga. Hence, the Mahabaleshwar temple, Gokarna is known as the Dakshin Kasi (“Kasi of the south”). The temple deifies the Pranalinga or Atmalinga or Shiva (“the reality of God which can be retained by the mind”). In legend, it is believed that the deity of the temple will bestow immense blessings to devotees, even to those who only glimpse it.
Story of Gokarna
It is a well known fact that Ravan, the king of Lanka, was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Ravana’s mother, who also a staunch devotee of Lord Shivji, was worshipping a Shiva Linga to bring prosperity to her son. Indra, the Lord of Heaven, who was jealous of this worship, stole the Shiva Linga and threw it away into the Sea. The distraught mother of Ravana went on a hunger strike as her devotional worship of Shiva was disrupted.
Ravana then promised his mother that he would go to Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, and bring the main Atmalinga itself for her worship. He went to Khailash Mountain, where Lord Shivji resides and did a long penance. Shivji was very much pleased and offered Ravan any boon he desired.
Intelligent Ravan, instead of asking for power or wealth, cleverly asked for Shiva himself. He asked Lord Shiva to come with him to Lanka and reside there with him. This way Ravan thought he only will have access to Shivji and his boons.
Lord Shiva agreed to his request and gave him his Atmalinga (an avatar of his own self) to be carried by Ravan to Lanka. However, he warned that Ravan may not keep his Atmalinga down on to the ground before reaching Lanka, for if he does so, the Atmalinga would not move from that spot,sticking to that place for ever.
Ravan had a Pushpak Viman (the one that he took from his brother Kuber). He carried the Aatmalinga placing it over his head and boarded the Pushpak Viman.
In the meanwhile, all Gods from Swargalok came to know that Shivji is leaving Mount Kailash to go and stay permanently with Ravan at Lanka. They felt that if such a thing happens, Ravana will get boons very frequently from Shivji and soon will become very powerful and invicible. Indra convened an urgent meeting with all gods to find a solution and finally Ganeshji agreed to help.
Lanka is far away from Mount Kailash. Before the Pushpak Viman could cover half the distance, it started getting dark. Ravan being an ardent Brahmin, had to do his evening religious rituals. He requested Shivji’s permission to land at a place so that he can take a bath and offer his prayers.
Lord Shiva reminded him that Ravan may not keep him (Atmalinga) down as he would get stuck into the ground for ever once placed on the ground. Ravan saw a little boy standing nearby and called him for help. This little boy was actually Ganeshji in disguise.
Ravan asked him to hold the Atmalinga for a while so that he may quickly take a bath in the sea and return. The boy agreed to help with a condition. He said, he will hold the Atmalinga till he gets tired and he will warn thrice (by shouting “this is so heavy”) before keeping it down.
Ravan handed over the Linga to the boy and went for a bath. Holding it the boy said….”this is so heavy”! (for the 1st time). Ravan did not realise that it was the first warning.
He went to the sea to take a dip. As soon as he took the dip he heard the boy saying again, “this is so heavy” (for the 2nd time). Ravan mistook that for the 1st warning and thinking that two more warnings are left and he sat for doing his prayers. As the puja ended, the boy said “this is so heavy” (for the 3rd time) and kept the Atmalinga down.
Ravan hurriedly came to take the Atmalinga back but to his shock and surprise he saw that the Linga got stuck permanently to the ground and the boy is nowhere around. He tried picking it up, but it went further down into the ground. Unable to take the Atmalinga out, he built a Temple for the Mahabaleswar at the spot and returned to Lanka empty handed.
Even today, the Mahabaleswar Temple at Gokarna exist where the Atmalinga cannot be seen but felt by hand under the ground. Whenever we get a chance to visit Gokarna, we should not miss the opportunity to visit this place (Temple) right next to the sea. There is also a Maha Ganapati temple built here to mark the respect for Ganeshji for stopping Ravan from carrying Aatmalinga to Lanka. People prefer to visit as per custom this Ganeshji temple first before proceeding to the Mahabaleswar Temple.