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Somnath Temple સોમનાથ મંદિર

India Gujarat location map
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Somnath Temple સોમનાથ મંદિર
Location within Gujarat
Coordinates: 20°53′16.9″N 70°24′5.0″E / 20.888028, 70.40139Coordinates: 20°53′16.9″N 70°24′5.0″E / 20.888028, 70.40139
Proper name: Somnath Mandir
Devanagari: सोमनाथ मन्दिर
Country: India
State: Gujarat
District: Junagadh
Locale: Veraval
Architecture and culture
Primary deity: Somnath (Shiva)
Important festivals: Maha Shivaratri
Architectural styles: Mandir
Date built:
(Current structure)
1951 (present structure)
Creator: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (present structure)
Temple board: Shree Somnath Trust of Gujarat

} The Somnath Temple (Gujarati: સોમનાથ મંદિર Sanskrit: सोमनाथ मन्दिर) located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the God Shiva. Somnath means "The Protector of (the) Moon God". The Somnath Temple is known as "the Shrine Eternal", having been destroyed sixteen times by Muslim invaders.[1][2] Most recently it was rebuilt in November 1947, when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel visited the area for the integration of Junagadh and mooted a plan for restoration. After Patel's death, the rebuilding continued under K. M. Munshi, another minister of the Government of India.[3][4]



As per Shiv Mahapuran, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of protection) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation.[5] To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light.[6][7] Originally there were believed to be 64 jyothirlingas while 12 of them are considered to be very auspicious and holy.[5] Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva.[8] At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.[8][9][10] The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharastra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharastra, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh in Deoghar, Jharkhand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharastra.[5][11]



Sa'di and the idol of Somnath, India, c.1604

Ancient Indian traditions maintain a close relationship of Somnath with release of Chandra (Moon God) from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati. Moon was married to Twenty-Seven daughters of Daksha. However, he favoured Rohini and neglected other queens. The aggrieved Daksha cursed Moon and the Moon lost power of light. With the advice of Prajapita Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth, built a Shivlinga and worshipped Bhagvan Shiva. Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Bhagvan Shiva blessed him and relieved him from the curse of darkness partially letting the periodic waning of the Moon. Lord Shiva decided to rest in that Lingam till eternity, and hence called Jyotirlingam. Pauranic traditions maintain that Moon had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is believed to have built Somnath temple with Sandalwood.


The second temple, built by the Yadava kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat, replaced the first one on the same site around 649 CE.[12]

In 725 CE Junayad, the Arab governor of Sind, sent his armies to destroy the second temple.[12] The Gurjara Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple in 815, a large structure of red sandstone.

Somnath temple ruins (1869)

Somnath temple, 1869

In 1024, the temple was once visited by Mahmud of Ghazni[13][14] who raided the temple from across the Thar Desert. The temple was rebuilt by the Gujjar Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki king Bhimadev I of Anhilwara, Gujrat (present day Patan) between 1026 and 1042. The wooden structure was replaced by Kumarpal (r.1143-72), who built the temple of stone.[15][16]

In 1296, the temple was once again destroyed by Sultan Allauddin Khilji's army.[12][13][16] According to Taj-ul-Ma'sir of Hasan Nizami, Raja Karan of Gujarat was defeated and forced to flee, "fifty thousand infidels were dispatched to hell by the sword" and "more than twenty thousand slaves, and cattle beyond all calculation fell into the hands of the victors".[12] The temple was rebuilt by Mahipala Deva, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the Linga was installed by his son Khengar sometime between 1326 and 1351.[16]

In 1375, the temple was once again destroyed by Muzaffar Shah I, the Sultan of Gujarat.[12][16]

In 1451, the temple was once again destroyed by Mahmud Begda, the Sultan of Gujarat.[12][13][16]

In 1701, the temple was once again destroyed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.[12] Aurangzeb built a mosque on the site of the Somnath temple, using some columns from the temple, whose Hindu sculptural motifs remained visible.[17]

Later on a joint effort of Peshwa of Pune, Raja Bhonsle of Nagpur, Chhatrapati Bhonsle of Kolhapur, Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore & Shrimant Patilbuwa Shinde of Gwalior rebuilt the temple in 1783 at a site adjacent to the ruined temple which was already converted to a mosque.[17]

Zakariya al-QazwiniEdit

Tomb of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1839-40

A Painting of the tomb of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, in 1839–40, with Sandalwood Doors long believed to be the Somnath, which he destroyed in ca 1024, later found to be replicas of the original.[18]

The following extract is from “Wonders of Things Created, and marvels of Things Existing” by Zakariya al-Qazwini, a 13th-century Persian Arab geographer. It contains the description of Somnath temple and its destruction:[14]

“Somnath: celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnath. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honor among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand."
“When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud Bin Subuktigin went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans. As a result thousands of Hindus were converted to Islam. He arrived there in the middle of Zi-l k’ada, 416 A.H. (December, 1025 A.D.). “The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil, and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver and vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temples of the idols exceeded twenty thousand dinars."

Restoration of temple after IndependenceEdit


Statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in front of the temple

Before independence, Prabhas Pattan was part of the princely state of Junagadh. After integration of Jungadh in to Union of India, the Deputy Prime Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel came to Junagadh on November 12, 1947 to direct the stabilization of the state by the Indian Army and at the same time ordered the reconstruction of the Somanath temple.[19]

When Sardar Patel, K. M. Munshi and other leaders of the Congress went to Gandhi with the proposal of reconstructing the Somnath temple, 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[20] But soon both Gandhi and Sardar Patel died and the task of reconstruction of the temple continued under K. M. Munshi, who was the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies in the Nehru Government.[20]

The ruins were pulled down in October 1950 and the mosque present at that site was shifted few miles away.[21] 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.[22] Rajendra Prasad 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.".[23] He added "The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction"[23]

This episode created a serious rift between the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who saw the movement for reconstruction of the temple as an attempt at Hindu revivalism and the President Rajendra Prasad and Union Minister K. M. Munshi, who saw in its reconstruction, the fruits of freedom and the reversal of past injustice done to Hindus.[23]

The present temple, which was built by Patel and Munshi, is managed by Shree Somnath Trust.[24]



Arrow Pillar or Baan-Stambh

The present temple is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture or Kailash Mahameru Prasad Style[25] and reflects the skill of the Sompura Salats, Gujarat's master masons. The temple's shikhar, or main spire, is 150 feet in height, and it has a 27 foot tall flag pole at the top.[25]

The temple is situated at such a place that there is no land in straight-line between Somnath seashore till Antarctica, such an inscription in Sanskrit is found on the Arrow-Pillar called Baan-Stambh erected on the sea-protection wall at the Somnath Temple. This Baan-Stambh mentions that it stands at a point on the Indian landmass, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude.[26]

'Proclamation of the Gates' IncidentEdit

In 1782-83 AD, Maratha king, Mahadaji Shinde (Ruler of North India: Ujjain/ Gwalior/ Mathura) victoriously brought the Three Silver Gates from Lahore, after defeating Muhammad Shah of Lahore. After refusal from Pundits of Guzrath and the then ruler Gaekwad to put them back on Somnath temple, these silver gates were placed in temples of Ujjain. Today they can be seen in Two Temples of India Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Mandir & Gopal Mandir of Ujjain.[18]

In 1842, Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough issued his famous '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 in Ghazni, Afghanistan. These were believed to have been taken by Mahmud from Somnath. There was a debate in the House of Commons in London in 1843 on the question of the gates of the Somanatha temple.[27] After much cross-fire between the British Government and the opposition, the gates were uprooted and brought back in triumph. But on arrival, they were found to be replicas of the original.[18] So they were placed in a store-room in the Agra Fort where they still lie to the present day.

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.[28]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Somnath Temple". Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  2. ^ "Somanatha and Mahmud". Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  3. ^ Gopal, Ram (1994). Hindu culture during and after Muslim rule: survival and subsequent challenges. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd.. p. 148. ISBN 81-85880-26-3. 
  4. ^ Jaffrelot, Christophe (1996). The Hindu nationalist movement and Indian politics: 1925 to the 1990s. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 84. ISBN 1-85065-170-1. 
  5. ^ a b c R. 2003, pp. 92-95
  6. ^ Eck 1999, p. 107
  7. ^ See: Gwynne 2008, Section on Char Dham
  8. ^ a b Lochtefeld 2002, pp. 324-325
  9. ^ Harding 1998, pp. 158-158
  10. ^ Vivekananda Vol. 4
  11. ^ Chaturvedi 2006, pp. 58-72
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "Leaves from the past". 
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^ a b Elliot, Sir Henry Miers (1952). The history of India, as told by his own historian Beirouni. 11. pp. 98. ISBN 978-0-543-94726-0. 
  15. ^ Somnath Temple, British Library
  16. ^ a b c d e Temples of India, Prabhat Prakashan.
  17. ^ a b Hindu Pilgrimage: A Journey Through the Holy Places of Hindus All Over India, Sunita Pant Bansal, Pustak Mahal, 2008, ISBN 81-223-0997-6, ISBN 978-81-223-0997-3
  18. ^ a b c Gopal Mandir is devoted to the blue God Krishna who is the divine herdsman, the lover of milkmaids and the eighth embodiment of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe. The marble-curled around structure is a superior example of Maratha architecture. Lord Krishna’s two feet tall statue is carved in silver and is placed on a marble-inlaid altar with silver-plated doors. Mahmud of Ghazni had taken these doors from the famous Somnath Temple in Gujarat to Ghazni in Khorasan in 1026 AD. The Afghan trespasser, Mahmud Shah Abdali, later took the gates to Lahore, from where Shrinath Madhavji Shinde today popularly known as The Great Maratha Mahadji Scindia reacquired them. The Scindia ruler later established them in Gopal Mandir, bringing to a halt the doors’ long journey. Bayajibai Shinde, Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia’s queen, built the temple in the 19th century. Its location in the middle of the market area right in the heart of the city adds to its popularity. Mosque and Tomb of the Emperor Soolta Mahmood of Ghuznee, publisherBritish Library
  19. ^ Hindustan Times, 15 Nov, 1947
  20. ^ a b Marie Cruz Gabriel, Rediscovery of India, A silence in the city and other stories, Published by Orient Blackswan, 1996, ISBN 81-250-0828-4, ISBN 978-81-250-0828-6
  21. ^
  22. ^ Peter Van der Veer, Ayodhya and Somnath, eternel shrines, contested histories, 1992
  23. ^ a b c Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, Indian constitutional documents,Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967
  24. ^ "JAY-SOMNATH". Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^
  27. ^ The United Kingdom House of Commons Debate, 9 March 1943, on, The Somnath (Prabhas Patan) Proclamation, Junagadh 1948. 584-602, 620, 630-32, 656, 674.
  28. ^ Thapar, Romila (2005). Somanatha:The Many Voices of History. Verso. pp. 170. 


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