As the rosy hue of dawn lightens up the sky and the temple bells sounds the arrival of the first devotees, something strangely spiritual and divine engulfs the air. No this is not Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India. This is Murdeshwar, a tiny coastal village which has come to fame because of its stunning scenic beauty, the worlds second highest shiva statue and a 239 ft towering Raja Gopuram.
Around 4 hours from Mangalore and an hour before Gokarna, situated in Bhatkal district of Karnataka, this coastal town is a melange of the sea, western ghats and spirituality. It has a history dating back to centuries. The origin of the name "Murdeshwar" dates to the time of Ramayana.
The Hindu gods attained immortality and invincibility by worshiping a divine Linga called the Atma-Linga. The Lanka King Ravana wanted to attain immortality by obtaining the Atma-Linga (Soul of Shiva). Since the Atma-Linga belonged to Sri Maheshwar, Ravana worshipped Shiva with devotion. Pleased by his prayers, Sri Mahadeva appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Ravana asked for the Atma-Linga. Sri Rudra agreed to give him the boon on the condition that it should never be placed on the ground before he reaches Lanka. If the Atma-Linga was ever placed on the ground, it would be impossible to move it. Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka.
Lord Vishnu , who came to know of this incident, realised that with the Atma-Linga, Ravana may obtain immortality and wreak havoc on earth. He approached Sri Ganesha and requested him to prevent the Atma-Linga from reaching Lanka. Sri Skandapurvaja knew that Ravana was a very devoted person who performed prayer rituals every evening without fail. He decided to make use of this fact and came up with a plan to confiscate the Atma-Linga from Ravana.
As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk. Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the Atma-Linga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At this time Sri Shashivarnam in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the Atma-Linga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Sri Vinayaka struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Atma-Linga on the ground.
Ravana returned to find that Sri Chaturbhuja had already placed the Atma-Linga on the ground. Sri Keshava then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy the linga. Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. One such piece from the head of the linga is said to have fallen in present-day Suratkal. The famous Sadashiva temple is said to be built around that piece of linga. Then he decided to destroy the covering of the Atma-Linga, and threw the case covering it to a place called Sajjeshwar, 37 kilometers away. Then he threw the lid of the case to a place called Guneshwar (now Gunavanthe) and Dhareshwar, 16-19 kilometers away. Finally, he threw the cloth covering the Atma-Linga to a place called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill). Mrideshwara has been renamed to Murdeshwar.
The temple has been redesigned by businessman and philanthropist Dr R N Shetty. The towering Shiva statue, second in height to the one in Nepal was built at a cost of Rs 50 million. Hundreds of sculptors worked for 2 years to complete the 123 feet masterpiece. It has been designed in such a way that it receives sunlight directly and sparkles. Apart from the shiva statue there are other idols depicting the stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana around.
The temple is entirely modernised with exception of the sanctum sanctorum which is still dark and retains its composure. The main deity is Sri Mridesa Linga, also called Murdeshwar. The linga is believed to be a piece of the original Atma Linga and is about two feet below ground level. The devotees performing special sevas like Abhisheka, Rudrabhisheka, Rathotsava etc., can view the deity by standing before the threshold of the sanctum and the Linga is illuminated by oil lamps held close by the priests. The Linga is essentially a rough rock inside a hollowed spot in the ground. Entry into the sanctum is banned for all devotees.
The 239 ft Gopuram has a lift which takes you to the top and gives you a view to remember throughout your life. The Arabian Sea on the three sides appear like a blanket of blue with specks of boats. The western ghats adorn the other side. The Shiva statue looks like a miniature beneath. The lift operates from 7:00am to 12.45pm and again from 3.30pm to 7:00pm.
Apart from the intense spiritual affair Murdeshwar beach is a beautiful and clean beach with azure blue waters. For the adventure seekers hire a boat to the distant Netrani Island and try out Scuba Diving.
There are limited hotels and restaurants. RNS Residency being the best which is practically beside the temple and all rooms have a vast balcony overlooking the sea. Basic rooms and basic vegetarian food should suffice you in this amazingly beautiful location.
The next time you need some spiritual charge, head out to this amazingly beautiful and quite unheard gem of India, Murdeshwar.
History writeup courtesy:- Wikipedia.
Address: Murdeshwar Temple Main Rd, Murdeshwar, Karnataka 581350
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