The most famous shrine in Gokarna, the Mahabaleshwar Temple is also one of the most revered Shiva temples in the country. The temple is considered almost as sacred as the Vishwanath Shiva Temple in Varanasi. This is the reason why this is also often referred to as Dakshina Kashi. The two lingams in the temple, namely the Para-lingam and the atma-lingam attract a large number of devotees from across the country. The atma-lingam (a divine lingam) is 6 ft high and is considered to be approximately 1,500 years old. Another fact that contributes to the mystique of the temple is that the lingam is revealed to the public eye only once every 40 years.

This occasion is marked by a performance. This is, of course, a grand event in the region and hordes of pilgrims and devotees visit the Mahabaleshwar Temple on this occasion. The ritual suggests that the correct way to worship in the temple is to first take a dip in the sea and then worship a shivling, made out of the sand. Only after this should a devotee head over to the Mahabaleshwar Temple to offer prayers. The festival of Mahashivaratri is celebrated with a lot of fervour and attracts a lot of visitors. The temple has been built in intricate Dravidian style of architecture and was commissioned to be built by the Kadamba king, Mauryasharma (345-365 CE).

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