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History Of Somnath

History Of Somnath

The temple town Somnath has a long and treasured History. Even though it is referred to by several other names, names it acquired in the various phases of History, the name Somnath is unrivalled as far as popularity is concerned. And understandably so because this small town would have faded to oblivion but for the presence of the magnificent Somnath Temple from which it receives its best known name. Somnath is about 5km from Veraval. It is believed that the Somnath temple here was originally built by Somraj, the Moon God himself, out of gold, and then rebuilt by Ravana in silver and then by Krishna in Wood, then by Bhimdev in stone. The Somnath temple which enshrines one of the twelve Jyotirlingas was so highly revered that people from various nook and corners of the country came to offer their prayers here.

Not much is known about the early History of Somnath. However it is popularly believed that the first temple existed even before the commencement of the Christian era. The second was built in the period 480-767 A.D. by the Vallabhi kings. This was again replaced by the Pratihara king Nagabhattta II in 815 A.D.

Somnath rose and fell many a time and the amazing drama for its desecration and the devout Hindu's passionate desire for its restoration continued till the 15th century, when the Hindus finally gave up in absolute misery and built a new temple nearby.

Northern India had attracted Mahmud, for the spoils of its most wealthy temples were already in his treasury. But the rich and prosperous province of Gujarat was still untouched, and on October 18, 1025, he started from Ghazni with his regular troops and thirty thousand volunteer-horsemen for the temple of Somnath, situated at the distance of a bow-shot from the mouth of the Saraswati, by the side of which the earthly body of Lord Krishna had breathed its last. Ghazni Mohammed descended on Somnath in 1024 when the temple was so prosperous that it has 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and 300 barbers to shave the heads of visiting pilgrims. There is a description to this effect by Al Biruni, an Arab traveler. After a two-day battle, Ghazni Mohammed carted off its fabulous wealth and also destroyed the temple, thus setting a model of Muslims destroying the temple and Hindus rebuilding it, for it was razed again in 1297, 1394 and finally in 1706 by Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor who was notorious for such acts.

Mahmud entered the temple and possessed himself of its fabulous wealth. `Not a hundredth part of the gold and precious stones he obtained from Somnath were to be found in the treasury of any king of Hindustan.' Later historians have related how Mahmud refused the huge payment offered by the Brahmans, and preferred the title of `Idol-breaker to that of `Idol-seller'. He struck the idol with his rod and his faithfulness was instantly rewarded by the precious stones that came out of its stomach. This is an impossible story. Apart from the fact that it lacks all current confirmation, the Somnath idol was a solid unsculptured linga, not a statue, and stones could not have come out of its stomach. That the idol was broken is unfortunately true enough, but the offer of the Brahmans, and Mahmud's rejection of the offer, is a tale of later days. The temple, which stands today, was built in the traditional pattern on the original site by the sea.

History of Somnath is punctuated with episodes of demolition and rebuilding at various points of time in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Finally the temple was once again ruined in 1706 by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. After that more than two hundred years passed before Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel finally took upon himself the responsibility of constructing it once again in the year 1947. Much to the glory and pride of not just Somnath but of the whole of India this stunning temple was once again rejuvenated. Presently this "Shrine Eternal" is visited by a large number of pilgrims as well as by common tourists. So without further delay you too can plan your Tour to Somnath to observe this magnificent temple.