Divinity by the sea

The quaint little beach town of Murdeshwar is home to the most spectacular Shiva Temple and some breathtaking sights, writes Hema Anand

A mild drizzle welcomed us as we drove through the monumental entrance arch and entered the beach town of Murdeshwar. As we moved towards the temple complex, we saw a line of shops selling beautiful handicraft articles made from shells, fish bones and also a special type of grass. A short drive ahead and we reached the temple complex, where the first glimpse of the towering statue of Lord Shiva, standing majestically in all its glory, left us spell-bound.

Murdeshwar, the beach town in the Bhatkal taluk of the Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka, lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea. It is an amazing blend of scenic beauty and spirituality and is thronged both by pilgrims and tourists.

The temple, which is built on the Kanduka Giri Hill, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also known as Murdeshwara. It is a beautiful temple built using granite and depicts south Indian style of architecture. A 20-storied Raj-Gopura is constructed at the temple. As we entered, we couldn’t miss two life-size structures of elephants made in concrete, standing guard at the entrance. The Raja Gopura is 249 feet and is the only one to be fitted with an elevator, which takes you right to the top of the structure. On reaching the top floor, we got a spectacular view of the Shiva statue with the back drop of the shimmering blue sea on all sides.

The statue of Lord Shiva is 123 ft in height. The gigantic structure is visible from great distances. Beneath the statue is an artificial cave with around 16 tableaus of splendid life-size sculptures depicting the story of Murdeshwar through an impressive sound and light show and a narration that clearly explains each tableau.

Apart from the Shiva statue, there are several other sculptures in the statue park, which are equally spectacular. There is a sculpture depicting Goddess Ganga landing on Lord Shiva’s jata (locks of hair) from heaven and Saint Bhagirath waiting for her arrival. The sculptures of Geeta Upadesha, Nandi, the Chariot of the Sun God, Lord Ganesha receiving the atma-linga from Ravana in the form of a young boy, Maharishi Vyas dictating and Ganesha writing the Mahabharata are all masterpieces and add to the divinity of the place.

And now it was time for some fun in the sun and we just couldn’t wait to get to the beach. The beach at Murdeshwar is the perfect place to unwind. The pristine blue waters with the scenic backdrop of the Western Ghats are just irresistible and one cannot do without taking a dip in them. For the more adventurous lot, Murdeshwar offers a wide variety of water sports like parasailing and water scooter rides. Boat rides can also be taken around the Kanduka Giri Hillock in the colourful boats of the locals. Island trips to Netrani Island, also known as Netragudo or Pigeon Island are also organised. This uninhabited island is five kms long, and one can enjoy scuba-diving or snorkeling  sessions and witness the beautiful underwater world which is full of aquatic life like corals, turtles, stone fish, sting rays, butterfly fish, eels, parrot fish etc.

We had a rollicking time at the beach and then just sat there gazing at the setting sun. It was a sight to behold, a large ball of fire, descending slowly, becoming one with the waves that almost seemed hungry to engulf it and then it finally disappeared beyond the horizon. As we walked back to our rooms, we could see several street lamps all lit up, spreading a divine glow all around and the flood lights focused on the statue of Lord Shiva making it look even more stunning.

At dawn, as we descended the steps bidding our farewell to Lord Shiva, we were welcomed by a sight fit for the gods, the salty lips of the sea kissing the sandy shores and the rising sun waiting to usher us into yet another new day.

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