If we think about temples devoted to Lord Shiva the first temple that comes to mind are the Jyotirlingas. There are 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India each has a different legacy attached to it. This article is about the very first Jyotirlinga of Mahadev which is called Somnath Temple. It was established 7,99,25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skanda Purana.
The Somnath temple, also called Somanātha temple or Deo Patan, is a Hindu temple located in Prabhas Patan, Veraval in Gujarat, India.
Ancient Indian traditions maintain a close relationship with Somnath with the release of Chandra (Moon God) from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati. Daksha married his Twenty-Seven daughters to the Moon. However, he favored Rohini and neglected other queens. The aggrieved Daksha cursed the Moon and the Moon lost power of light. With the advice of Prajapita Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth and worshiped Bhagvan Shiva. Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Bhagvan Shiva blessed him. He relieved him from the curse of darkness. Puranic traditions maintain that Moon had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana. Bhagvan Shree Krishna built Somnath temple with Sandalwood.
The Moon God relieved from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati by the blessings of Bhagvan Somnath. In the Shiva Purana and Nandi Upapurana, Shiva said, `I am always present everywhere but specially in 12 forms and places as the Jyotirlingas`. Somnath is one of these 12 holy places. This is the first among the twelve holy Shiva Jyotirlings.
History Of Invasion
The later sources of history account for several desecrations by Muslims invaders. The temple was rebuilt every time with the reconstructive spirit of the people.
In 1026, during the reign of Bhima I, the Turkic Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni raided and plundered the Somnath temple, broke its jyotirlinga. He took away a booty of 20 million dinars. According to historian Cynthia Talbot, a later tradition states that “50,000 devotees lost their lives in trying to stop Mahmud” during his sack of Somnath temple.
Kumarapala rebuilt the Somnath temple 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
The temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son Khengara sometime between 1331 and 1351.
In 1395, the temple was destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate. In 1451, it was desecrated by Mahmud Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat.
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.
The Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore built a temple at Somnath. Mahadaji Shinde brought silver gates from Ghazni and installed them in Gopal Mandir of Ujjain.
The modern temple was reconstructed with the resolve of Sardar Patel. He visited the ruins of Somnath temple on November 13 1947. Then President of India, Late Dr.Rajendra Prasad, performed the Pran-Pratistha at the existing temple on 11 May 1951.
Architecture of Somnath Temple
The present temple is a Māru-Gurjara architecture (also called Chaulukya or Solanki style) temple. It has a “Kailash Mahameru Prasad” form, and reflects the skill of the Sompura Salats, one of Gujarat’s master masons.
The architect of the new Somnath temple was Prabhashankarbhai Oghadbhai Sompura. He worked on recovering and integrating the old recoverable parts with the new design in the late 1940s . The new Somnath temple is intricately carved, two level temple with pillared mandapa and 212 relief panels.
The temple’s śikhara, or main spire, is 15 meters in height above the sanctum. It has an 8.2-metre-tall flag pole at the top. According to Ananda Coomaraswamy – an art and architecture historian, the earlier Somnath temple ruin followed the Solanki-style. It is Nagara architecture inspired by the Vesara ideas found in Western regions of India.