The King of Lanka, Ravana was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He often paid visits to Kailasa to worship Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva was pleased by Ravana’s devotion. Once when Ravana was at Kailasa, Lord Shiva offered to give him a boon. Ravana was overwhelmed. On being asked what boon he wanted, Ravana said “when the entire world will end in the great floods, Lanka should be spared. That’s the only boon I want” This demand puzzled Lord Shiva. Ravana was infamous for causing trouble to other gods and Lord Shiva was skeptical of offering a boon that would safeguard Ravana’s beloved Lanka.
But Lord Shiva had promised Ravana a boon and hence Lord Shiva had to grant it! But Lord Shiva thought cleverly. He gave Ravana a Shivlinga and said “Here’s your boon, Take this Shiv linga and it will protect Lanka. All you have to be careful about is that wherever you put it down, it would get fixed there and that place will be protected from the floods. If you wish to protect Lanka, make sure you put it down on reaching Lanka!”
Ravana merrily took the Linga and proceeded towards Lanka. Meanwhile, all the gods came to know about Shiva’s boon to Ravana. They started to tremble fearing what havoc Ravana would create after the boon. All the Gods went to Ganesha for help.
Ganesha analyzed the whole situation and instantly came up with an idea. Ganesha found out where Ravana had reached so far. He disguised himself as a young shepherd where Ravana was currently present. Ravana had walked a long way in his excitement. He was tired and was sweating. He wanted to wipe his sweat but as he was holding the Linga very carefully, he could not. Ravana looked around and saw the shepherd boy.
Ravana called out for his help. He said, “Hey boy! Come here. I am very thirsty. By the time I go and drink water from the river, I want you to hold the ShivLinga. You need to hold the Lings properly and I will be back quickly!”
Ganesha, disguised as the cowherd, agreed to his instructions but also said,” the Linga seems very heavy; if I get tired I shall call you three times If you don’t come immediately back, then I shall put it down!” Ravana agreed and rushed to the river nearby. As soon as Ravana reached the river; the boy called out;”Ravana, Ravana, Ravana!” and quickly put the linga down.
Linga immediately stuck to the ground. When Ravana returned, he did not see the boy and the Linga was stuck to the ground. Ravana tried to pull the Linga but it did not move. But because of Ravana’s great strength, it got distorted and resembled the shape of a cow’s ear.
Since then, the place became a famous place of pilgrimage and due to the shape of the ear of a cow, got the name Gokarna. Till today, we know it as Gokarna Mahabaleshwar.