There are twelve Jyotirlingas, the essence of Lord Shiva spread across India and the first amongst these holy shrines is Temple of Somnath. The Somnath temple is located near Veraval in Saurashtra in the Indian state of Gujarat.
It was built in such a place that no portion of land can be seen in the straight line from the seashore of Somnath up to Antarctica.
The older name of this place was ‘Prabhas’ which means ‘lustrous’. Its significance can be traced in ancient texts such as Shreemad Bhagavata Geeta, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda.
Somnath Temple has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on account of being a Triveni Sangam of three rivers Kapila, Hiran and Saraswati. It is the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode.
The meaning of name Somnath means ‘The protector of Moon God’ and is believed to have been built by Soma (The moon god). According to legend, Lord Moon was married to the 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati. But he was partial to Rohini who was youngest amongst all and neglected rest of them. He was very proud of his beauty. Daksha Prajapati warned moon about his negligence towards remaining daughters, but, Lord Moon didn’t listen to him. So he cursed the moon that the beauty of which he is so proud, will fade away and he will lose his lustre. Hence he went to Brahma Deva for advice, Brahma deva advised him to perform a rigorous penance ate this place to get rid of sin. Pleased with him Lord Shiva blessed him and made him curse free.
Destruction and reconstruction of The Somnath Temple
By popular tradition recognized by J. Gordon Melton, the first Shiva temple at Somnath is supposed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. Then the Somnath temple is said to have been rebuilt by the ‘Yadava Kings’ of Vallabhi around 649 CE. However, this was destroyed in 725CE by Al-Junaid, The Arab governor of Sindh. The third Somnath temple was constructed by the ‘Gurjara Pratihara king Nagabhatta ll in 815CE. The Chalukya (Solanki) king Mularaja built Somnath Temple for the 4th time at the same site sometime before 997CE. This Somnath temple was destroyed by Mahmud Ghazani in 1024 CE during his raid of Gujarat.
According to an inscription in 1169, Kumarapala rebuilt the Somnath temple in excellent stone and studded it with jewels. However, in 1299, the Somnath temple was destroyed again by Allaudin Khilji’s army, Led by Ulugh Khan, who defeated the Vaghela king Karna. In 1308, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra Mahipal l rebuilt the Somnath temple.
Other than this, Somnath temple was also attacked and destroyed by Zafar khan- last governor of Gujarat in 1395, Mahmud Begada- Sultan of Gujarat in 1451, Portuguese in 1546 and by Aurangazeb in 1665.
Most recently it was rebuilt in 1947 when Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel visited the area for the reintegration of Junagadh and planned for restoration. The current Somnath temple was inaugurated by Dr Rajendra Prasad.
For several centuries foreign invaders attacked this shrine to destroy our self-identity and our culture. But faith is not made up of wood and stone, it cannot be wiped out by just destroying some structures. Our faith prevailed that after every invasion Somnath temple was rebuilt.
As like Puri Jagannadh temple, Non-Hindus require special permission to visit Somnath temple.
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