Gokarna

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A sacred place of Puranic importance situated on the extreme north of Kerala.

(1) Origin.
There was once on the banks of the river Tungabhadra a village made sacred and prosperous by the brahmins who lived there. In that village lived a noble brahmin named Atmadeva. His wife was a quarrelsome woman named Dhundhuli. Even after many years of married life they got no children and Atmadeva, greatly grief-stricken, left his home and went to the forests. He was sitting on the shore of a lake after quenching his thirst from it when a Sannyasin came that way. Atmadeva told him about his domestic life and pleaded that he should suggest a way to get a son for him. The sannyasin sat in meditation for some time and contemplated on the horoscope of Atmadeva and regretfully informed him that according to his horoscope he was to have no children for seven successive births. He, therefore, advised Atmadeva to abandon all his worldly pleasures and accept sannyasa for the rest of his life. But Atmadeva was not to be discouraged by this prophecy and he urged the sannyasin to help him somehow to get a child. The sanyasin then gave him a fruit and asked him to give it to his wife and ask her to observe a life of fasting for a period of one year.

Greatly pleased with this boon Atmadeva returned to his house and told his wife all that had happened and gave her the fruit. She liked to eat the fruit but a year’s fasting seemed troublesome to her. She was thinking of how to get over this difficulty when her younger sister came to her and suggested a plan. She said
“Sister, I am pregnant. I shall give you the child I deliver. You can declare it as your child and make your husband believe so. You can announce in public that you have eaten the fruit and have consequently become pregnant. We can, to test its merit, give the fruit to a cow.”
Dhundhuh liked the plan very much, and so did everything like that.

The news that Dhundhuli was pregnant spread in the city. Very soon her sister gave birth to a child and that child was proclaimed as the child of Dhundhuli. On the pretext that Dhundhuli was short of breast-milk her sister started doing the breast-feeding. The child was named Dhundhukari.

After three months the cow that ate the fruit delivered a child. The ear of the child was like that of a cow and so he was called Gokarna. Dhundhukari and Gokarna grew together. Dhundhukari became a very evil-natured boy while Gokarna grew into a scholarly one. Dhundhukari who was the very seat of everything bad made the life of their parents wretched and the disappointed Atmadeva renounced all and went to the forests and did penance and attained moksa. Unable to bear the torture by her son, Dhundhuli committed suicide by jumping into a well. #Gokarna started on a pilgrimage.

Dhundhukari lived in his own house surrounded by prostitutes. Thieving was his only means of livelihood. Knowing this the servants of the king started to capture Dhundhukari and the prostitutes who lived with him, for their safety, bound Dhundhukari with ropes and put him into fire and killed him. The soul of Dhundhukari became a great phantom. Hearing tho news of’ the death of his brother, Gokarna returned home. He conducted a sraddha at Gaya to give peace to the soul of his departed brother. But the phantom of Dhundhukari was not pacified. This phantom troubled him always: Gokarna was not afraid of it and asked him what lie wanted and the phantom pleaded that in some way Gokarna should get him absolved of all his sins. Gokarna then consulted Pandits to know what method should be adopted to save a soul which could not be saved even by a Gaya-Sraddha. The Pandits advised him to do penance to propitiate the Sun.
The Sun who appeared before Gokarna as a result of his penance declared that if he did read the entire Bhagavata in seven days Dhundhukari would get moksa. So Gokarna performed a Saptaha and among those who assembled to hear it was the phantom of Dhundhukari also. The phantom finding no place to sit crept into a seven layered bamboo and sat there listening to Gokarna. When the first day was over the first layer broke and it went on like that every day tend on the seventh day the seventh layer broke and when Gokarna finished the twelfth Skandha the phantom rose from the bamboo to heaven.
When it was going to heaven it looked at Gokarna and told him that his moksa was due to the result of his hearing the saptaha reading. When Gokarna asked him why none of the others who heard it got it he said that it was because none had heard it with such rapt attention as he had done. Gokarna then conducted another reading of Saptaha and the people present heard the same with rapt attention. When the reading was over, a chariot of Visnu from Vaikuntha descended and carried away all those who heard the reading.
The place where Gokarna sat and read the Saptaha became known later as the famous Gokarna.
(Chapters 1 to 3, Bhagavata Mahatmya),

 

2) Mitrasaha and Gokarna. A King of Ayodhya named Mitrasaha who became famous by the name of Kalmasapada, became a demon by a curse of Vasistha. He attained moksa by living and worshipping God in the temple at Gokarna.
(See under Sivaratri for details).

 

3) Gokarna and the origin of Kerala.
Brahmanda Purana gives a story associating Gokarna with the origin of Kerala.
By the request of Bhagiratha the river Ganga fell on earth and flowing as different brooks emptied its waters in the ocean. The level of the water in the ocean went up and the temple of Gokarna and the land of Kerala were submerged in waters. The sages who were in the temple somehow escaped and took refuge on the mountain Sahya.
Parasurama was doing penance there then and the sages went to him and told him of their plight. Parasurama went and stood in Gokarna and threw an axe to the south. All the land from Gokarna, up to the place where the axe fell rose up from the ocean to form a piece of land which was named #Kerala.
(Chapter 97 of Brahmanda Purana).

 

4) Other Puranic details regarding Gokarna.

(i) Bhagiratha did penance to bring Gangidevi to Earth at Gokarna. (Sarga 12, Chapter 42, Bila Kinda, Vilmiki Ririiiyana ) .

ii) The serpent named Mesa spent much time living here. (Chapter 36, Sloka 3, Adi Parva).

iii) Arjuna visited Gokarna while he was on his pilgrimage. (Sloka 34, Chapter 26, Adi Parva).

iv) Gokarna was one of the abodes of Siva. Brahma, Maharsis, Bhutas and Yaksas used to stay at Gokarna to worship Siva. (Sloka 24, chapter 85, Vana Parva) .

v) The holy place of Gokarna is renowned in all the three worlds (Sloka 15, Chapter 88, Vana Parva).

vi) Gokarna is a tapovana also. (Sloka 51, Chapter 6, Bhisma Parva).

vii) Sri Krsna, Arjuna and Pradyumna together killed Nikumbha, who had kidnapped Bhanumati, at Gokarna.
(Chapter 90, Visnu Purana).

 

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