Discover India - Somnath Temple

Somnath Temple stands as a symbol of rich cultural heritage of India. The mention of this ancient temple has been made in scriptures like the Rig Veda. Somnath is a famous temple located in the Prabhas Tirtha (a place of pilgrimage for devotees of Lord Shiva) in the Junagadh district of Gujarat and is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva. It is known as "The Shrine Eternal" because it has been destroyed several times - only to be rebuilt over and over again. 

Legend

It is believed that the Somnath temple was originally built by Soma, the Moon God himself, out of gold, and then rebuilt by Ravana in silver and then by Lord Krishna in wood, then by Bhimdev in stone.

Soma was cursed by his father-in-law Daksha to wane because Soma loved only one of his wives, all of whom happened to be Daksha's daughters. His other wives complained about this negligent behavior of Soma to their father Daksha, and thus the curse. He then built a Shivalinga at the Prabhas Tirtha (a Hindu pilgrimage site) and prayed to Lord Shiva who removed the curse partially, thus causing the periodic waning of moon. Pleased by the prayers of Soma, Lord Shiva decided to rest in that Lingam till eternity, and thus the Jyotirlingam.

History

Maintaining the original site, the present temple is said to have built for the seventh time. The first temple of Somnath is regarded as a structure in gold made by the Moon God. In the 7th century, Somnath Temple was reconstructed by Maitraka kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat. The second structure was destroyed by the Arab governor of Sind by the name of Junayad in 725. Again in 815, the third structure was built by Nagabhata II, who was a Pratihara King. This structure was erected out of red sandstone.

In 1024, the temple was raided by Mahmud Ghazni, who plundered camel-loads of jewels and valuables from here. The Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki King Bhima of Gujarat (Anhilwara) took the initiative to rebuild the temple during 1026-1042. For the fifth time, the wooden structure was replaced with a stone structure by Kumarpal.

Consequently, the temple was destroyed in 1297 by the Sultanate of Delhi and once again in 1394. The last attack was made by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb in 1706. The temple underwent repairs in 1995 by the Shree Somnath Trust, which currently maintains the temple.

Architecture

The seven-storied structure of Somnath is tall to 155 feet. Constructed in the Chalukya style of architecture, Somnath Temple reflects the expertise of the Sompuras who are the master masons of Gujarat. The temple is sited in such a manner that no mass of land can be seen from Somnath seashore till Antarctica. This information is presented in a Sanskrit inscription on the arrow pillar of the sea-protection wall at the temple.

Restoration of Temple after Independence

Going against the wishes of the people, the Nawab of Junagadh refused to accede his princely state to newly independent India in 1947. This led to clashes and finally after the Indian Government intervened, Junagadh became a part of India. The Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel came to Junagadh on 12th November 1947 to direct the stabilization of the princely state by the Indian Army and at the same time ordered the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple.

When Sardar Patel and other leaders went to Mohandas Gandhi with the proposal of reconstructing the Somnath temple, Gandhi blessed the move and suggested that the funds for the construction should be collected from the public. He stressed that he was proud to associate himself to the project of renovation of the temple. But soon both Gandhi and Sardar Patel died and the task of reconstruction of the temple continued under K. M. Munshi, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies in the Union Government.

In May 1951, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of Free India performed the installation ceremony for the temple by over-ruling the unjust opposition of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to his participation in the ceremony. In his address, the President said "It is my view that the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple will be complete on that day when not only a magnificent edifice will arise on this foundation, but the mansion of India's prosperity will be really that prosperity of which the ancient temple of Somnath was a symbol." He added "The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction". The great historical and religious importance of Somnath temple attracts pilgrims as well as tourists from India and abroad.

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