Ravana, the demon King from the epic Ramayana, was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Once Ravana went to Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva and after severe penance got a boon of invincibility from Shiva. Lord Shiva gave him a lingam (also referred to as atma-lingam) and told him to carry it to Lanka by foot and while on his journey back home, he should never put it on the ground and if he did, then the boon would not materialize and he would lose the lingam to the place he kept it. Some versions of the myth say that Ravana attained this boon after reciting the Shiva Tandav Stotram, which was composed by him in honour of Lord Shiva.
|A statue from the temple premises|
Seeing this, other gods were worried about the boon. They then requested Lord Ganesha to do something and somehow stop Ravana from getting invincible. Ganesha through his yogic powers filled Ravanas stomach with water. Soon Ravana could hold it no longer and he had to relieve himself. Ganesha took the form of a child and approached Ravana. Ravana asked the child if he could hold it for some time, till he relieved himself, but should not put it down. Ganesha in his disguise agreed to do so, but also mentioned that if the lingam got heavy then he would place it on the ground, but then he would call him before doing so.
Ganesha held on to the lingam and no sooner had Ravana left, he cried out saying he could not hold it as it was getting heavier by the moment. He called out for Ravana three times, but Ravana could not return on time. Ganesha then left the lingam on the ground and ran away. Ravana came to the spot, and tried to move the lingam, but could not. He put all the pressure of his twenty hands, but could not move the lingam. However, due to the enormous pressure, applied by him the shape of the region changed to resemble the ear of a cow and hence the place is now known as Gokarna (ear of the cow) which lies in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Since then the lingam at Gokarna is known as the Mahabaleshwar lingam (maha – great, bal – power, strength and eshwar – god) as the lingam could not be moved even by the strength of the mighty Ravana.
|Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple|
When Ravana realized that he was cheated by a child, he chased the child to hit him on his head. Later Ganesha took his original form. It is said that the Ganesha idol in the premises of the temple has a hollow in the head which was formed after Ravana hit him there. The idol is thus also referred to as Kuttu (to hit with folded fists) Ganesha. The devotees worship the idol by gently tapping on the head of the idol with folded fists!
Some versions say that Ravana took the help of the child, as it was evening and time for him to perform the sandhya vandana (evening prayers).
This myth signifies the contribution of Lord Ganesha from stopping Ravana from becoming invincible. The myth also lends credence to the divine association with the region and the temple which has religious attractions like the temple. Gokarna is considered to be a centre of Sanskrit learning and many Hindus from the nearby regions perform the last rites of the dead at Gokarna.
The ten day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi comes to an end today, and so does my series on Ganapati.
As they say in aamchi Mumbai –
Ganpati Bappa Moriya Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar yaa (meaning - Oh Ganpati My Lord, return soon next year)!!