Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Somnath - The famous shore temple of Gujarat

Somnath was the most richly as well as revered and remembered holy pilgrimage of India in and around 6th century on the bank of Arabian sea.

History of Somnath:

Marco Polo spoke highly of Somnath in his voyage memoirs & records. Arabian historian Al Beruni expressed his appreciation regarding Somnath Temple. Puranic legend says that in Satyayug, Somnath temple was made of gold, by Somraj; in Treta, the period of Ramayana, the temple was made of silver by the King of Lanka, Ravana; in Dwapar Sree Krishna built the temple with sandal wood in the Mahabharata era and last of all in Kaliyug, Bhimdev built Somnath Temple in marble. Once upon a time, there were 300 maestros, 500 dancing girls in the temple to worship the deity. 2000 priests were to perform daily ritual of the deity and 300 barbers were employed to tonsure the Brahmins. Water from Ganges and flowers from Kashmir used to be brought for use in the prayer and worship.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

Mahmood, the Sultan of Gazni first invaded Somnath in 1026 AD. The temple was devastated in 2 days of war and Mahmood ransacked the wealth of temple. Legend says that, the golden phallus or the sacred representation of Lord Shiva was split into pieces, one of which was sent to Mecca, one to Madina and the last two pieces were taken by the Sultan to Gazni. He also took the sandalwood doors of the temple away. The temple of Somnath was attacked 17 times by Muslim invaders from outside. The Temple had been devastated repeatedly (in 1026,1297,1394,1469,1530,1706 AD) and the deity was destroyed. Lured by the temple's fabled wealth of gold & precious gems, raiders came in hordes. In 1706, Aurangzeb destroyed the holy shrine for the 5th time. On 12 May, 1947 a proposal was made by Sardar Ballavbhai Patel to remake the temple and on 8 May, 1950, on the coastal belt of Arabian sea at the old original place of the temple, the present temple was built on Adi BrahmahshilaMahameruh. The temple was made of sandstone. The architect of the temple was C C Sompura. The temple is an example of sculptural beauty with silver gates. On 12 May, 1951 Dr Rajendra Prasad installed the deity - at the heart of the temple. With the biggest and one of the most important of the 12 Jyotirlingas (Swayambhu) the deity is of (in silver) Someswar Mahadeva. The king of snakes rears his hood as a canopy over the head of the deity There are many variations in performing prayers to the deity and related practices. The deity is beyond common people's reach as their entry in the sanctum of the temple is prohibited. One has to remain satisfied viewing the deity from a distance. The Arati ritual is held at 7-00 in the morning, 12 at noon and 7-00 in the evening.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

The Somnath Temple:
On the 1st and 2nd floor, the history of Somnath is exihibited in pictures. The temple remains open from 6-00 am to 9 -30 pm. The restless Arabian sea hisses below, the beach and the walls of the temple are awash with relentless waves.

The entrance is through the 51 ft high Digvijay Gate. A10 ton pot or holy kaloa has been installed atop the 155 ft summit. The ruins of old temples are no more there. However, some of the artifices & models of old sculpture & architecture are exhibited at Pravash Patan Museum. Collection of waters of Seven Seas (Danube, Nile, St Lawrence, Tigris, Muray, Hobart, Newzealand) are also kept there. The museum remains open from 9-00 am to 12-00 pm & 3-00 pm to 5-30 pm except Wednesdays and holidays.

The statue of Sardar Ballavbhai Patel (1875-1950) is installed at the side of the gate. Behind there is a comparatively new temple built in the memory of the temple built by Ahalyabai in 1783.

Down 23 flights of steps at the heart of the temple is situated huge Somnath on the seat of God—the jade black God against the backdrop of white cotton Gouripatta. In front of the deity is his carrier Nandi of white color. Above that resides Lord Shiva, the Ahalyeswar. Till today the holy deities are all being worshipped. Besides, there are 12th century Parvati Temple, Debi of Hameerji Lathia, Gajendra Puma Palace or Chandra Prabha Jain Temple and some other temples too around Somnath. Kartick Purnima and Mahashivaratri are the two most auspicious occasions at Somnath.

Mythological story of Somnath:

The whole place is replete with poetic association to Puranic mythology. The Purana says, Som or Moon God was cursed by his father-in-law Prajapati for showing favour to one of his wives, in spite of being married to Daksha's 27 daughters and thereby he lost his radiance. Daksha then advised him to bathe in the water of the confluence and sit in meditation seeking the blessings from Shiva. Thus Som acted accordingly & regained his glory. The Puranic imagery of the lunar cycle gave birth to a celestial myth. The popular belief turned it into a religious ritual and the place became a pilgrim centre and named Som Tirtha or, Pravash Patan. Lord Brahma ordered Som to build the temple of Somnath.

Close to the temple is Pandava Cave. It is told in the Srimad Bhagabat Geeta that Mahatma Vidura of Mahabharata ended his mortal journey in Pravash Tirtha. While in exile, Yudhistir visited Pravash Tirtha and offered his prayer Tarpan and sat in meditation.

At the end of the road there is Gita Bhawan.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

Sri Krishna left the world from this place only. While Sree Krishna was at rest on an arm of a tree, Jara, a hunter mistook him for a deer and let loose his arrow which pierced through Sree Krishna's foot and caused his death. But the particular tree, believed to be the last refuge of Sri Krishna stands across the ages. The tree however, is encircled by a dais. The parallel second school of thought says Sree Krishna was pierced with the arrow in Bhaluka and he was brought here by the Gods of Heaven and he heaved his last breath here. At the Triveni ghat, Arjun performed funeral rituals of Sree Krishna and Balaram. A sacrificial dais has been erected commemorating the occasion.

In course of time, Gita Mandir had been built. A cave tunnel reached underneath the Gita Mandir from the seat of meditation of Parasuram. Legend says, by this cave tunnel the wealth of the temple had been taken to keep them safe from the invaders.

How to see around Somnath:

In 3 to 4 hrs, the whole area you can see by walking. Auto and tonga are also available on contract. It does not require one to stay at Somnath for more than a day. It is possible to go and come back the same day from Diu by taxi from Somnath. The distance is only 87 km.

Places to see near Somnath:

Kamyak forest

In between of Somnath and Verabal is situated the Kamyak forest (of the Mahabharata) or Bhaluka or Bhaluka Tirtha Mandir. By Town bus, auto or tonga, you may view this Krishna Temple. While the Jadu Dynasty was ruined, having been cursed by Kaurav-mother Gandhari and other sages, Krishna visited Pravash Tirtha to attain peace. However, he found his nemesis in Jara the hunter. If one takes a dip in the kund adjoining this temple on Sukla Dwadashi Tithi, surely he will find his place in heaven, as believed by the devotees. Sree Krishna had washed his bleeding foot here in this kund. It is thus known as Padam Kund ( padam means foot). The legendary 3 rivers as referred in Purana has become non existent in Bhaluka; but Pravash Tirtha is coherent with the reference to Purana is still there in its full glory.

How to reach Somnath

Verabal is one hour journey from Sasan Gir and the railway link station of Somnath. Direct buses run from Gir to Somnath. Leaving Ahmedabad at 21-45,9946 Girnar Exp, 9924 Somnath Mail at 23-00 reach Verabal next day at 8-20/ 11-05 respectively. Trains coming via Botad, Dhola, Jetalsar, Junagadh, Chorwad Rd. From Verabal Junction. Holy Somnath is only 6 km from the station. Frequent GSRTC buses, auto, tonga, taxi go to Somnath.

Reservation is also available at Somnath Mail. 9838 Rajkot-Verabal Mail at 10-55 coming from Rajkot via Junagadh, reaches Verabal in 5 hours.

Buses ply to different directions of the state via Verabal from Somnath. Buses ply— Ambaji ; Una , Diu, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Porbandar, Ahmedabad, Surat. The distance from Somnath to Diu is 84 km, Gir 46 km, Dwarka 250 km, Porbandar 122 km, Ahmedabad 416 km, Rajkot 200 km.

Accommodation at Somnath:

Adjoining the temple comples with more than 200 rooms Sri Somnath Temple Trust is there at a very cheap rate but comfortable for staying. Dharamshala is also there, run by the Temple Committee. Wide and big rooms, beds are available on hire. Mandir Committee also arranges food for tourists on extra payment.

You can make advance booking with the Temple Committee Rest House by writing to Manager, Somnath Temple Trust, Prabhas Patan-362268.

At District Panchayats Pathikashram, rooms are available.

There are also some private lodges at Somnath. Beside the temple:

Pravas Guest House - opposite the bus stand , Hotel Mayuratn, Triveni Road, are good for staying. There are Bhatia, Singhania, Gobardhan Bhawan, Satkar and many other dharamshalas.

Brahnmahsakti Hotel is very famous for catering sumptuous dishes. Equally good is Ram Bharosa.

Alternatively you can choose to stay at Veraval instead of Somnath

About Veraval:

Veraval is an industry based commercial city. Known as a pott city in the past, of late, it has become fishing city, a centre of sea fishing, fish trading and processing. For Mecca pilgrimage, Veraval was the main port before Surat. Cargo ships from Veraval visit Middle East countries. Dry fish processing has become a cottage industry. Similarly, Veraval has a large number of piggeries.

Accommodation at Veraval:

Circuit House at College Rd,
TCGL's Toran Holiday Home Ph: (02876) 245688, the view of sunset from Toran is beautiful.
Hotel Shivam, Hotel Park, Verabal-Junagadh Road, Ph: 222702, Satkar Hotel, Hotel Minakshi, Chetna, Aram Griha, Hotel Moon, Ajanta Guest House., Hotel Kasturi Ph: 222187.
At railway station, Chandrani Guest House, Sri Niwas Guest House; Hotel Supreme are few more private hotels.
There are also Dharamshalas and Railway Retiring Room at Veraval.

Non-vegetarian dishes are available in Veraval hotels. Satkar at bus stand, Swati and New Apsara near railway station, Ali Baba near Park Hotel is famous for sea fish.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

1 comment:

Akash Rughani said...

Between Veraval and Somnath there are buses departing from the bus stands every fifteen minutes for a few rupees. To go between Veraval and Somnath by auto-rickshaw is around Rs 50. You can hire a rickshaw to take you to the Somnath Temple, stopping on the way at Bhalka Tirtha and Triveni Tirtha.