Among India’s most scenically situated sacred sites, GOKARNA lies between a broad white-sand beach and the verdant foothills of the Western Ghats, 230km north of Mangalore. Yet this compact little coastal town – a Shaivite centre for more than two millennia – remained largely “undiscovered” by Western tourists until the early 1990s, when it began to attract dreadlocked and didgeridoo-toting neo-hippies fleeing the commercialization of Goa, just over 60km north. Now it’s firmly on the tourist map, although the town retains a charming local character, as the Hindu pilgrims pouring through still far outnumber the foreigners who flock here in winter.

A hotchpotch of wood-fronted houses and red terracotta roofs, Gokarna is clustered around a long L-shaped bazaar. Its broad main road – known as Car Street – runs west to the town beach, which is a sacred site in its own right. Hindu mythology identifies it as the place where Rudra (another name for Shiva) was reborn after a period of penance through the ear of a cow from the underworld.

Gokarna is also the home of one of India’s most powerful shivalinga – the pranalingam, which came to rest here after being carried off by Ravana, the evil king of Lanka, from Shiva’s home on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Quiz: can you name these famous places in India?

Quiz: can you name these famous places in India?

India is an addictive destination. Go once and something will draw you back time and again. Perhaps it's the food, maybe it's the people, or it could well be th…

24 Jan 2017 • Rough Guides Editors help Quiz
A first-timer's guide to India's Golden Triangle

A first-timer's guide to India's Golden Triangle

From busy bazaars and hurtling tuk-tuks to tranquil temples and majestic mosques, the Golden Triangle is a fantastically varied introduction to the sights and s…

02 Jan 2017 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are th…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month