Thursday, 6 March 2014

Somnath Trip – 9 : Somnath History


Dear friends,

Somnath is an ancient and sacred religious place in India. As we know, Somnath Temple is located at Prabhas Patan, a town near Veraval. Prabhas Patan is today known as Somnath.

In my earler letters to you, I wrote to you about Somnath and Somnath temple. Now let me throw some light on the history of Somnath.

The history of Somnath goes back to very ancient times. References to Somnath are found in ancient Indian Scriptures- in both the Shruti and the Smruti literature. Somnath is referred to in Rigveda, Shrimad Bhagwat, Shiva Purana and some other holy books.

The Sun (Surya Dev) and the Moon (Chandra Dev or Som Dev) are considered Gods in Hindu traditions. As the mythology goes, Chandra Dev (God Moon) got married to 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati (Daksha Prajapati was the ‘maanas putra’ of Brhmaji, the Creator of the Universe). Instead of treating all wives impartially, Som Dev used to treat one of them, Rohini, favourably. The other wives became unhappy. Som Dev invited the wrath of his father-in-law Daksha. Exasperated Daksha cursed Som Dev that he would lose his radiance. Som Dev was worried when his radiance went on diminishing. He prayed to Brahmaji who advised him to pray and please Lord Shiva. 

Som Dev came down to the earth in Saurashtra region in western Gujarat and with austere penance pleased Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva lightened his curse that his radiance would go on diminishing for a fortnight; and it would go on enhancing the next fortnight. Since then, the moon has been waxing and waning every alternate fortnight.

Thanks to Lord Shiva, Som dev regained his radiance. Som Dev regained his ‘Prabha’ (radiance) at this place in Saurashtra (Western Gujarat) which came to be known as PRABHAS (Prabhas Patan near Veraval). Som Dev built a temple of Bhagwan Shiva which came to be known as Somnath Mahadev. 

‘Som’ means Moon and ‘Nath’ means God. Somnath means God of Moon. Thus, Somnath mahadev Temple stands today at Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra (West Gujarat). Friends! You will be pleased to know that this story is nicely narrated in the ‘Sound and Light Show’ at Somnath temple.

Since olden times, Somnath Temple came to be known as a very sacred religious shrine for the Hindus and became popular as a place of pilgrimage in India. Somnath Temple was decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. It boasted of such rich treasures that its stories travelled beyond the boundaries and caught the attention of the foreign invaders.

Your friend, Shivani, has studied history of Somnath well. She is right in saying that Somnath Temple was invaded and destroyed or damaged several times in the last one thousand years. Though historical references are scattered, inadequate and debatable, it is said that it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The most notorious and barbaric attack on Somnath was made by Mohammad Ghazni during his invasion on India in 1025-26 AD. Mohammad Ghazni killed hundreds of people and looted the Somnath Temple. He brazenly looted the precious treasures of Somnath Temple and took away large chunk of wealth looted by his army.

Somnath Temple was restored or reconstructed several times. The important restoration of Temple was done in the eleventh century by King Bhimdev of Gujarat and in the eighteenth century by Queen Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore.

The present-day Somnath Temple is constructed with the inspiration of Sardar Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. The Pran-pratishtha of the Temple was done on 11 may, 1951 by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of independent India.

Even today, periodical renovation work goes on at Somnath Temple.

Isn’t Somnath story very fascinating? 

Visit Somnath and see for youself what Somnath is. 

Inhale the Divine Khushboo Somnath ki! Enjoy Khushboo Gujarat ki!

Jay Somnath!


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