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Somnath Tourism

The celestial seat of Lord Shiva
State : Gujarat
District: Junagadh
Type of Tourism : Pilgrimage Tourism
Altitude : 0 meters
Best Tourist Season : October to March
Telephone Code : India (02876), International (+91)
Pin Code : 362268
Languages spoken : Gujarati, Hindi, English
What to buy : Sea shells artifacts, decorative items, wall hangings, mirrors, conches, photos of Lord Somnath, handmade dolls, quilts, appliquéd cradle clothes, marriage costumes, embroidery and beadwork, footwear, etc.
Must Do : Darshana of Lord Somnath, Sea Bathing, Camel and Horse Riding, Drinking Coconut Water
Local transportation : On foot, by bus, taxi

About Somnath

‘Somnath’, which literally means ‘the Lord of the Moon’ is the first of the twelve Jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva. Believed to be consecrated by the Moon God Himself, this temple of Somnath is sited in the Prabhas Kshetra on the western coastline of Gujarat in Saurashtra near Veraval. Bequeathed with the laurel; ‘the shrine eternal’, the temple of Somnath has made a mark in the eventful history of Gujarat for being demolished several times by Mahmud of Ghazni and other Mughal Emperors and being restored by Hindu Sovereigns on the every single occasion. Highly venerated by the Hindus in general and Shaivites in particular, the Somnath Temple of Lord Shiva receives thousands of pilgrims every year. Built along the magnificent littoral of the imperial Arabian Sea, the Somnath Temple apart from its religious and historical significance is also endowed with immense architectural and natural beauty. The majestic shrine of Somnath standing against the sumptuous backdrop of far flung sandy beach and the fathomless waters of the sea unquestionably enthralls its beholders. Built in yellow sandstone, this specimen of Chalukya style of temple architecture is certainly a precious jewel in the glorious casket of ‘Garavi Gujarat’.

Mythological Background

Cited in the Hindu Holy Scriptures including Vedas, Puranas and the Mahabharata, Somnath is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva had appeared before Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu in the form of an illuminated column of light. It is also supposed that the divine river Saraswati meets the ocean at Somnath. The most colloquial legend that forms the background of the Somnath Temple is associated with the Moon God; Lord Soma. The Moon God was married to the 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati. Out of these 27 wives, Moon specifically loved Rohini and neglected the others. The 26 disdained wives of Moon went to their father and complained about their husband. The enraged Daksha Prajapati cursed his son-in-law Moon to lose his radiance and glory. Distressed Moon came down to earth and performed a penance at Somnath to appease Lord Shiva. Eventually Lord Shiva was pleased with the devotion of Moon and blessed him with the boon that he would regain his luster and shine for 15 days in the ‘Shukla Paksha’ of every month. As the Moon obtained his brightness here, this place came to be known as ‘Prabhasa’. On the request of Moon and other deities, Lord Shiva agreed to eternally reside at Prabhasa in the form of Somnath; ‘the Lord and Guardian of Moon’. It is stated that in ancient times the Shiva Lingam of Somnath used to hang in the air without any support.

History of Somnath

The earliest temple of Somnath is believed to have existed even previous to the beginning of the Common Era. It is deemed that the original Somnath Temple was built by Moon God in gold. It was succeeded by the ensuing temples constructed by the demon king Ravana, Lord Krishna and King Bhimdev in silver, sandalwood and stone respectively. The second temple of Lord Somnath was founded by the kings of Vallabhi from Yadava clan in 649 AD. This temple was destroyed by the Arab armies in 725 AD and reinstated by a Gurjara Pratihara emperor Nagabhata II in 815 AD.
In 1024 AD Mahmud of Ghazni looted and demolished this enormous temple built in red sandstone. Later between 1026 and 1042 the Somnath Temple was restored by the mutual endeavors of King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki King Bhimadev I of Anhilwara. Soon after, in 12th century AD the great Solanki King of Gujarat Kumarpal renovated this temple and built it in stone. Sultan Allauddin Khilji’s troops once again devastated the Somnath Temple in 1296 AD.
King Mahipala Deva of Saurashtra refurbished the temple in 1308 AD and his son Khengar enshrined the Shiva Lingam sometimes between 1326 and 1351 AD. In 1375 AD, 1451 AD and 1701 AD, the Somnath Temple was invaded by Sultan Muzaffar Shah I of Gujarat, Mahmud Begda and the notorious Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb correspondingly. Aurangzeb demolished the Lord Somnath Temple and built a mosque at the very site. Consequently with the collective efforts of the Peshwas of Pune, Chhatrapati Bhonsle of Kolhapur, Bhonsles of Nagpur, Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore and Shrimant Patilbuwa Shinde of Gwalior, Somnath Temple was regenerated in 1783 next to the mosque erected by Aurangzeb.
After the independence of India and the integration of the princely state of Junagadh in Indian Union, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel; the then Deputy Prime Minister of India ordered and patronized the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. The charge was handed over to K. M. Munshi after the demise of the Iron Man of India.

Somnath in Gujarati Literature

Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi; an Indian independence movement activist, politician, lawyer, writer and educationist from Gujarat authored a novel named ‘Jay Somnath’. Narmadashankar Lalshankar Dave, popularly known as ‘Kavi Narmad’ has hailed Somnath in his celebrated poem ‘Jai Jai Garavi Gujarat’ saying, “Somnath Ne Dwarkesh A Pashchim Kera Dev”.

Fairs and festivals

Maha Shivratri Festival that generally falls in the month of March and the Kartik Purnima Festival that is celebrated in the month of November or December are the most important festivals of Somnath.