The state of Karnataka in southern India is best known for Bangalore, the hi-tech and outsourcing capital, and the computing centers of Microsoft, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Oracle, Airbus and an infinite number of banks, insurance companies and airlines. But India is a land of contrasts and so is the coast of Karnataka. A few hours drive from Bangalore, technology, and finance gives way to a mystical reality that rejects modernity.
Gokarna is a sacred city devoted to Shiva and is inhabited mostly by priests and intellectuals. Also known as Temple Town, the village is a very popular destination for the Hindu pilgrims. At Gokarna, in fact, I arrived very quietly, after a stop of a night in the city of Hubli. From Hubli later I left for a trip of 5 hours by bus, most of them on a paved road that for hours went through a long and immense forest, surrounded by greenery and great stillness, broken only by the rumbling noise of the bus engine and its horn.
Even the arrival in Gokarna was just as calm and quiet. For the first time since I arrived in a tourist place and I have neither found a rickshaw driver wrestling to carry me, nor young people ready to offer me a cheap hotel room.
We meet priests at the entrance of the temples or on the verandas, wrapped in a white cloth, out of respect to the gods, who with shaved heads, perform ceremonies in many temples and especially in Mahabaleshwar, the ancient sanctuary which houses the lingam of Shiva, the stone phallus, the maximum symbol of fertility, which, according to local mythology, Shiva dropped as he flew from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka.
In Gokarna, Shivaratri is held every year with a religious procession with floats, fireworks, and elephants. Custodians of the myth of purity, the priests are vegetarians and in the city is not found even an egg. Gokarna has become the latest destination for travelers, who want to flee from mass tourism and globalization and here has migrated the old and new hippies of the nearby super commercialized Goa.
Gokarna has become one of the beach destinations with the most intact environment and lower costs in Asia. Its way of temples emerges on a seven-kilometer long beach, animated by the work of fishermen. The long sandy plateau to the north is deserted, lined with a very basic guesthouse that is camouflaged in the bush. Going up the hill to the south you will visit the temple of Rama with the source and the purifying bath.
It reaches a plateau populated by monkeys with the cave that gives its name to Gokarna. The day after I arrived, I immediately decided to go to the discovery of all four beaches. Kudle Beach, famous for its beautiful sunsets is the first of four beaches that follow each other and are easily reached by a walk of about 15-20 minutes between the beach and the other.
I crossed the center of the village and I continued to be left in peace and then just as quietly I started down the path that leads to the beaches and, after a 15-minute walk up a hill, I come to Kudle Beach, a white sand crescent of thousand meters.
From here in half an hour we get to Om Beach, so named because of its strips of sand in the sea resembles the shape of OM symbol and is smaller and more private. And, following a path through forests and cliffs, are the coves of Half Moon and Paradise. The azure sea and little frequented and the private beach is the perfect place to completely relax, practice yoga and detox from the stress accumulated during the year. Until a few years ago, there was no electricity and spartan huts were built on the rocks of bamboo, which were the only findable accommodation.
Paradise Beach, unlike the name that has been given, does not have really anything heavenly, only populated by hippies, absorbed in their alternate, meditative and contemplative world. The beach is small with old decadent stone structures that breathed a really strange, unreal air, that is thousand light-years distant from the spirit and the life of this country, inhabited only by some strangers.
Gokarna is much less touristy and less popular than the whole of Goa region, but it is a very quiet place where we enjoy in peace a little healthy solitude and where we find very few people, so much so that even after 10 minutes I was on the beach and tried to find a guest house, no one tried to cross my paths.
I then ventured a bit inland, behind the few guest houses and still open restaurants that are located right on the beach. I had the feeling to find myself in the Amazon rainforest and arrived in one of the beach properties. I was happy to have joined the owner's, first of all, because it was a whole new dimension for me, and because they were very simple people, but despite everything, they would smile at me and tell me even a simple hello whenever they saw me, unlike those in Hampi.
Here, from then, in this small and quiet hinterland of Kudle Beach, I managed to find again just what I wanted, away from guest houses and huts in more popular and populous beaches, frequented by hippies and smoking stuff of all kinds. Kudle Beach was a really nice place, ideal for a little relaxation and rest away from the busy Indian towns, where we could live in a really isolated place, away from normal life and at the end it was different from those beaches, where tourists would spend their time relaxing, drinking, smoking, sunbathing.
After few days of stay with the natives and Kudle Beach, I travel for one day in the village of Gokarna, before leaving for Kerala. So, I leave behind me an unreal and strange atmosphere of the beach. I finally found a small village lost among coconut trees and banana plants. And on that day and a half, I spent I breathed for the first time a pleasant religious atmosphere, a healthy spirituality, and devotion that reigns strong in the air, around the famous sacred temples of the village.
The village of Gokarna was really nice with small stone houses with wooden roofs and small brown tiles, sometimes covered with thin sheets of iron for rain, coconut and banana trees that dominate the center of the village giving the feeling of being in the forest, men and children who wander around the center with women preparing small baskets with offerings by hand for their God, with bananas, coconuts or flowers.
Not far from Gokarna, extend the famous beaches that attract young tourists and backpackers, and on the one hand is the mountains of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea on the other. And with this, I left Gokarna, after attending a small religious ceremony that I found extremely fascinating. Again, it will be difficult to leave this land so rich in beauty, spirituality, humility, and courtesy.
Gokarna Travel Tips
From Mumbai, you can reach Gokarna via Goa, with the train to Mangalore. Otherwise, you can fly to Goa. Gokarna is three hours drive from Goa airport. Behind Om Beach, 5 km from the city, you can also find luxury resort villas.