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The Complete Story of Murudeshwara Temple: Where Heritage Meets Holiness in South India

This is the story of a small hilly peninsula that is home to the second tallest statue of Lord Shiva in the world. A story that spans from Kailash in the Himalayas to Lanka in the Indian Ocean! This is Murudeshwara Temple, a revered landmark on the western coast of India, and a place where ancient legends merge with feats of modern construction.

  

Murudeshwar Temple is situated in the state of Karnataka, in a small coastal town called Murdeshwar. The temple and the grand statue of Shiva are located on the Kanduka Hill on a small peninsular extension, surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea. The name of the town and the temple arise from a name of Lord Shiva, Sri Mridesh. The 123 feet high towering seated statue of Lord Shiva is visible from afar, both land and sea. There is only one statue of Lord Shiva in the world, that is taller than the Murudeshwara statue–Vishwas Swaroopam in Rajasthan. 


The story of this temple town goes back to Treta Yug, the times of Ramayana, and is related to the legend of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Ravana, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, wanted to bring the Atma Linga (the soul of Shiva) to Lanka. Ravana reached the Himalayas and carried out a severe penance for a thousand years to please Shiva. Finally, Lord Shiva was pleased and gave Ravana the Atma Linga, but on the condition that he must not put it down anywhere until his destination, because it will become established wherever it touches the ground. 


Ravana left for Lanka with the invaluable Atma Linga in his flying chariot. However, the gods were not pleased with the prospect of an asura (demon) gaining such immense power. On the advice of Narada Muni, the divine sage, Lord Ganesha and Lord Vishnu tricked Ravana into stopping his chariot and asking a local cowherd boy to hold the Atma Linga for a while. 


The boy was Ganesha himself, who placed the Atma Linga on the ground near Gokarna, where presently the famous Mahabaleshwar Temple is situated. When Ravana returned, the shepherd boy was nowhere to be found and the Atma Linga had become firmly established on the ground. He tried to move it but only managed to break off a small portion that broke into pieces and scattered off in different directions, creating holy sites of Shiva in Sajjeshwara, Guneshwara (now Gunavanthe), Dhareshwara, and Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill), which is now called Murdeshwar.


The temple has a massive 237 feet high, 20 storied gopura (temple entrance monument), the second tallest in the world, called the Raja Gopura. This beautiful Gopura with intricately carved pillars and serene corridors adorned with exquisite artwork, together with the immense statue of Shiva appearing to arise out of the sea, are both famous attractions of this region. Murudeshwar Temple complex also has a cave museum at the bottom of the Shiva statue, called ‘Bhukailash’. Here, life size sculptures are present that depict the entire story of the Atma Linga and the Temple. 


Devotees believe that worshipping the Atma Linga can absolve them of their sins and bring blessings for overall well-being. Although the Atma Linga is not open to the public, various pujas and rituals are conducted at the temple to honour this sacred symbol, which are open to participation by devotees. The pristine beach, the Arabian Sea, the shrines of other deities like Vishnu and Ganesha, the nearby parks, and other sculptures, create a perfect blend of spirituality and natural beauty at this incredible place that has become a symbol of India's rich cultural and religious heritage.

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