A famous Hindu temple of Lord Shiva. There is an interesting legend on the origin of this temple.
It goes like this; the mother of Ravan (the King of Lanka in the Hindu epic Ramayan) was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and wanted to get the Atmalinga of Lord Shiva, which was being worshipped by Goddess Parvati, for her worship in Lanka.
When Ravan came to knew this, he went to mount Kailas (the abode of Lord Shiva) and started severe penance to please the Lord. The intensity and severity of the penance was so severe that Lord Shiva finally appeared before Lord Shiva. Then Ravan requested the possession of Atmallinga so that he can carry it and gift it to her mother-in Lanka.
Helpless Lord Shiva had to agree and handed over the sacred Atmalinga to Ravan. But on a condition that Ravan should not place that Linga on-Earth till he reaches his palace at Lanka- Ravan agreed and started his return journey to Lanka, carrying the Atmalinga with him.
Meanwhile, the devas became weary. The possession of Atmalinga shall make Ravan even more powerful and impregnable. So they approached Lord Ganesh for help. Lord Ganesh, in disguise as a cow-heard boy, befriended Ravan on his return journey to Lanka. When they reached the present day Gokarna, Ravan felt for Urination. So he requested Lord Ganesh to carry the Shiva Linga till he retuns. Lord Ganesh happily agreed. When he got the possession of the Shiva Linga Lord Ganesh cleverly put that on earth.
When Ravan returned, after attending the call of the nature, he found the Shiva Linga placed on earth. Ravan tried to lift the Shiva Linga with his great force (Mahabala), but failed. Hence he called this Linga as Mahabalewara.
The temple is on the coast of Arabian Sea. It is customary to have a dip on the sea, before getting darshan at this temple. The Shiva Ratri festival in-February is celebrated in a grand manner.
According to the traditional belief Gokarna is the Northern-most end of the Kerala, the land recovered by Lord Parashuram from the sea. Thus the land between Gokarna in North and Kanyakumari in South and Sahyadri hills on east is known as ParashuRama kshetra or Land of Parasurama.
The Bhadrakali temple and Mahaganapathi temples which are nearby is also associated with Mahabaleswar temple by tradition.
The legend on Bhadrakali temple is that, when Lord Shiva appeared before him apart from Atmalinga , Ravan requested Lord Shiva to bless him with a wife as charming as that of Goddess Parvati (wife of Lord Shiva himself). Lord Shiva replied that Goddess Parvati is the most charming woman on earth and finding a woman even more charming than Goddess Parvati is impossible. So Lord Shiva offered Ravana to carry Goddess Parvati along with him (!!!)
Ravana immediately agreed; Lord Shiva put a condition that he should not look the face of Parvati till he reach Lanka. So Ravan started his return journey with the Atmalinga on his hand and Goddess Parvati on his shoulder.
But this development stunned everybody in Devaloka. They cannot even imagine of Ravan marrying Goddess Parvati. So, they requested the help of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu appeared before Ravan in disguise as an old man. He sarcastically told Ravan that carrying an old and infirm woman on his shoulder is a shame on Ravan he being the king of Lanka.
The legend goes on to tell us that Ravan argued it’s not an old lady, but Goddess Parvati herself. Hearing this Lord Vishnu laughed at Ravan and asked to look on the face of the woman that he is carrying. Forgetting the condition made by Lord Shiva, Ravan immediately gazed at the face of the woman that he is carrying. The moment he looked at her face the Goddess Parvati disappeared in accordance with the condition of Lord Shiva. Later, on request from the Lord Vishnu, Goddess Parvati took abode at this temple.
The Maha Ganapati temple commemorates the legend of Lord Ganesh saving the Amrita Linga from the hands of Ravan.
Gokarna is about 100 kilometers from Karvar.