The Somnath Temple located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is the first among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the god Shiva. It has currently become a tourist spot for pilgrims. The temple is considered sacred due to the various legends connected to it. Somnath means “The Protector of (the) Moon god”.
According to legend, Som, the Moon God built the Somnath Temple from gold, Ravan made it from silver, Lord Krishna made the temple from wood and King Bhimdev of Anhilwad made the temple from stone.
Som constructed the temple out of respect after Lord Shiva cured his illness that was caused by Som’s father-in-law Daksha Prajapati’s curse. Daksha Prajapati had cursed Som as he was infatuated with Rohini and was not paying adequate attention to his other 26 wives who were all daughters of Prajapti. It is believed that Lord Brahma advised Som to build the temple to honor Lord Shiva.
The Somnath Temple is the seventh temple built to commemorate Lord Somnath, who was also known as Bhairaveshwar, Shravanikehswar and Shrilingeshwar, in Sat Yug, Treta Yug and Dwapar Yug respectively.
Earlier known as ‘Prabhas Patan’, the town remains a quintessential pilgrim town. The temple has been built at the tip of the landmass in Gujarat and no land exists between the temple and the South Pole. The temple is also believed to be the place where the holy river Saraswati meets the sea.
The temple is built in Solanki style. The sabha mandap (assembly hall), sanctum sanctorum (innermost shrine) and the shikhar (top) was built in the first phase followed by the nritya mandap (dancing hall). The apex of the temple reaches a height of 155 ft and the kalash (pot) on top weighs 10 tons. The temple was razed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1025 AD.
Somnath is mentioned in the Puranas and the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. Lord Krishna is believed to have been shot in the foot with an arrow in the region. The Yadav community, the descendents of Lord Krishna, is said to have fought among them and caused the downfall of the entire community in this region.
After the integration of Junagadh with the Union of India, the then Deputy PM of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel visited Junagadh in November 1947 and ordered the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple.
The ruins of the Somnath Temple were pulled down in October 1950 and the mosque was shifted a few miles away. The temple was built in 1951. A statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stands in front of the temple as a mark of honour for his contribution to the building of the temple.
The Somnath Temple is visited by millions of devotees every year. It is not just the temple, but other tourist attractions like Somnath Museum, Somnath beach and Junagadh Gate also attract visitors. The Sound and Light Show held in the temple is another attraction.