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Somnath temple of Veraval in Gujarat

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Overview

The Somnath temple, also called Somanātha temple or Deo Patan, is a Hindu temple located in Prabhas PatanVeraval in Gujarat, India. It is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus and is believed to be first among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva.

The temple was reconstructed several times in the past after repeated destruction by multiple Muslim invaders and rulers, notably starting from an attack by Mahmud Ghazni in the 11th century. 

It is unclear when the first version of the Somnath temple was built with estimates varying between the early centuries of the 1st-millennium to about the 9th-century CE.

The Somnath temple was actively studied by colonial era historians and archaeologists in the 19th- and early 20th-century, when its ruins illustrated a historic Hindu temple in the process of being converted into an Islamic Mosque.

After India’s independence, those ruins were demolished and the present Somnath temple was reconstructed in the Māru-Gurjara style of Hindu temple architecture.

The contemporary Somnath temple’s reconstruction was started under the orders of the first Home Minister of India Vallabhbhai Patel and completed in May 1951 after his death.

Location

The Somnath temple is located along the coastline in Prabhas Patan near Veraval, Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

It is about 400 kilometres (249 mi) southwest of Ahmedabad, 82 kilometres (51 mi) south of Junagadh – another major archaeological and pilgrimage site in Gujarat.

It is about 7 kilometres (4 mi) southeast of the Veraval railway junction, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of the Porbandar airport and about 85 kilometres (53 mi) west of the Diu airport.

The Somnath temple is located close to the ancient trading port of Veraval, one of three in Gujarat from where Indian merchants departed to trade goods.

The 11th-century Persian historian Al-Biruni states that Somnath has become so famous because “it was the harbor for seafaring people, and a station for those who went to and fro between Sufala in the country of Zanj (east Africa) and China”.

Combined with its repute as an eminent pilgrimage site, its location was well known to the kingdoms within the Indian subcontinent.

Literature and epigraphical evidence suggest that the medieval era Veraval-Patan area port was also actively trading with the Middle East and Southeast Asia. This brought wealth and fame to the Veraval area as well as the temple.

The site of Prabhas Patan was occupied during the Indus Valley Civilisation, 2000–1200 BCE.

It was one of very few sites in the Junagadh district to be so occupied. After abandonment in 1200 BCE, it was reoccupied in 400 BCE and continued into the historical period.

Prabhas is also close to the other sites similarly occupied: Junagadh, Dwarka, Padri and Bharuch.

Jyotirlinga

Somnath means “Lord of the Soma” or “moon” The site is also called  Prabhasa (“place of splendor”).

Somnath temple has been a Jyotirlinga site for the Hindus, and a holy place of pilgrimage (Tirtha ).

It is one of five most revered sites on the seacoast of India, along with the nearby Dvaraka in Gujarat, Puri in Odisha, Rameshvaram and Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu.

Many Hindu texts provide a list of the most sacred Shiva pilgrimage sites, along with a guide for visiting and the mythology behind each site.

The best known were the Mahatmya genre of texts. Of these, Somnatha temple tops the list of jyotirlingas in the Jnanasamhita – chapter 13 of the Shiva Purana, and the oldest known text with a list of jyotirlingas.

Other texts include the Varanasi Mahatmya (found in Skanda Purana), the  Shatarudra Samhita and the Kothirudra Samhita. All either directly mention the Somnath temple as the number one of twelve sites or call the top temple as “Somesvara” in Saurashtra – a synonymous term for this site in these texts.

The exact date of these texts is unknown but based on references they make to other texts and ancient poets or scholars, these have been generally dated between the 10th- and 12th-century, with some dating it much earlier and others a bit later.

Scriptural Mentions

The Somnath temple is not mentioned in ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism, but the “Prabhasa-Pattana” is mentioned as a tirtha (pilgrimage site).

For example, the Mahabharata (c. 400 CE) in Chapters 109, 118 and 119 of the Book Three (Vana Parva), and Sections 10.45 and 10.78 of the Bhagavata Purana state Prabhasa to be a tirtha on the coastline of Saurashtra.

The 5th-century poem Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa mentions some of revered Shiva pilgrimage sites of his times. It includes Banaras (Varanasi), Mahakala-UjjainTryambakaPrayagaPushkaraGokarna and Somnatha-Prabhasa.

This list of Kalidasa gives a clear indication of tirthas celebrated in his day.

Temple Architecture


Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

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