Lesser known facts about Somnath Temple


Non-Hindus need special permission to visit Somnath Temple

Somnath Temple is in news yet again but not for a very good reason. Now, non-Hindus will require special permission to visit the great temple (which is no less than an architectural marvel). As per the news available, to get this special permission, the visitors will have to give valid reasons and convince the authorities. Let’s take a look at some fascinating yet unknown facts about the Somnath temple…

The notice at Somnath Temple

“Shree Somnath Jyotirling is a pilgrimage for Hindus. Non-Hindus will have to obtain permission from the office of the General Manager (of the temple) to enter the sacred premises,” read a notice that was put up beside the temple’s main entrance earlier this week. The temple authorities claim the decision has been taken in view of security issues. They point out that several temples in South India have similar rules.

One of the 12 holiest Shiva temples

Somnath temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva which are considered to be very holy as each of the twelve Jyotrilinga is considered to be the manifestation of the Lord Shiva. It had been desecrated and vandalised repeatedly by Muslim invaders. Every time it was rebuilt at the same site. The modern temple was built over five years – from 1947 to 1951. It was inaugurated by then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.

The famous Syamantak Mani

The Shiva linga in the temple was believed to safely hide within its hollowness the famous Syamantak Mani, the Philosopher’s stone associated with Lord Krishna. It was a magical stone, capable of producing gold. It is believed that this stone had alchemic and radioactive properties. It could create a magnetic field around itself that kept the linga floating above ground.

Legends of the Somnath temple

When Sultan Mahmud, the son of Sabuktagin, went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnath, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Mohammedans. He arrived there in December, 1025 A.D. The Indians made a desperate resistance. They kept going in to the temple weeping and crying for help; and then they issued forth to battle and kept fighting till all were killed. The number of the slain exceeded fifty thousand.

Great treasure was looted

After the victory, 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 countless vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India.

The statue that hanged in the air

When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without prop or support, several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did, but met with no obstacle.
The logic

One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skillfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on any one side – hence the idol was suspended in the middle. When two stones were removed from the summit, the idol swerved on one side; when more were taken away, it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.

Mention in Vedas and Puranas

Somnath temple is located on the western coast of Gujarat and is one of the oldest and most revered temples of India and finds its reference in the most ancient texts like Shreemad Bhagavat, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda which signifies the importance of this temple as one of the most celebrated pilgrimage sites or Tirthdham.

The Shrine Eternal

This legendary temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times by Islamic kings and Hindu kings respectively. Most recently it was rebuilt in November 1947, when Vallabhbhai Patel visited the area for the integration of Junagadh and mooted a plan for restoration. After Patel’s death, the rebuilding continued under Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, another minister of the Government of India.

Triveni Sangam

According to historians, the site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on account of being a Triveni Sangam (the joining of three rivers — Kapila, Hiran and the mythical Saraswati). Soma, the Moon god, is believed to have lost his lustre due to a curse and he bathed in the river Saraswati at this site to regain the same. The result is the waxing and waning of the moon or the waxing and waning of the tides at this sea shore location.

Mythological folklore associated with Somnath Temple

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.
The boon of Lord Shiva

With the advice of Prajapita Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth and worshipped Lord Shiva. Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Bhagvan Shiva blessed him and relieved him from the curse of darkness. 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.

Tracing time

The research based on ancient Indian classical texts show that first Somnath Jyotirling Pran-Pratistha was done on the auspicious third day of brighter half of Shravan month during the tenth Treta yug of Vaivswat Manvantar.

Epoch estimation

Swami Shri Gajananand Saraswatiji, Chairman of Shrimad Aadhya Jagadguru Shankaracharya Vedic Shodh Sansthan, Varanasi suggested that the said first temple was built 7,99,25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skand Puran. Thus, this temple is a perennial source of inspiration for millions of Hindus since time immemorial.

Mahmud of Ghazni

In 1024, the temple was destroyed by the prominent Afghan ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni, who raided the temple from across the Thar Desert. The temple was rebuilt by the Paramara king Bhoja of Malwa and the Solanki king Bhimdev I of Anhilwara (now Patan) between 1026 and 1042. This appears to have been a wooden structure, which was replaced by a stone temple by Kumarpal.

Destructed again by Khilji’s army

In 1296, the temple was once again destroyed by Alauddin Khilji’s army. Raja Karan of Gujarat was defeated and forced to flee. According to Taj-ul-Ma’sir of Hasan Nizami, the Sultan boasted that “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.”

Destroyed again

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. In 1375, the temple was once again destroyed by Muzaffar Shah I of the Gujarat Sultanate. In 1451, the temple was once again destroyed by Mahmud Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat.

The ruins of Somanth temple

By 1665, the temple, one of many, was once again ordered destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Later the temple was rebuilt to its same glory adjacent to the ruined one. 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.

The ruins of Somanth temple

By 1665, the temple, one of many, was once again ordered destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Later the temple was rebuilt to its same glory adjacent to the ruined one. 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.

Arrow-Pillar or Baan-Stambh

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.
A splendid sense of space and light

Gently cooled by ocean winds, the temple gives one a glorious sense of space and light. Its main shikhara soars to 155 ft and the stone kalash atop it weighs 10 tonnes. The floral alankara of the huge Shivaling is particularly noteworthy. It is a real treat to participate in the aarti, do so more than once if possible. Drums, cymbals and bells combine to orchestrate a 30-min symphony of music that rises to an inspiring crescendo.

Glorious history

The flag mast on the peak of the temple is 37 feet long and is changed three times during the day. The construction of the present Somnath temple started in 1950. The jyotirlingam pratishthapan ceremony was done by the first president of India, Dr, Rajendra Prasad. All these facts reveal the majesty of the temple and its importance for the devotees.

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