Somnath Temple | India Tourist Spots | Places to Visit in India
The Somnath Temple located at a strategic location in Prabhas Patan Kshetra, 7 kms from Veraval in Saurashtra peninsula on the western coast of Gujarat, is believed to be the first among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of God Shiva. Somnath signifies the Guardian of the Moon God.
As per Hindu scriptures, Moon God was originally wedded to Rohini, one of the daughters of Daksha Prajapati. However, later Daksha prevailed upon Chandra to also accept his other 26 daughters in marriage. Chandra relented. However, despite this later event, Chandra continued to be enamored more with his original wife, Rohini. His other wives complained of their neglect to their father. Short-tempered as he was, Daksha cursed Chandra that he shall be stricken with leprosy. Chandra was in a fix, but ultimately the wise seers advised him to pray to Lord Shiva for redressal. After long austerities, Shiva blessed him with relief from affliction. Extremely gratified, Chandra built the first Somnath Temple at the spot in gold, where Lord Shiva had presented himself. As per legends, this temple was later constructed by Ravana in silver during the Treta Yuga; Lord Krishna reconstructed the temple once again during Dwapar Yuga in Sandal wood. Much later, the Solanki ruler of Gujarat, Bhimdeva built it in stone. This place, known as Prabhas Patan, lies at the confluence of mythological rivers Saraswati, Hiranya, and Kapila.
This pilgrimage is one of the oldest in India and finds a reference in the ancient texts like Skandpuran, Shrimad Bhagavad, and Shivpuran and in Rig-Veda.
The present temple Kailash Mahameru Prasada, initiated by Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel, is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture, by Sompuras, Gujarat’s master masons. It consists of a Garbh griha (sanctum sanctorum), Sabha mandap, and Nritya mandap with a 150 feet high Shikhar (spire). A 10 ton heavy Kalash adorns the top of the Shikhar, while one foot thick flag pole (Dhwaj dand) measures 27 feet tall.
Apart from the legendary Jyotirlingam, Prabhas Patan is also believed to be the place where Lord Krishna departed from his mortal coil after being hit by the hunter arrow.
This temple has faced repeated calamities throughout its history. Some scholars claim that it has been destructed 17 times and rebuilt. However, its recurring destruction at least six times by various Muslim invaders during the last millennia is very well documented through diverse sources. Beginning with its destruction in 725 CE, by Junayad, the Arab Governor of Sind, it continued to face havoc – by Mahmud Ghazni in 1024 CE; by Allauddin Khilji soldiers in 1296 CE; by Muzaffar Shah I, the Sultan of Gujarat in 1375 CE; by Mahmud Begda, Sultan of Gujarat in 1451 CE and finally by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1701 CE. A major reconstruction effort was undertaken by Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore, with other Maratha kings in 1783 CE.
The present temple is the seventh temple built on the original site, largely due to the initiative of Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of India who pledged its reconstruction on November 13, 1947. It was completed on December 1, 1995 and the President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma dedicated it to the nation.
How to reach
The nearest airports are Keshod Airport(46 Km) or Diu Airport (61 Km). Keshod is well connected to Mumbai by regular flights.
From the Keshod airport all local means of transport like bus or taxis are available to reach Somnath.
Somnath by rail
The Somnath Temple is located 1.6 km from Somnath Railway Station, or 400 kms from Ahmedabad Railway Station. Veraval is the other rail head nearby, which is merely 7 km from Somnath. Ahmedabad is well linked by rail not only to different places in the state but also too many of the prime cities in India. Veraval is well connected to Somnath by various local transport systems, like buses, taxis, or auto.
Somnath by road
Somnath is connected to all the important places in Gujarat by a good network of roads. The state capital Ahmedabad is 400 km away; Junagarh, Bhavnagar, and Porbandar are at a distance of 85, 266, and 122 km respectively, but all of them are well linked to Somnath by regular buses. In fact, Bombay which is 889 km from Somnath is also connected by regular bus service.
Best time to visit
Being on the sea shore, Somnath enjoys a mild climate with temperatures ranging from 20 to 28 during winters and 28 to 34 during summers. Though it is accessible round the year, but still the season is best during winters say October to March.
Somnath Beach: The temple is itself located on Somnath beach with a great sea view, enjoyable sands, pony and camel rides, snack stalls, and coconut stalls. There is another upcoming beach, Chorwad around 26 km from Somnath. Veraval is an important fishing port.
TheGir National Parkbeing the sole refuge of theAsiatic Lions is situated hardly 43 km away from Somnath. This unique sanctuary was established to protect the King of the forests who at one time numbered hardly 200. However, their numbers have now swelled to 411 as per the latest census during 2010.
Fairs & festivals: The Kaartik Purnima Fair during November attracts a large number of devotees to Somnath. Another important festival is the Maha Shivaratri during February/ March.