Somnath temple located in
Prabhas Patan near
Veraval in Saurashtra
on the western coast of Gujarat, is believed to be the first among the
twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is an important pilgrimage
and tourist spot of Gujarat. Destroyed and reconstructed several times
in the past by several Muslim invaders  and Portuguese
, the present temple was reconstructed in
Chaulukya style of Hindu
temple architecture and completed in May 1951. The reconstruction was
Vallabhbhai Patel and was completed under K. M. Munshi,
the then head of the temple trust.
3.1 History of the temple
3.2 'Proclamation of the Gates' incident during the British period
3.3 Reconstruction during 1950–1951
4 Architecture of the present temple
5 See also
8 External links
The temple is considered sacred due to the various legends connected
Somnath means "Lord of the Soma", an epithet of Shiva.
Somnath temple is known as "the Shrine Eternal", following a book
K. M. Munshi by this title and his narration of the temple's
destruction and reconstruction many times in history.
According to tradition, the Shivalinga in
Somnath is one of the 12
jyotirlingas in India, where
Shiva is believed to have appeared as a
fiery column of light. The jyotirlingas are taken as the supreme,
undivided reality out of which
Shiva partly appears.
Each of the 12 jyotirlinga sites take the name of a different
manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is a
lingam representing the beginning-less and endless stambha (pillar),
symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. In addition to
the one at Somnath, the others are at Varanasi, Rameswaram, Dwarka,
The site of
Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on
account of being a Triveni sangam (the confluence of three rivers —
Kapila, Hiran and Sarasvati). Soma, the Moon god, is believed to have
lost his lustre due to a curse, and he bathed in the Sarasvati River
at this site to regain it. The result is the waxing and waning of the
moon, no doubt an allusion to the waxing and waning of the tides at
this sea shore location. The name of the town Prabhas, meaning lustre,
as well as the alternative names Someshvar and
Somnath ("The lord of
the moon" or "the moon god") arise from this tradition.
History of the temple
According to popular tradition documented by J. Gordon Melton, the
first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some
unknown time in the past. The second temple is said to have been built
at the same site by the "Yadava kings" of
Vallabhi around 649 CE. In
725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh is said to have
destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of
Nagabhata II is said to have
constructed the third temple in 815 CE, a large structure of red
However, there is no historical record of an attack on
Nagabhata II is known to have visited tirthas in
Saurashtra, including Someshvara (the Lord of the Moon), which may or
may not be a reference to a Siva temple because the town itself was
known by that name. The
Chaulukya (Solanki) king
built the first temple at the site sometime before 997 CE, even though
some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier
Somnath temple, 1869
In 1024, during the reign of Bhima I, the prominent Turkic ruler
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundering the
Somnath temple and
breaking its jyotirlinga. He took away a booty of 20 million
dinars. Historians expect the damage to the temple by Mahmud to
have been minimal because there are records of pilgrimages to the
temple in 1038, which make no mention of any damage to the temple.
However, powerful legends with intricate detail developed in the
Turko-Persian literature regarding Mahmud's raid, which
"electrified" the Muslim world according to scholar Meenakshi
Jain. They later boasted that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees.
The devotees had tried to defend the temple from being vandalised and
The temple at the time of Mahmud's attack appears to have been a
wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time (kalajirnam).
Kumarapala (r. 1143–72) rebuilt it in "excellent stone and
studded it with jewels," according to an inscription in 1169.
During its 1299 invasion of Gujarat, Alauddin Khalji's army, led by
Ulugh Khan, defeated the Vaghela king Karna, and sacked the Somnath
temple. Legends in the later texts
Kanhadade Prabandha (15th
century) and Khyat (17th century) state that the Jalore ruler
Kanhadadeva later recovered the
Somnath idol and freed the Hindu
prisoners, after an attack on the
Delhi army near Jalore. However,
other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was
thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims. These sources
include the contemporary and near-contemporary texts including Amir
Khusrau's Khazainul-Futuh, Ziauddin Barani's Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi and
Jinaprabha Suri's Vividha-tirtha-kalpa. It is possible that the story
of Kanhadadeva's rescue of the
Somnath idol is a fabrication by the
later writers. Alternatively, it is possible that the Khalji army was
taking multiple idols to Delhi, and Kanhadadeva's army retrieved one
The temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra
in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son
between 1331 and 1351. As late as the 14th century, Gujarati
Muslim pilgrims were noted by
Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to
pay their respects before departing for the
In 1395, the temple was destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan,
the last governor of
Gujarat under the
Delhi Sultanate and later
Gujarat Sultanate. In 1451, it was desecrated by Mahmud
Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat.
In 1546, the Portuguese, based in Goa, attacked ports and towns in
Somnath and destroyed several temples and
By 1665, the temple, one of many, was ordered to be destroyed by
Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. In 1702, he ordered that if Hindus
revived worship there, it should be demolished completely.
'Proclamation of the Gates' incident during the British period
In 1782-83 AD, Maratha king Mahadaji Shinde, victoriously brought back
three silver gates from
Lahore after defeating Mahmud Shah Abdati, to
Somnath. After refusal from priests of
Gujarat and the then ruler
Gaekwad to put them back on
Somnath temple, these silver gates were
placed in the temples of Ujjain. Today they can be seen in two temples
of India, Mahakaleshwar
Jyotirlinga and Gopal Mandir of
Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough
Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough issued his Proclamation
of the Gates, in which he ordered the British army in Afghanistan to
return via Ghazni and bring back to
India the sandalwood gates from
the tomb of
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni in Ghazni, Afghanistan. These were
believed to have been taken by Mahmud from Somnath. Under
Ellenborough's instruction, General
William Nott looted the gates in
September 1842. A whole sepoy regiment, the 43rd Bengal Native
Infantry, was detailed to carry the gates back to India in
triumph. However, on arrival, they were found not to be of Gujarati or
Indian design, and not of Sandalwood, but of Deodar wood (native to
Ghazni) and therefore not authentic to Somnath. They were
placed in the arsenal store-room of the
Agra Fort where they still lie
to the present day. There was a debate in the House of Commons
in London in 1843 on the question of the gates of the temple and
Ellenbourough's role in the affair. After much crossfire
between the British Government and the opposition, all of the facts as
we know them were laid out.
In the 19th century novel
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, the diamond
of the title is presumed to have been stolen from the temple at
Somnath and, according to the historian Romila Thapar, reflects the
interest aroused in Britain by the gates.
Reconstruction during 1950–1951
K.M. Munshi with archaeologists and engineers of the Government of
India, Bombay and Saurashtra, with the ruins of
Somnath Temple in the
background, July 1950.
Early picture of the present temple
Prabhas Patan was part of the princely state of
Junagadh, whose ruler had acceded to Pakistan in 1947. After India
refused to accept his decision, the state was made a part of
Deputy Prime Minister Patel came to
Junagadh on 12 November 1947 to
direct the stabilization of the state by the Indian Army and at the
same time ordered the reconstruction of the
K. M. Munshi and other leaders of the Congress went to
Mahatma Gandhi with their proposal to reconstruct the
Gandhi blessed the move, but suggested that the funds for the
construction should be collected from the public and the temple should
not be funded by the state. He expressed that he was proud to
associate himself to the project of renovation of the temple.
However, soon both Gandhi and Sardar Patel died and the task of
reconstruction of the temple continued under Munshi, who was the
Minister for Food and Civil Supplies,
Government of India
Government of India headed by
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The ruins were pulled down in October 1950 and the mosque present at
that site was shifted few kilometres away by using construction
vehicles. In May 1951, Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the
Republic of India, invited by K M Munshi, performed the installation
ceremony for the temple. The President said in his address, "It is
my view that the reconstruction of the
Somnath Temple will be complete
on that day when not only a magnificent edifice will arise on this
foundation, but the mansion of India's prosperity will be really that
prosperity of which the ancient temple of
Somnath was a symbol.".
He added "The
Somnath temple signifies that the power of
reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction."
Architecture of the present temple
Bāṇastambha (Arrow Pillar)
The present temple is built in the
Chaulukya style of temple
architecture or "
Kailash Mahameru Prasad" style and reflects the
skill of the Sompura Salats, one of Gujarat's master masons. The
temple's śikhara, or main spire, is 15 metres in height, and it has
an 8.2-metre tall flag pole at the top.
The temple is situated at such a place that there is no land in a
straight line between
Somnath seashore until Antarctica, such an
Sanskrit is found on the Bāṇastambha (Sanskrit:
बाणस्तम्भ, lit. arrow pillar) erected on the
sea-protection wall. The Bāṇastambha mentions that it stands at a
point on the Indian landmass that is the first point on land in the
north to the
South Pole at that particular longitude.
Somnath Temple in 1957
Somnath Temple in 2012
Somnath Temple at dawn
Conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Somnath darshan". Official website of
Somnath Temple. Retrieved 19
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