The Mahabaleshwar Temple, Gokarna is a Hindu temple . A Pranalinga also known as Atmalinga or Shiva Linga is deified in the temple, which is facing the city beach of the Arabian Sea in Gokarna.
Vijayanagara Emperor visited the temple and weighed himself in gold here. In 1665, Shivaji, after disbanding his army here, worshipped at the temple.In 1676, Fryer, the English traveller visited the place during Shivaratri festival and has written in detail about the festival at the temple.
The temple built in Dravidian architectural style, with granite stones, has the Atmalinga enshrined in it on a "square Saligrama Peetha" . It has a small hole at its centre from where devotees can see the top of the Atmalinga. The deity, a carved stone image of Lord Shiva, is also deified here in a standing position and has two arms, and is said to be 1500 years old.
Mahabaleshwar Temple Gokarna
Temple seen from inside the complex. The hoary legend of the temple as narrated links Ravana of Ramayana fame, the demon king of Lanka, not only to the Shiva Linga deified in the Mahabaleshwar Temple but also to the Bhadra Kali temple here. The legend also provides the reasoning for the naming of the Gokarna town. Ravana's mother, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, 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. Ravana then performed severe penance at Mount Kailash to please Lord Shiva and also sang, in his melodious voice, praises of Shiva . He even chopped his own head, and made a harp with threads drawn from his skin and intestine. Shiva pleased with all this devotional worship agreed to bestow boons to Ravana. Ravana, pleased with the promise of Shiva, asked for the Atmalinga and also a wife for himself, as pretty as Uma , Shiva's wife. Shiva then took out the Atma Linga, brightly shining like the Sun, from his own heart and gave it to Ravana with strict instructions that it should not be placed on ground till it was deified at a final destination.
As regards the second request for a beautiful wife, Shiva offered his own wife to Ravana, as in his view there was no other woman more beautiful than Uma, his wife.Uma, who was ordered by Shiva to go with Ravana, then appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu agreed and he met Ravana at Gokarna, disguised as an aged, frail looking Brahmin. The Brahmin asked Ravana as to how such a lovely woman was following him. Ravana, in his enthusiasm, explained that Shiva of Kailash himself had given her to him. Pleased with the Brahmin's words of praise, . This was his undoing as at that moment, Vishnu played a trick and exchanged Uma with mandodari daughter of mayasura, Ravana returned carrying the Atmalinga.
On the way, he met Ganesha in the garb of a cowherd at the same location where he had deserted Uma. At that moment Ravana wanted urgently to attend the call of nature and he, therefore, requested Ganesha to hold the Atmalinga in his hand till he returned after ablutions. There is another version to the legend at this point. It is said that Ravana, being a Brahmin wanted to offer his evening religious prayers, Sandhyavandanam, and he, therefore, requested Ganesha, who appeared before him as a Brahmin boy, to hold on to the Atmalinga till he returned; with strict instructions to Ganesha not to place it on the ground under any circumstance. However, Ravana could not come within the specified time.
Ganesha called out thrice rapidly for Ravana. Even before Ravana could return, Ganesha placed the Atmalinga on the ground, tricked Ravana and vanished from the scene with his cows. Ravana then chased the only cow, which was going underground. However, he managed to get hold of the cow's ear only, as the rest of cow's body had disappeared below ground. It is this ear now seen in a petrified form, which has given the name 'Gokarna' to the place, meaning "Cow's ear." .Then, Ravana tried hard to lift the Shiv Linga but failed as it was firmly fixed.
Ravana had even fainted; thereafter he gave the name Mahabaleshwar to the Atmalinga.Thus, according to the legend narrated, the place now boasts of three divine entities namely: Gokarna, the cow's ear; the Atmalinga or Shiva Linga that is deified in the Mahabaleshwar Temple; and the Goddess Bhadrakali, which are all now divine places of worship integral to Gokarna