About the story:
Ravana, the great asura ruler of Lanka, was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva never failed to offer prayers three times a day to Lord Shiva. Once he learned that Lord Shiva possessed an Athamalingam, which was the reflection of the Lord himself, he decided to get a hold of it. So, Ravana set towards the north direction to do severe penance to please Lord Shiva. He stood on one leg without taking food or water and prayed to Lord Shiva for a long time. Lord Shiva who was pleased with his penance, appeared before him.
Lord Shiva: Ravana, I am pleased by your devotion. Ask me for a boon.
Ravana: Oh lord, I wish to own your Atmalinga. I have performed this penance to obtain it from you.
As per Ravana’s wish, Shiva granted him the Atmalinga. But posed one condition in front of him.
Lord Shiva: Ravana, on any account you should not put this on the ground. if it is placed on the ground, no one can remove it from the ground.
Ravana accepted lord shiva’s condition and started flying towards Lanka. The devas and the great sages were shocked to see him with the atmalinga.
Sage: The demon king Ravana is already troubling us more. If Ravana installs this atmalinga on Ianka, Oh God! No one can defeat him.
They were very much worried about this and sought the help of Lord Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha: Don’t worry, have no fear. I shall see to it that Ravana does not take the atmalinga to Lanka with him.
As a devotee of Lord Shiva, Ravana never failed to offer his prayers three times a day.
Ravana: Twilight is approaching, It is time to offer my evening prayers to Lord Shiva. What shall I do?
Ravana was deeply immersed in his thoughts, and he also remembered the condition of lord shiva. He reached a place in the northern part of Karnataka. He was near the seashore and there was no one in sight. Ravana suddenly saw a small boy. He requested him to hold the Shivalinga while he offered prayers to Lord Shiva. He asked him to hold it in his hands till he came back from his prayers and not to place it down on the ground and handed over the Shivalinga to the boy. Ravana was deeply observed in his prayers.
Boy: Oh Lord, please come quickly I have to go home! Please come quickly! This is very heavy!
Ravana was deeply immersed in his prayers and did not listen to the boy’s words.
Boy: Oh Lord, I can’t hold this. This shivalinga is very heavy and my hands are aching. I have to go home. Come quick.
Ravana: Wait, Wait! I am coming immediately. Wait there. Don‘t place the linga on the ground.
Boy: No, my lord, I cannot bear the weight of this anymore. I am going to put it down.
Ravana stopped his prayers with the fear of the linga being placed on the ground. He ran towards the boy, but alas, he had placed the linga on the ground, before Ravana could reach him.
Ravana: You foolish boy. What have you done? Didn’t I tell you not to place the linga on the ground? Even Though you have placed it. Do you know what this is and how valuable it is to me? Do you know how much penance I had to perform to obtain this linga? I will punish you for this.
Lord Ganesha: Ravana, Do you think I don’t know anything? I know very well that this is the powerful atmalinga. I know how much penance you performed to obtain this atmalinga. And I also know that you will destroy this world if you take it with you to Lanka. I wanted to save this world from you, that’s why I did this.
Ravana understood that it was Ganesha’s plan to prevent him from taking the atmalinga to Lanka. He stood worried at the loss of the linga.
The devas and rishis poured flowers on Lord Ganesha for saving them.
The place where the atmalinga was placed came to be called Gokarna. The lord here is known as Mahabaleshwar.
Lord Ganesha was blessed for saving this world by Lord Brahma. He was also blessed by Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Goddess Parvati.