God Shiva Towers Over His Worshippers at 230 Feet and 20 Storeys High
Murudeshwar is a coastal town in India. It is also one of the names of the Hixxxndu god Shiva, and the association of the town with this deity is evident in the temple dedicated to him and the colossal seated statue of Shiva, which is the second tallest statue of this god in the world.
Located in Uttara Kannada, a district in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, Murudeshwar (also spelled as Murdeshwar) is considered a holy place, and the reason for this may be found in the Indian epic, the Ramayana. According to this ancient epic poem, Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka, is said to have been a great devotee of Shiva.
A Play for Immortality and More Power
In order to gain immortality and to increase his own power, Ravana began to perform penance to Shiva. Ravana was granted a boon, though he was tricked into asking for Parvati, instead of the Atma Linga (Soul of Shiva).
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Realizing his mistake, Ravana began to perform penance again. This time, he received the Atma Linga from Shiva, on the condition that it should not be placed on the ground. To save the world, Narada (the sage who tricked Ravana the first time) intervened once more.
Mural painting depicting Shiva with the Lingam in the Palace of Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur. (dalbera/ CC BY 2.0 )
An illusion was created, which turned midday into evening. Seeing that the sun was about to set, Ravana wanted to offer Sandhya prayers. Yet, he was unable to do so, as he could not put the Atma Linga down. Suddenly, a young Brahmachari appeared before the king, and offered to hold the Atma Linga for him whilst he offered his prayers. Ravana agreed to this, and handed the Atma Linga over to the young man, who was actually Ganesha in disguise. Instead of holding the Atma Linga, however, Ganesha placed it on the ground.
Enraged by what had just happened, Ravana proceeded to destroy the Atma Linga. The king smashed the object into pieces and threw it away. One of these pieces is said to have fallen in Murudeshwar, thus turning it into a sacred site. On the spot where the fragment of the Atma Linga is believed to have fallen, a shrine to Shiva was erected.
Murudeshwar Temple. (Vedamurthy J/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Murudeshwar Temple Complex
As for the present temple complex, this was constructed in more recent times. Located on a peninsula, the temple is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Arabian Sea.
Within this modern temple complex is the ancient shrine that was built to house the relic believed to be the fragment of the Atma Linga. Apart from this sacred object, the temple complex is also notable for its gopura, a typical architectural feature of South Indian temples.
An HDR image of the 22-storied Raja Gopura at Murudeshwar temple. Two life-size elephants in concrete stand guard at the steps leading to it. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
These monumental gatehouse towers, which are normally sumptuously decorated with sculptures of Hindu deities and mythological figures, can be found at the entrance of such temples. The gopura is known as the Raja Gopura, and soars to a dizzying height of over 70 meters (229.66 ft.) Inaugurated in 2008, this gopura has 22 floors, and is fitted with lifts (the only gopura to have such a facility) to carry devotees up and down this monumental structure.
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A Colossal Shiva
Another famous landmark in Murudeshwar is its colossal statue of Shiva. This statue, which is about 40 meters (131.23 ft.) in height, is located on the top of Kanduka Giri, a small hill close to the temple complex. This statue, which depicts Shiva in a seated posture, is often said to be the second largest statue of this deity in the world.
Like the temple complex, this statue is also a modern creation, and was commissioned by a businessman and philanthropist by the name of R. N. Shetty. The statue is placed in such a position that it would receive direct sunlight.