Murudeshwar is around 180 km from Mangalore on the National Highway. On the route along the highway is the alluring Maravanthe Beach with the Arabian Sea roaring on the west and a serene river on the east along this route for almost 2 km.
The sea is an intrinsic part of the temple scape at Murudeshwar. The temple towering on the small hill called Kanduka Giri is surrounded by the sea on three sides.
Two life-size elephants in concrete stand guard at the steps leading to the temple.
The Murudeshwar temple has a history that dates back to a few centuries. A small temple existed here for generations. But with time the temple disintegrated. A local businessman R N Shetty took up the renovation of the temple on a grand scale making the place the tourist haven that it is today. A large life like statue of Lord Shiva invoking Ganga has been erected on top of the hill. The renovated temple is a blend of the Chalukya and Kadamba style of architecture. During renovation, the entire fishing hamlet got a facelift, not just the temple. Guest houses are in plenty. The place has a restaurant that is built on the seashore.
The locals here have an interesting legend to relate as to how the linga came to be established at Murudeshwar. It is said that Ravana’s mother expressed a keen desire to worship the atmalinga of Lord Shiva. Ravana, the ever-devoted son, set out to Kailash to fulfill his mother’s wishes and went into penance. Lord Shiva was pleased with him and asked him what he wanted. When Ravana told him that he wanted the atmalinga, Shiva willingly parted with it. But the atmalinga came with a warning. Shiva told him that the atmalinga would fix itself at the first site on which Ravana would place it. Had Ravana established the atmalinga, he would have become the all powerful, invincible and immortal. Fearing this, some of the gods sought the help of Vishnu and Ganesh and played a trick on Ravana. They got Ravana to place the atmalinga in Gokarna.
Ravana tried to pull it out but failed. An angry Ravana threw the cloth that covered the casket in which the atmalinga was kept. The cloth is said to have fallen on Kanduka Giri, the site where the Murudeshwar temple is situated and the cloth was converted into a linga, which came to be called Murudeshwar. Ravana was still enraged and threw the casket to the north and it landed in Shejwad, 3 km east of Karwar where the temple is known as Samputeshwar. He then threw the flowers and the sandalwood paste to the south and it fell at a place known as Gunavanteshwar. Ravana then threw the string that was tied to the casket and it fell in Dhareshwar. He tried to pull out the atmalinga once again but failed. The linga at Gokarna thus came to be called Mahabaleshwar, meaning ‘the mightiest Lord’. Thus, the five sacred pilgrimage centres of North Karnataka were set up.