A Pilgrimage to LORD’S ABODE IN SOMNATH

The Someshwar Mahadev Temple, which is popularly known as the Somnath Temple, symbolizes the rich cultural heritage of India. While statements about this ancient Shiva temple were made in the Hindu scripture, ‘Rig Veda,’ the temple holds the first Jyotirlinga (linga of light) out of the 12 found in India. So, visit Somnath – the ‘protector of moon,’ and breathe in a bit of Gujarat…

WORDS: AABHA TIWARI

FOR any devotee or devout worshipper of Lord Shiva, a visit to the famous Somnath Temple in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval, possibly makes him or her feel the closest to the Lord. Having been destroyed and rebuilt many times over, the Somnath temple is also known as ‘The Shrine Eternal’. Thus, each day thousands of devotees gather at the temple to pay a Darshan to Lord Shiva or Someshwara seated here in all majesty.

The colossal temple lies on the confluence of three rivers and stands facing the splendid Arabian Sea. This land holds many a significance for the devout Hindu as the place where Krishna succumbed to a hunter’s arrow. The magnificent seven-storied temple is 155 feet tall, constructed in the significant Chalukya style. The temple topped with a kalash weighs 10 tonnes with a flag-mast of 37 feet long. Therefore, the captivating architecture of the temple pleases the eyes of the visitors.

The Somnath is located 5 kms from Veraval in the west coast of Gujarat State and is largely recognized as the place which houses the Lord’s first Jyotirlinga. There are also many myths and legends surrounding the Somnath Temple. According to legend, Lord Shiva cured the Moon God (Soma) of his illness caused due to the curse of his father-in-law, Daksha and thus, the Moon God built the temple in gold for Lord Shiva, as a gesture. After it was razed to the ground, it was rebuilt with silver by Lord Ravana. When the silver temple was knocked down, it was reconstructed in wood by Lord Krishna. And when this too was pulled down, an edifice of stone was erected by King Bhimdev.

Somnath is the first among the twelve Jyotirlings found in India. Since ancient times, Prabhas Patan has been a pilgrimage, being the confluence of the mythological Saraswati, Hiranya and Kapila.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva’s Kalbhairav linga is situated at Prabhas. It is also associated with the moon as the Moon God is also said to have worshipped this Shivling. This is also the reason why this temple is popularly known as Somnath (the one named after the moon).
Remains found from the region and descriptions in the writings suggest that the place was a colony of the Aryans in the ancient times.

This temple of religious as well as historical significance is believed to have been built sometime around AD 4. In AD 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni first looted the temple, and then came Afzal Khan, the commander of Ala-ud-din Khilji and later Aurangzeb. It is said that the temple was looted and destroyed as many as seventeen times.

The Iron man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was instrumental in the construction of the present temple, an edifice reminding visitors of the splendor of the original Somnath temple. Renowned temple architect Prabhaschandar designed it and the first President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad installed the Jyotirling in the new temple on May 11, 1951.

Within the temple complex, there is arrow mark pointing to the south- pole. It reads:
“The light path stretching without obstruction up to the south-pole over the end of the ocean.”
The museum at Somnath houses the remains of the earlier temples but in the form of a clutter of old carved stones littering a courtyard. It also houses pottery shards, a seashell collection, a glass case of water bottles containing samples from the rivers Danube, Nile, St Lawrence, Tigris, Plate, Murray, and seawater from Tasmania, and New Zealand.

BEST TIME TO VISIT:
The climate of Somnath is mild with the temperature ranging between 20°C and 28°C in the winters and between 28°C and 34°C in the summers. One can visit the place round the year but the best season to visit is winters-from October to March.

HOW TO REACH:
– Somnath is well connected by rail and road from main cities of Gujarat. Overnight buses available from Ahmedabad and Dwarka tot his temple town. Typically, devotees and tourist visit Somnath before or after visiting the Dwaraka temple.
– Somnath is connected by a good road network to the other nearby places like Veraval 7 kms, Mumbai 889 kms, Ahmedabad 400 kms, Bhavnagar 266 kms, Junagarh 85 kms and Porbandar 122 kms.
– There are direct trains from Ahmedabad to Somnath.
– Nearest Airport is Rajkot.

THINGS TO SEE & NOTE:
Timings for Aarati: 7.00 am, 12.00 pm and 7.00 pm
Darshan Timing – 6.00 am to 9.30 pm
– Outside the main temple complex, a large display allows visitors to have clear view of the Shivalinga inside and watch the Arati.
– After visiting the temple, one can walk around the main temple and see exhibitions of famous Shiva Temples including famous Jyotirlingas from India.

LIST OF ITEMS NOT ALLOWED:
Waist Belts, Mobile Phones, Cameras and Shoes.
There are free stalls available to deposit your shoe and other items. Lockers are available to keep your camera and phones before entering to temple complex.

LIGHT & SOUND SHOW:
– Timings – 7.45 pm every day
– Duration – 1 hour (approx.)
– Ticket Cost – ₹ 25 for adults and ₹ 15 for children
The mesmerizing Light & Sound Show takes visitors through the mesmerizing mythological story and importance of the locations at and in and around Somnath. It gives them a glimpse of the Pravas Tirtha where Lord Krishan left his mortal body and returned to heaven. The history of the Somnath temple and the attacks (several attempts of demolition) it suffered in the hands of various rulers. Many Kings of Gujarat tried to rebuild the temple at different stages and finally, after independence, under the leadership of Shri. Vallabh Bhai Patel, the present temple came into being. To commemorate his contribution, there is a statue of Shri. Vallabh Bhai Patel at the main gate of the temple.

FESTIVALS:
Somnath celebrates a large fair on the day of the full moon of Kartik Purnima in November/December. Maha Shivratri in the month of March is also a major festival here.

SECURITY AT THE TEMPLE:
The Temple is provided with elaborate security arrangements. All devotees passed through strict security check before entering into main complex.

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