Tulu Nadu – A tryst with the Gods amidst beautiful beaches

They always say that the Gods reside in beautiful abodes – that is why they are up in the skies or atop mountains or in the midst of wild forests and deep oceans .No wonder in ancient days, man worshipped nature. I have an appointment with some of the deities who live in the beautiful sea coast and I do not want to be late lest they shut their doors on me.

I am in Tulu Nadu, the areas currently known as Dakshina Kannada and the coastal belt of Uttara Kannada. Originally called Alvakheda, many historians believe that this is the region Emperor Ashoka referred to in his edicts as Satiyaputra, one of the four regions outside of his empire (the other three being Chola, Chera and Pandya kingdoms). Tulu Nadu was ruled by the Aluvas or Alupas for more than 1000 years. As feudal lords ,they ruled until it came under Vijayanagar empire and thereupon under the Nayaks, the Sultans of Mysore and eventually the British.

The salts of the sea tickle your nostrils and the breeze lifts your spirits. In a moment, you forget the heat and the humidity and let your eyes feast on the blue green waters . The rivers alternate with the seas , more than ten bridges cut across the waters as we drive down from Mangalore.The coast always brings special memories back. Born in a city with the famous Marina Beach, I miss the sea sorely in Bangalore. But this trip made up for all that.

Much of the land here was buried under the sea eons ago . There is fossil evidence to support this. The legend however goes to say that coastal Karnataka is a creation of Parashurama called Parashurama Sristi or Parashurama Kshetra.It is said that Parashurama had a dispute with the lord of the seas, Varuna and threw his axe and claimed the coastal region from the sea, part of which is Tulu Nadu and the other part, is modern day Kerala.

Devotees throng to seven temples as the Kshetra temples are all nestled in the coastal Karnataka – Udupi, Kolluru, Subramanya, Gokarna, Kumbasi, Koteshvara and Shankaranarayana. They are collectively called Mukti Sthalas.

Locals refer to this coast as the Ganesh coast after the God, who is said to be protecting the coast from natural calamities. Besides several other temples, there are six of them dedicated to Ganesh and it is said if anyone visits all six in one day, he will receive special blessings. The temples are Madhur Mahaganapathy near Kasargod, Sharavu Mahaganapathy in Mangalore, Mahaganapathy at Kumbhashi (also known as Aane Gudde), Siddi Vinayaka Hattiangadi at Kundapura, Dwibhuja Ganapathy at Idagunji and the Ganapati at Gokarna in Uttara Kannada District.I could go to only the last four and I hope to receive at least some blessings.

Our first stop was at Hattiangadi, a small village located at a distance of 14 km from Kundapur in Udupi district. The ancient Siddivinayaka temple dates back to the 8th century and is located on the bank of the river Varahi . The idol of Siddivinayaka is more than two feet high and is carved of a Saligrama stone. We went next to the Mahaganapathi temple at Anne Gudde at Kumbhashi . We learnt that name Kumbhasi is said to be derived from the asura Kumbhasura, who was slain here, while the local word Anegudde comes from Aane (elephant) and Gudde (hillock).

We carried on to Idagunji,a small hamlet in Honnavur, located almost amidst verdant greenery. A short walk here from the main highway, takes you down to the most beautiful and spiritual experience to the temple which is more than 1500 years old. Here Ganesh is portrayed as a standing statue with two hands – the right hand holding “Padma” and the left hand with “Modhaka”.

The story goes that at the end of the ‘Dwapara Yuga’ the saints met with several obstacles while they were performing a ritual. Narada then advised them to worship Vigneshwara or Ganesh before starting the penance again.They located a place Kunjaranya near Sharavati river and Narada brought Ganesha along with other Gods to this abode . Immensely pleased by the devotion rendered on him by the saints, Ganesha decided to stay in Kunjaranya which is now renowned as Idagunji.

We carried on towards Murudeshwar and Gokarna where stories and legends from the Ramayan era dot these ancient sacred towns.Murudeshwar temple located on the Kanduka Giri hill is surrounded by the Arabian sea on three sides. Dedicated to Shiva,this ancient temple is being restored and a 20-storied Gopura is being constructed . Two life-size elephants in concrete stand guard at the steps leading to the temple.There is a towering statue of Shiva built recently which is more than 120 feet high. A fort present behind the temple is said to have been renovated by Tipu Sultan.While art and devotion vie here for attention, my personal view is that ancient temples may be renovated but not modernised as they become pure tourist places.

We moved on to Gokarna ,a sacred town that lies besides beautiful beaches.The earliest history of Gokarna is not known but it is said that a sect of brahmins fled from the Gomantak (Goa) to escape forcible conversions by the Portuguese and British and settled in and around Gokarna in 15th century.

Gokarna which is located at the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini means “Cow’s Ear. ” It is believed that Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow (symbolising Prithvi, the Mother Earth) here. According to a legend , Shiva was sent to Patalaloka (hell which is believed to be below the earth) by Brahma to undergo penance. He eventually returned through the ear of Mother Earth and blessed her with the name of Gokarna (go, “cow”; karna “ear”). Thus this place served Shiva as a womb. As time passed, Shiva collected the essence of all Brahma’s creations and created a golden deer with four legs, three eyes, and three horns. Eventually, the three horns (representing the three guna-avataras) were placed at Pushkar (Brahma), Shaligram (Vishnu), and Gokarna (Siva). These places are known as Siddhi Ksetras.

However the main legend talks about how the two temples at Gokarna and Murudeshwar came into being which takes us to the days of the Ramayan. Ravana (Demon/Asura King of Lanka) performed rigorous penance to get the “Atma Linga” from Shiva so that he could become immortal. Pleased by his prayers, Lord Shiva agreed to give him the Atmalinga with a condition that it should never be placed on the ground as it will get stuck to that place.

Narada,fearing that Ravana may become invincible approached Vishnu to retrieve the Atmalinga from Ravana. Vishnu knew that Ravana was a very devoted person who used to perform his rituals in the evening every day without fail. So he decided to take the help of Ganesh and tricked Ravana . As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted the sun with his Sudarshana Chakra to make it look like evening. As Ravana was getting ready for his evening prayers, he noticed a Brahmin boy who was none other than Ganesh in disguise. Ravana requested him to hold the AtmaLinga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he will hold it as long as he can bear its weight and will call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana does not return, he would place the AtmaLinga on the ground.

As predicted, before Ravana could return Ganesh had already placed the AtmaLinga on the ground. Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked tried to uproot and destroy the Atmalinga . He threw the coverings away and it fell in many places like Dhareshwar, Sajjeshwara,
Gunavanteshwara . Finally, he threw the cloth covering the AtmaLinga to a place called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill). Mrideshwara has been rechristened to Murudeshwara.As Ravana was unable to lift the Linga from the ground again , he called it Mahabala (very strong). Mahabaleshwara temple came into being and the atmalinga is nestled in Gokarna .A small hole in its middle permits devotees to have a glimpse of the top of the Aatma Linga. The Maha Ganapathi temple, built in honour of the boy Ganesh has a small dent in the head of the idol, where supposedly Ravana hit him in anger.

We heard the story in both Murudeshwar and Gokarna , which was filled with tourists and foreigners walking towards the beach. Gokarna is also an important centre of Sanskrit learning and many Hindus also perform last rites of their relatives here .

Amidst all this sacred lore , you find four of the most beautiful beaches in India set in the jungle. The first beach is called Kudle Beach, and it is about a twenty-minute walk from Gokarna. To get to Kudle, take the path that starts on the south side of the Ganapati Temple. The path goes uphill and then drops down to Kudle Beach, a beautiful, kilometre-long white sand beach surrounded by palm trees.

The next beach is OM Beach which is shaped like the auspicious Om sign. Its amazing how the sea retains the sanctity of the place which is lost amidst the hippies who now frequent the beach.There are some really basic huts and some chai shops to eat at.

There are two more beaches—Half-moon and Paradise—each a thirty-minute walk from one another. You can get bottled water and food on all the beaches near Gokarna including the Main beach, Kudle, Om, Half Moon and Paradise beaches.

We had some quiet moments at Om Beach , hearing the waves lashing at the rocks, thinking of the heady mix of the mythical, spiritual and historic influences and wondering if we were blessed to be here … We moved on gazing at more blue skies and seas as our next destination was Devbagh Island , Karwar .

Move over comes Karnataka.


  1. Anil P 26 March, 2008 at 22:38 Reply

    This reminds me of my trip to Idgunji. It is possibly among the most serene places for a pilgrim centre.

    Idgunji’s Ganpati is omnipresent.

  2. priyank 26 March, 2008 at 22:40 Reply

    Oh boy, that was a lot for me to take at one time!

    The second picture- shiva emerging behind the trees and temple gave me goosebumps. Indeed this looks like a land of Gods.

    In fact, sri kshetra parshuram starts from central konkan (maharashtra) and my community is believed to be descendants of him. So watch out 😛 hahaha

    I went to UK many years back and was mesmerized esp by Gokarna. I totally agree with your view on modernization of temples – worst thing is using the oil paint. yuck.

    I’ll stop typing now 😀

  3. Preethi 27 March, 2008 at 05:05 Reply

    Parashurama is supposed to be the only avatar of the Supreme who is still alive somewhere in the Himalaya Ranges and is supposed to come out and annihilate all who are sinful when kaliyuga ends and he’s supposed to teach Kali avatar, the ways of the sword! and for you to have visited a place created by him eons ago sounds so poetic to my ears. Read about half of the post, will come bck and finish the rest. Good one here…..

  4. Vienna for Beginners 27 March, 2008 at 18:06 Reply

    Mangalore … the name alone evokes so many mystic connotations! Thank you for taking the time to share this wonderful experience with us. I will probably never get to see these sites, but I feel like you took me there.

  5. AJEYA RAO 28 March, 2008 at 10:48 Reply

    Wow, you have covered the entire coastal belt…Nice pics, I do have few pics of the Shiva idol at Murudeshwara, before lightening hit, it looks little different.I hope you enjoyed the NH17 drive

  6. Sahasi 29 March, 2008 at 01:25 Reply

    Great pics… Did you notice the ancient signposts installed on rocks off Om Beach which state “This is property of the Union of Inia”. Apparently these were installed by the Brits in 19th century.

  7. Joy 29 March, 2008 at 02:01 Reply

    You’re so very lucky to be able to visit this lovely place. Love the blue water.

    Thanks for visiting Norwich Daily Photo and leaving your comments. I’m at our old house right now where there’s broadband (but will leave here in a few minutes) so I am able to connect to cyberworld. I’ve been offline the last 4 days and I find it terribly challenging – and I’m still definitely not ignoring you. Thank you for your patience and my visit to your blog will be back to its regularity once we have broadband at our new home. Have a great weekend!

    A Pinay In England
    Your Love Coach
    I, Woman

  8. indicaspecies 29 March, 2008 at 06:14 Reply

    I’ve been to some of those beautiful temples you have mentioned including the one called Murudeshwara.

    Mangalore or Kudla, also called Tulu Nadu, is the place where I was born. I thought I knew quite a bit about these places in Dakshina and Uttara Kannada, until I learned more from your post. Thank you for sharing such interesting information.

    Fabulous pictures Lakshmi and I find those of the beaches absolutely endearing.

  9. GMG 29 March, 2008 at 16:22 Reply

    Hi Lakshmi, finally I have some moments without having to think on things to do tomorrow and with time to come and enjoy your posts!
    These Murudeshwara posts are excellent. Loved to see the temples, the beaches and enjoyed reading your travelogue. The problem is that with all this information, I’m adding new places to my visit list and that’s quite disturbing… 😉
    Thanks for your comments at Blogtrotter where I’m now strolling around Bilbao!
    Have a great weekend!

  10. Arun 30 March, 2008 at 01:11 Reply

    loved the write-up.

    When I was a kid and visited the place, Murdeshware did not have the towering gopura, Shiva statue or the ugly island resort. It was green and was a pleasure being there. Was in love with the narrow strip of land connecting the temple.

  11. Jeevan 31 March, 2008 at 16:28 Reply

    It was interesting story behind the marudeshwara and Mahabaleshwara, which felt like something I heard before, but no idea. Very amazing pictures, I think the Marudeshwar temple must be the tallest Gopuram in India! I love beaches; these beaches seem unfamiliar with hills around. Wish I visit Mangalore ones in my life time, Nice post 🙂

  12. RustyNeurons 31 March, 2008 at 16:40 Reply

    It feels so good to see these familiar places being described in such wonderful manner.. Honestly, although I have visited these places many a times, it never crossed my mind to capture them. Well, that’s the difference I guess! 🙂

  13. Nandan 31 March, 2008 at 17:38 Reply

    I have not been to this area so it was all new. One special thing which I noted was that this post has quite a high no of hindi/sanskrit/non-english words. Sometimes it gets challenging to remember the names as you read more sanskrit names 🙂

    Probably its to do with me, a same post on North might have been easier understood by me with some familiar names. Good enough reason to venture down-south.

    Keep writing.

  14. Anita 31 March, 2008 at 22:23 Reply

    wow. this series brought back memories of a similar trip i had done about a year and a half ago from mangalore to malpe to marvanthe to gokarna to karwar to palolem and finally baga. West coast is one of the most beautiful places in India

  15. c e e d y 1 April, 2008 at 02:30 Reply


    Brilliant description – and great pictures….

    These are wonderful spots for self realization and spiritual endevours……

    you are going to get a call sure when I come to India – Goa anyways is too commercial – this looks serene and calm

    Could language be a problem in such areas – where one does not know Kannada?

  16. backpakker 2 April, 2008 at 00:09 Reply

    Anil – I agree with you…its one of the most beautiful temples I have ever been to.

    Priyank – Now Im getting goose bumps 🙂 actually temples when they get modernized loses their sanctity..

    Preethi – I hope you have finished the rest glad you posted this comment..I believe legends and myths..

    WMWC -Thank you..This is gods own country too..

    Merisi – Vienna is very beautiful too the way you describe it.I hope you get to see India sometime

    Alok – Quite a lot of places actually..thanks

    Mark – The temple structure is new..but the temple itself is the name of renovation, people tend to modernise it and I dont like it

    SK – Thanks..appreciate it

    Ajeya – So many more to cover..sigh ! Loved the stretch but terrible terribe roads

    Shelley -thank you..I have always enjoyed reading and writing abt the heritage of India

    Kamini -thanks..the place is so beautiful that no camera can really do justice to it

    Sahasi – wow..I didnt see them…if I had i would have taken a pic..thanks for letting me know..maybe next time 🙂

    Joy -thanks for dropping by..appreciate it.hope you are online soon

    Celine – Am glad my research helped..seriously this stretch completely bowled me over..thanks

    Gill – India is so vast , beautiful and diverse..sometimes I ask myself whether I will be able to see the places in my wishlist

    Indrani – pls do . Stories make destinations more interesting.

    Arun – thanks..I wish I had seen it like that..honestly,I was disappointed by the modern structures

    mp3emp4 -thanks for dropping by

    friendly nextdoor guy – welcome to backpakker and thanks..hope to see you again

    Reeta – Its gods own country ..India, I mean..glad you liked them .thanks

    Jeevan -thanks for the comment..beaches are so can lose yourself and forget everything..just listening to the waves is so peaceful

    Rusty – when I used to go earlier with family, I used to do the many places Ive visited , I have no record..but the travel bug is now bitten me

    Nandan – Absolutely good reason and by the name, i like sanskrit words

    Anita – welcome to backpakker and thanks..went to goa too..glad you enjoyed the trip .

    Ceedy – Not really. Language is not an issue..Hindi chalega ! Awaiting your call and yes, its absolutely bliss

    I am – Havent been to sure its beautiful..thanks

  17. Prakash Mesta 5 August, 2008 at 15:18 Reply

    Very funny ……
    You are putted Uttara Kannada photos..(Om beach, Murdeshwar, Honavar bride etc..) and told that these are in tulu nadu….. Tulu nadu starts from Kundapur onwards….

  18. Lakshmi 5 August, 2008 at 16:00 Reply

    Pallavi-lovely pics..thanks for sharing

    Canary – thanks for dropping by..south is extremely beautiful..

    Prakash – welcome to backpacker..if you read the article, you will realize that the drive starts from Tulu Nadu and moves on to Uttara Kannada..and yes, the pics are only abt UK ..

  19. Sneha 25 October, 2008 at 12:37 Reply

    good post!
    just a mention, the food and bottles water part for all the Goakrna beaches holds good for the tourist season only, which typically begins from november and lasts till march end. I ve experienced the off season at these beaches,, trust me! you dont want to see that

  20. Mangolights 19 September, 2012 at 07:25 Reply


    I need you help in planning my travel to all the six temples and would like to visit in a day.

    I would be travelling by bike and would like to start from Kasargod and end in Gokarna. I would like to know the kms between each temple and the timings of the temples so that i don’t miss to take blessings of Ganesha.

    Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to you.

    Looking forward to hear from you soon.

    Thank you.

    Best Regards,

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