Aadi Jyotirling Shree Somnath Mahadev Temple
Located on the western coast of Gujarat in the Prabhas Kshetra in Saurashtra near Veraval, is the Somnath Mahadev Temple. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of God Shiva. The name Somnath literally means protector of the moon. Sine this temple has been attacked by Muslim invaders more tan sixteen times, it is often referred to as “the Shrine Eternal”.
Somnath has a temperate climate almost throughout the year. The summers are hot with the maximum temperature going up to 42 °C. Winters are pleasant and cool. Somnath gets heavy rainfall during the monsoon season. The best time to visit Somnath is from October-March.
History of Somnath Temple
According to the Shiv Mahapuran, Brahma had an argument with Vishnu regarding supremacy of creation. Lord Shiva pricked the three worlds as a giant pillar of light – the jyotirlinga. Both Brahma and Vishnu went to search for the end of the light. Brahma wrongly said that he had found the end and Vishnu admitted his defeat. At this point, Shiva placed a curse on Brahma that he would not be worshipped during any ceremonies while Vishnu would always be worshipped. Since then the Jyotirlinga is the ultimate unparsed reality and Lord Shiva appears out of it partly. Formerly it was believed that there were 64 jyotirlingas and 12 out of them are said to be very auspicious and sacred.
The 12 jyotirlinga are Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh, Somnath and Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain and Omkareshwar in MP, Kedarnath in the Himalayas, Viswanath at Varanasi in UP, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Bhimashankar, Grishneshwar at Aurangabad and Triambakeshwar in Maharastra, Jharkhand, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Deogarh in Deoghar.
Significance of Somnath Temple
According to some ancient Indian traditions, the Moon had married 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati, but he neglected 26 of them and liked only one – Rohini. An angry Daksha put a curse on the Moon and the Moon’s power of light got lost. The Moon took advice from Prajapita Brahma, and in order to get released from his father-in-law’s curse, the Moon went to Prabhas Teerth and built a Shivlinga there. He worshipped Lord Shiva and tried to please him. Lord Shiva was impressed and blessed the Moon. The Moon got relieved partially. Since then, Lord Shiva has rested in that Lingam and therefore it is called Jyotirlingam. Pauranic traditions also believe that the Moon also built a golden temple and a silver temple was built by Ravana. Lord Krishna then built the Somnath Mahadev Temple with Sandalwood.
Damage suffered by the Temple
There is a second temple, which is believed to have been built by Yadava Kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat and they replaced the first temple around 649 CE. The Arab governor of Sind, Junayad tried to destroy the temple in 725 CE and so a third temple was constructed in red sandstone by Nagabhata II, the Gurjara Pratihara King. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the temple in 1024 and it was rebuilt by Solanki king Bhimadev I of Anhilwara, Gujrat and Gujjar Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa, with wood during 1026-1042. Allauddin Khilji destroyed the temple in 1296 and Mahipala Dev, the Chudasama King of Saurashtra rebuilt it in the year 1308. Mahipala’s son Khengar installed the Lingam later. The Sultans of Gujarat, Muzaffar Shah I destroyed the temple in 1375 and Mahmud Begda destroyed the temple in 1451. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb also destroyed the temple in 1701 and constructed on Mosque with the columns from the temple. A little later, in the year 1783, Raja Bhonsle of Nagpur, the Peshwa of Pune, Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, Chhatrapati Bhonsle of Kolhapur and Shrimant Patilbuwa Shinde of Gwalior built the temple again, adjacent to the mosque.
Restoration of the Temple
After independence, the restoration work of the temple was taken up by the Nehru Government under the guidance of the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies – K. M. Munshi. The mosque was shifted from its site and planted few miles away. The Installation ceremony of the temple was performed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in the year 1951. Shree Somnath Trust is responsible for the maintenance of the temple.
The Somnath Mahadev Temple is a work of art displaying the Chalukya style of architecture and it really is an eternal shrine.
How to reach Somnath
- By Road – Somnath is connected to various cities through the State transport buses.
- By Air – Koshed is the nearest airport and it is 55 Kms away, however one can also go to Somnath via Diu Airport, which is 90 Kms away from Somnath. International visitors come to Ahmadabad or Mumbai and hire a taxi from there.
- By Rail – Veraval is the nearest railway station to Somnath and it 5 Kms from Somnath. Veraval is connected to major cities like Vadodara, Mumbai and Ahmadabad.