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Story of Mahabaleshwar Atma Linga and Kaikasi – Mother of Ravana

In the ancient times, Kaikasi, the mother of the mighty demon king Ravana, was a devout worshiper of Lord Shiva. She crafted a Shiva linga from sand and engaged in rigorous worship, hoping to gain divine blessings. However, her pious act did not go unnoticed by the gods. Indra, the king of the gods, grew envious of Kaikasi's devotion and the potential power it could bestow upon Ravana's lineage. Acting on his jealousy, Indra decided to sabotage her worship. He stealthily stole the sand linga and performed its visarjana (immersion) into the sea, thus ruining her efforts.

Kaikasi was devastated by this loss, and seeing his mother’s sorrow, Ravana vowed to bring her the Atma Linga (also known as the Prana Linga), the most powerful and sacred form of Lord Shiva's linga. Ravana’s determination led him to Mount Kailasha, the abode of Lord Shiva. There, he undertook severe austerities and penances to appease the Lord. Ravana's unwavering devotion and extreme penance eventually pleased Lord Shiva, who agreed to grant him the Atma Linga.

However, Lord Shiva laid down a strict condition: the Atma Linga must not touch the ground until it reached its final place of worship, as once placed on the ground, it would become immovable. Ravana, confident in his abilities, accepted this condition and started his journey back to Lanka with the Atma Linga.

As Ravana carried the sacred linga towards Lanka, the gods, alarmed at the potential power this could grant him, conspired to prevent its installation in Ravana's kingdom. Lord Vishnu devised a plan and summoned Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, to execute it. Ganesha disguised himself as a young Brahmin boy and appeared before Ravana just as he was nearing the end of his journey.

Ravana, who had been traveling without rest, was eager to perform his evening rituals. Seeing the Brahmin boy, Ravana asked him to hold the Atma Linga for a moment, warning him not to place it on the ground. Ganesha agreed but under the pretext of needing to leave soon, he set a condition that he would call Ravana three times, and if Ravana did not return by the third call, he would place the linga on the ground.

As Ravana performed his rituals, Ganesha, using his divine power, called out to Ravana. Despite hearing the first two calls, Ravana was deeply engrossed in his rituals. By the third call, Ganesha placed the Atma Linga on the ground. When Ravana returned, he was dismayed to find the linga firmly rooted to the spot.

Enraged, Ravana tried with all his might to dislodge the Atma Linga, but even his immense strength was no match for the divine power anchoring it to the ground. Defeated and furious, Ravana could only manage to twist and distort the top of the linga, which took on a shape resembling the ear of a cow (Gokarna).

Thus, the Atma Linga remained in its place, and the site became known as Mahabaleshwar. The linga continued to be revered as a powerful and sacred object, and Mahabaleshwar grew into a major pilgrimage site, drawing devotees from far and wide to worship the immovable symbol of Lord Shiva’s divine presence.