Somnath temple is the most revered shrine in the country, for it has one of the twelve pre-eminent Jyotir-lingas which have a special sanctity for the Hindus. It even finds proud mention in the Rig Veda
. Somnath means `the protector of Moon god`. The celebrated city of Somnath lies along the southern shore of Saurashtra, Gujarat
. It has been said that people from the remotest parts of the country came to worship at Somnath. Somnath rose and fell many a time, and the present site of Somnath temple is a pile of ruins. With constant desecration and reconstruction, the Hindus finally built a new temple nearby.
The saying goes that, the moon god Chandra
, possessed with arrogance for his good looks, was cursed by his father-in-law Daksha
(one of the Prajapatis, the Rishis, the Adityas, and son of Aditi and Lord Brahma
) to wane. Moon then prayed hard to Lord Shiva
at the Prabhas tirth, who in turn removed the curse partially, thus causing the periodic waning of moon. It has also been said that the Somnath Temple was first built with gold by Moon god, with silver by Ravana
, with sandalwood by Lord Krishna
and with stone by Bhimdeva (Solanki ruler of Gujarat). The construction of the present day temple began in 1950. It is the 7th temple built to commemorate the grandeur of Lord Somnath who was also known as Bhairaveshwar in the Satya Yug, Sharavanikeshwar in the Treta Yug and Shringaleshwar in Dwapar Yug.
As regards the history of Somnath temple, very little is known. It is believed that the first temple existed before the advent of the Christian era. The next temple at the site is believed to have been erected by the Valabhi kings in about 480-767 A.D. In 725, Junayad, the Arab governor of Sind, sent his regiment to destroy the second temple. The Pratihara king Nagabhata II
constructed the 3rd temple in 815, a large structure of red sandstone. The destruction wrought upon this temple by Mahmud of Ghazni
in 1025 A.D. is an important event in history. In his blind fury, not only did he spoil an object of beauty but also tore up the pages of history which Somnath bore on its walls. It is said that the tern pie was supported by pillars which bore the name of its embellisher, which history has lost for ever.
In its external design it compares well with the temple of Rudramala at Siddhapur and is more or less of the same length. The dome, however, is as large as any other built in this period. The temple faces east and had an enormous central hall with three entrances, each protected by a lofty porch. The fragments that lie scattered at a short distance from the site give same idea of the sculptured decoration of the temple. The richly carved doorways, the sculptured representations of Nandi
, Shiva`s bull and the figures of goddesses and their female attendants, must once have presented a plastic ensemble of great beauty. In the recesses of the balconied corridor, there is a mutilated form of Shiva Nataraja
. Though essentially a Brahmanical temple, the influence of Jain architecture is clearly discernible.
The present temple, Kailash Mahameru Prasada, is built in the style of architecture in Chalukya dynasty
and indicates the skill of the Sompuras, Gujarat`s master masons. The apex of the temple rises to a height of 155 feet. There is a kalash (pot vessel) on the top, which measures 10 tons. The flag mast on this pinnacle is 37 feet long and is changed thrice during the day. The temple is situated at such an extraordinary place that there is no land in between from Somnath seashore to Antarctica. Such an inscription in Sanskrit
is found on the arrow-pillar erected on the sea-protection wall at the Somnath Temple.