Somnath temple is one of the extremely well-managed temples that I have ever been to, mostly because Modi and Shah themselves are part of the trust and overlook the trust activities.
So everything is clean, neat, and very well organized. The stay, the queue, the temple premises, the TVs all around displaying the Somnath Mahadev pooja, the security around everything is top-notch.
The history of Somnath Temple intrigued me a lot. The temple has withstood multiple destructions, and yet here it is, standing tall and firm as ever with one of the finest architecture that I have ever seen. Like Phoenix, it took birth from the ashes of its destruction.
Sadly, they asked me to deposit my camera safely in a locker, so I cannot show you the temple's beautiful outer walls. But fear not! I have carefully curated a list of the temples I witnessed through my own eyes.
I first travelled from Sasan Gir national park to Somnath by train. The passenger train passed through the forest and stopped for a minute or two. Not only me but also the Langurs tried to enter the train!
The train pulled through slow motion into the Veraval railway station. Veraval is about 12 km away from Somnath. I hopped into an auto, and they dropped me right in front of the Somnath trust office.
I had already booked a room to stay at the Sagar Darshan Guesthouse, run by the Somnath trust. The trust runs three separate kinds of accommodation: pilgrims, devotees, and tourists.
They are Lilavathi Athithi Bhavan, Maheshwari Athithi Bhavan, and Sagar Darshan Guesthouse. Sagar Darshan is the most premium range of all three. Even though it is Premium, it had a double bed, AC and the cost was only 2500 INR. I was super surprised by the room's size, the view from the room, and the cleanliness.
Without wasting any more time, I freshened up and went down to visit the Somnath Mahadev.
Mythology behind Somnath Temple
The captivating mythology of the Somnath temple is depicted during the light and sound show at night. The crowd gathers in huge numbers to watch this show, and I think I paid about 50 bucks for it. The story was very interesting, but the light and sound show was not! So I left it in the middle to catch some sleep.
The story goes this way...
The Moon (Soma) prayed to Lord Shiva Himself and placed the Jyotirlinga by Himself.
The moon was married to about 27 daughters of Daksha. But he did not pay attention to all his 27 wives and devoted all his time only to Rohini. The father got upset and cursed moon that he will lose all his lustre and fade away.
The moon starts to fade, and so he comes down to this place along with Rohini and starts praying to Lord Shiva. Now, Daksha also happens to be the father-in-law of Lord Shiva. Shiva helps to get this course withdrawn.
Moon then takes a dip in the river Saraswati and starts to glow. Hence this place gets the name Prabhas, which means shine. A legend says that the first Somnath temple is said to be constructed by the moon and it was all made of gold.
Somnath Temple History
It is a Phoenix. Like I said before, it was destroyed many times and then was created again just as many times.
The magnificent beauty of the temple standing by the Arabian Sea must have drawn the kings to it. Somnath has the first Jyotirlinga shrine, which could also have been a reason.
According to the light and sound show, the first temple was built of gold by the Moon, Ravana built the second temple out of silver, and the third temple was built of sandalwood by Krishna during Dwapara Yuga.
According to historical texts, the second temple was built by the Yadava kings of Vallabhi, which the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the Somnath Temple in the worst possible manner. A total of 17 times! He looted the temple of its gold and burnt down the wooden temple.
It is also said that he killed nearly 50,000 devotees who stood against the destruction of the temple. The temple was rebuilt again only to be plundered by the Portuguese, Delhi Sultanates, Khilji, and Aurangazeb. By 1702, Aurangazeb ensured nobody came to offer prayers here.
The temple has been built and rebuilt six times, and in 1947 Sardar Vallabhai Patel proposed to build it again. It was inaugurated in 1951 by the then-president Dr. Rajendra Prasad. It is also known as "The Eternal Shrine," considering how it withstood time.
This article talked about the exciting conversations between the leaders when the Somnath temple was proposed to be rebuilt; of how Congress asked the people to fund for the temple and the government did not want to play any role in this temple reconstruction to play the secular card. It is an interesting read - Nehru vs. Patel - Prasad on Somnath.
Somnath Temple Visit
The temple is at a walkable distance from the Sagar darshan Guesthouse. I went once to click photos inside the temple compound. This is a common area where you can take personal photographs, sit, and feed pigeons. After this point, it is a high-security area.
I decided to go back to the room and leave all my belongings in the room. There is a safety locker deposit room near the temple also. You need to deposit your bags, purse, all electronics, everything in the locker. Fearing the crowd, I decided to leave the bags in the room and took just a few bucks hoping to buy some darshan ticket or prasad. But even that was not required.
There is a security check at the entrance, you deposit the bags, then again a security area before which you leave footwear in the rack. Guys should leave behind leather belts too.
Then we come to the grand Somnath temple complex. The sanctum sanctorum is a wide-open area; hence there is no rush to see the Somnath Mahadev. You can conveniently stand, watch, pray, observe the beauty. So peaceful and calm!
The inside of the temple is gold and silver plated, and it glitters so beautifully. There is always one pooja or the other going on. You can see Abhishekam being done, and then decking up the Shiva Lingam takes place too.
The Aarti at 7:00 pm was also beautiful. The entire temple resplendent with lights, and the calming Arti sounds are sure to drown you completely.
Not sure how many of you know the story of Syamantaka Mani possessed by Lord Krishna. It is one of the prestigious stones that always hangs by His neck and has the power to produce gold every day!
The war between Krishna and Jambavan for the Syamantaka Mani is a popular mythological story. It is said that while Krishna constructed the Somnath temple, he placed the Syamantaka Mani under the Somnath Mahadev Linga, and hence the Linga was found levitating from the ground. The gem had some radioactive powers.
One of the literature which quotes the attack of Ghazni even states that "When they entered the temple to loot the place, they were surprised to see many gold statues floating in the air." Sadly, Mahmud of Ghazni took away the Syamantaka Mani.
It makes me wonder if that is how the Jyotirlinga representation started! After all, Somnth is the first Jyotirlinga site, and Jyotirling is nothing but Shiva represented as a column of light. A paradox!
Also read - By the Narmada Ghats - Omkareshwar Jyothirling
Architecture of Somnath Temple
The current architecture of Somnath temple is based on Chalukya architecture, which you can find in Badami. Why so?
It is because the three temples were all reconstructed by the Chalukyas after the Ghazni invasion. Thus, there are traces of the influence of the Chalukya dynasty. I wish they had let me photograph the temple; it was so beautiful.
Once outside the sanctum, you enter the well-maintained temple gardens. The walls have horizontal row mouldings running around like how you can see in Hoysala temples. Various figurines from Hindu mythology can also be found.
A detailed latticework is common in 100 or 1000 years old Hoysalas Temples or in Khajuraho, but seeing this type of ornate work in the sculptures of the 1950s made me happy.
I spent quite some time reading about these sculptures. The beautiful calm sea breeze and the crashing waves have a divine influence on oneself.
Baan Stambh aka Arrow Pillar
After admiring the sculptures, I looked for a bench to sit by and enjoy the sea breeze. It was then that I noticed Baan Stambh or the arrow pillar extending into the sea.
The pillar depicts a globe and a Trishul. This pillar indicates that this land piece is the first piece of land between the South Pole and the world. The World!! I verified it on Google, and it was true!
In other words, there is no piece of land between this point and Antarctica; it is just the sea.
There is no evidence of how old the Baan stambh is; certainly, it is not an addition during the 1950s construction. So how did the ancestors know that this is the first piece of land after the South Pole? Very intriguing!
Did they know the earth is round and did anybody journeyed back and forth in the sea? How, I mean, how on earth did they come to this accurate piece of land and concluded this theory is a real mystery!
One wonders how much wealth of knowledge our ancestors had!
Sunset at Somnath Beach
Sunset at Somnath Beach is magical! It deserves a separate mention…
Sunsets are already so beautiful during winters, and this visit was also during December. You can simply walk to the beach from the Temple. Both the beach and the temple garden are ideal places to view the sunset from.
I will forever remember the bright and beautiful orangish sunset I witnessed standing on the rocks. As the sun goes does, the melodic drums signal the start of the daily Arti. I soon rushed to the temple to watch the Arti on the TV screen, as it was very crowded.
I then proceeded to go and watch the sound and light show which begins at 8:00 pm. Since it is on a first-come and first-serve basis, all the seats are pre-occupied by 6:30-7:00 pm
Old Somnath Temple aka Ahilyabai Temple
Ahilyabai of the Holkar dynasty is well known for her immense devotion to Lord Shiva and her numerous contributions to construct Shiva temples around India.
A legend thus goes…
The lord appeared in her dream and reminded her of the dilapidated state the Somnath temple was in. She decided to reconstruct the temple devotedly.
Many believe this is only the original Somnath temple and that this Shiva ling is the original Somnath Mahadev.
Whatever may be the case, it is older than the present temple, and unlike the new temple, they let you into the sanctum sanctorum, and you can touch and feel the God statue. The Old Somnath temple was built in the year 1783 and is as beautiful as ever.
Who is Ahilyabhai? - Devi Ahilyabai and Holkar Dynasty
Places to visit in Somnath apart from the temple
There are many places to visit in Somnath apart from the main temple. Most of the others are also temples.
- Laxmi Narayan Temple - Just as I walked out of the Somnath temple complex, I saw this temple. It was late in the evening, and I went into this temple because I was intrigued to see a Tamil Nadu style structure in Gujarat. And true to what I thought, this temple was built by a Tamil Nadu trust, and even the priest spoke in Tamil. So I had a good chat with the people there, and they told me that this is where Lord Krishna left His soul at last. Surprising or not, the idol, the sanctum, the pooja, everything else here is in the North Indian way while only the architecture alone is the South Indian way.
Triveni Sangam - the confluence of rivers, Kapila, Hiran, and Saraswathi, occurs here before they all reach the Arabian Sea. So many people come here for a holy dip and do pooja for the departed souls. This is also considered the place where the moon took a dip, and so did Lord Krishna.
Somnath beach and surrounding shops to spend your evening with family.
There are numerous temples near the Somnath beach like Parasurama temple, Hanuman temple, Veneshwar Mahadev, Kamnath Mahadev, Saraswati temple, Brahma Kund, etc. All with a bunch of mythological stories associated with it.
Prabhas Patan Museum aka Somnath museum - In a small gully behind the Somnath temple is the Prabhas Patan museum. It holds not just the artefacts retrieved from the ruined temple but also pillar structures with carvings intact. If you are keen to know about the place's history, this is the place to be. You can easily spend a few hours here.
Things to keep in Mind
I have pretty much-written everything about the temple that one needs to keep in mind while visiting the Somnath temple. For your convenience, here is a summary-
The timings are from 6:00 am till 9:30 pm. Live pooja updates are telecasted throughout the day all around the temple.
There are three Aarti timings. Morning at 7:00 am, 12 noon, and again at 7 pm.
The light and sound show called "Jay Mahadev" happens every day from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm unless it is not raining. (I don't remember if I paid 25 bucks or 50 bucks for the show.)
Wheelchairs are available for the senior citizens and the physically challenged.
You cannot carry anything into the temple premises except money in hand, which might not be required if you are not planning to donate anything. Leave everything at the luggage desk/cloakroom and footwear at the footwear rack.
Donations can be made at the temple. Apart from that, I did not see any special poojas that you can offer for.
Somnath hotel and accommodation
I strongly recommend staying at the guest house provided by the Somnath Trust. It is at a walkable distance to the temple. The rooms are clean, and the view is also splendid. The Sagar darshan guest house has a restaurant attached to it that serves delicious vegetarian food.
Here is where you can book Somnath Trust Guest houses - Click here
How to Reach Somnath Temple
Somnath has a bus station that is well connected to many parts of the state. However, the bus station was in a bad state.
From Somnath, I proceeded to Dwarka by a state bus. The nearest railway station is Veraval which is about 10 - 12 km away. The nearest airport is Diu.
Diu and Sasan Gir make good spots to combine your trip with.
Link to Gir