The Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka is a location that has some beautiful sites that are full of wonder and beauty. Here you can explore the Yana caves, scale the heights of the Mirjan Fort and be amidst tranquility and peace at Gokarna
The Yana caves are naturally formed caves located in the Sahyadri mountain range of the Western Ghats. It is about 60 kilometers from Karwar, 40 kilometers from Sirsi and 31 kilometers from Kumta. To get here one needs to take a left diversion from National Highway 17, the road leading to Kumta.
Once off the national highway scenic villages surrounded by mountains and forests come to view. To get to the caves site brace yourself for a trek of almost an hour and a 200 odd steps uphill climb. But, it’s all worth it. These caves are not less than a wonder with their intimidating scale. The tallest peak, Bhairaveshwara Shikhara stands 120 meters high, whereas the Mohini Shikhara is ninety meters. These rocks are a solid composition of black, crystalline limestone.
One can walk around these caves and inside them too. There is also a small temple of Shiva inside these rock caves. It is self manifested or swayambhu linga where the water from the rocks drips on this linga.
There is also an interesting legend associated with this place. It is the mythological story of asura Bhasmasura, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Shiva granted Bhasmasura the power to turn anyone to ashes upon laying his hand over them. He tried to burn down Shiva himself. It is believed that Lord Shiva then came down to earth and hid in a cave at Yana. In order to save
Shiva, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a young, beautiful female dancer, Mohini and challenged Bhasmasura to compete with her in a dance performance. During this performance, Mohini made the demon keep his hand on his own head thus reducing himself to ashes. It is believed that this fire was so intense that it made the rocks black. It is said the ashes are still in the cave as one can see the black mud on the ground.
Half a day is sufficient time to enjoy the beauty of the caves and there are few stalls selling some refreshments. Ideally one should begin the journey to the spot early in morning in order to spend more time there.
A few places can be explored on the way back from Yana. Mirjan Fort is one such place and is located on the banks of River Aghanashini. The fort is located to the south of Gokarna, about a kilometer off the National Highway 17. There are many versions debating the date of this fort. According to the first historical version, Queen Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa (under the Vijayanagara Empire) was initially credited with building the Mirjan Fort in the 16th century. She ruled for fifty four years and also lived in the fort.
It is quite a majestic fort, overlooking the river on one side and paddy fields on the other. One can spend quality time by just sitting here.
If history and forts don’t interest you much, then you can travel further to Gokarna. It is a small temple town and draws pilgrims from all over the country.
It is considered as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrim centres. The town is famous for its temples; those of importance being the Mahabaleshwar Temple dedicated to Shiva and the Mahaganapati temple where you will come across the deity of boy Ganapati standing with two arms.
It was built in honour of the boy Ganapati, and surrounds the legend that Ganapati in the guise of a young boy deceived the demon Ravana by keeping atmalinga on ground before Ravana returned from sandyavandanam (evening rituals). This made Ravana angry and he hit the young boy’s head.
This is represented as a depression on the head of this deity. As Ravana could not remove that atmalinga from the ground, he built the Mahabaleshwar temple around it.
Apart from the temple this town is very interesting if one would want to see old heritage houses along the narrow lanes. Even though it is a temple town, it is a favourite among foreigners who want to explore the cultural side of India and its serene beaches.
Om beach, which is actually shaped like an Om symbol, is a crowd puller. Many foreign tourists consider this beach better than Goan beaches as it is less crowded.
On your way back, I would recommend you to stop at a small temple which is on the banks of a river. It is a small temple, which is filled with Kaavi art (etching on walls with traditional materials -kaav, charcoal and red soil). For more details about it, follow this link http://www.navhindtimes.in/bringing-alive-the-kaavi-art/.
Indeed India is full of such wonders. You have to just keep your eyes and mind open to experience it.
All pics by Om Prabhugaonkar
The edited version of this article was first published on The Navhind Times Zest BUZZ Weekender on August 1, 2015