Apart from hills, beaches, and shacks, Gokarna is a holy place for Hindus. It is said that Lord Shiva appeared here from cow’s ear. Hence the name of the place is Gokarna. (Go-cow, Karna-ear)
The story goes this way-
Ravana performed penance at Mt.kailash to please lord Shiva to get his Atma lingam. Pleased with his prayers, Shiva gives Ravana his atma lingam and instructs that it should not be placed anywhere else other than Lanka(Ravana’s home) or else the lingam would be placed eternally wherever he keeps it.
Lord Vishnu was worried that Ravana would become the most powerful being after praising Atma linga, so he along with other Gods devised a plan with Ganpati.
As Ravana reached Gokarna, Ganpati appeared to him as a brahmin child. Lord Vishnu covered the sun with his Sudarshan chakra(wheel). Thinking that it was time to offer his evening prayers to lLordShiva, Ravana asked this brahmin child(Ganpati) to hold the atma lingam. Ganpati told Ravana that he would shout 3 times if he could not bear the weight of lingam and if Ravana didn’t appear, he will place the lingam on the earth.
When Ravana was performing his rites, Ganpati shouted three times and placed the lingam on earth.
Later, upon realizing that he was tricked by the Gods, Ravana became angry and tried to pull the lingam with all his strength.
Though he could not remove the lingam, some of its parts were thrown in different places namely Shejjeshwar, Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwar, and Murudeshwar.