Somnath Temple – Witness of Medieval Devastation

by Aug 13, 2021

Hello everyone, Today we are going to discuss the history of Somnath Temple. It is a historical temple not only from its architectural point of view but also it is the witness of destruction and robberies happened in India.


Placed in a strategic position, the Somnath temple of Gujarat is one of the most auspicious sites of worship in India. People from all over the country flock to this historic site to take blessings from the Lord.

As it is one of the first Jyotirlingas, this place holds a special place in the hearts of many Hindu worshipers across the country. It is a beautifully constructed monument that withstood all the pressures of time. Many people plan their trips to the Somnath temple for a pleasant and spiritually awakening visit.

History of Somnath Temple

Somnath Temple in Ancient Texts

According to ancient texts, several stories and folktales about the origins of the Somnath temple tell different accounts. However, all of them agree the Moon God built the temple. It explains how the temple got its name, as Somnath or Someshwar means ‘the lord of the moon’ or ‘the moon god.’

Many accounts refer to the story of the Moon God. As the story goes, Chandra was married to 27 daughters of an important man, Daksha Prajapati. The problem was, out of all his wives, he loved Rohini the most and, thus, favored her.

Due to this unequal treatment, his other queens became jealous and unhappy. They complained to their father. This, in turn, made Daksha Prajapati angry. He cursed the Moon God in a rage, which resulted in the god losing all his light.

The Moon God decided to worship the most merciful God, Lord Shiva, for many years at the Prabhas Teerth. With time, Lord Shiva became happy with the devotion of the Moon God and freed him from his curse.

According to legends, the Moon God built a golden temple at the same spot where he worshiped Lord Shiva to commemorate the place after his curse was broken.

Although many other Puranic traditions state that the Moon God built the first temple in Somnath. But, even today, we do not have clear evidence of how and when the first temple was built.

Inside view of Somnath Temple

Though some references state that the Chaulukya king had something to do with building the first temple before 997 CE. Most experts believe it was a renovation of a pre-existing structure.

However, according to several official sources, the second temple was built around 649 CE by a Yadava king from Vallabhi. The third temple was built by a Gurjara-Pratihara king around 815 CE.

Attacks on Somnath Temple

According to many historians and experts, the Somnath temple was attacked multiple times throughout history. Invader like Mughal plunged and looted the temple on various occasions.

According to several sources, during the rule of Chaulukya ruler Bhima I, the army of the famous Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni plundered the Somnath temple in 1024 CE. He looted around 20 million dinars’ worth of treasures.

Although Indian records state that not a lot of damage was caused by their attack, the Turko-Persian literature describes this attack in a completely different light. They talk about intricate details about how they victoriously defeated the people and raided the temple.

Apart from Mahmud of Ghazni, an army of Alauddin Khalji, led by Ulugh Khan, also attacked Gujarat in 1299 CE. Khalji defeated the Vaghela king Karna.

Many legends and historical papers shed light on how the idol of Somnath temple and the devotees were recovered by Jalore ruler Kanhadadeva.

Many conflicting reports also talk about the idol being taken to Delhi and being mistreated by Muslim invaders. Although many reports were written about the attack on the Somnath temple, the possibilities for what happened are endless.

During the reign of Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra, the temple was again built around 1308. According to Amir Khusrow, Muslim Gujarati pilgrims visited the temple as late as the 14th century. During 1395 CE, Zafar Khan, founder of Gujarat Sultanate, attacked the temple for the third time.

During 1451 CE, Mahmud Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat, attacked the Somnath temple for the fourth time.

The final blow came in 1665 CE, and it came from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He not only attacked the temple but also threatened devotees from worshiping in the future.

However, a temple was rebuilt in Somnath by Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore after the Maratha expansion in northern India revived the Hindu culture back in full force.

Under British Rule

Postal stamp in honor of Somnath Temple

During the British Rule, a puzzling incident related to the Somnath temple occurred. Edward Law ordered the British army in Afghanistan to bring back the sandalwood gates from the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni to India. It was called the Proclamation of the Gates. They believed that the sandalwood gates were taken from the Somnath temple.

However, after detailed instructions were carried forward and the wooden gates were brought back to India, they realized that they were made of Deodar wood. They did not have Gujarati designs on them. These gates were then kept in the Agra Fort.

Although the Britishers could not land their hands on the gates, the involvement of Edward Law was heavily discussed and debated.

One of the key reasons why the gates became a source of interest to the English earl could be the rumor of a stolen diamond. Unable to recover either, the earl had to explain his actions to the House of Commons.

The Final Reconstruction

After India attained independence, the final plans for the reconstruction of the Somnath temple were laid out under the guidance of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. K. M. Munshi and Gandhiji were amongst the other leaders involved in initiating the temple proposal for rebuilding.

In October 1950, the old structure was pulled down, and the work for a new structure began around. Together the leaders of the new Indian regime worked towards rebuilding the new temple structure.

Although it was attacked countless times, it kept getting rebuilt. In the words of the first Indian president Rajendra Prasad, “The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction.”

The Architecture of Somnath Temple

Beautiful view of Somnath Temple

After the work of reconstruction of the temple began in 1951, the Somnath Mandir trust was established. Under the leadership of architect Chandrakant Sompura, the temple was built by some of the best masons in Gujarat in the traditional Chaulukya style of temple architecture.

Sikhara (the main spire) of the temple is about 15 meters in height. Its flag pole at the top is another 8.2 meters in height.

Even the place where the temple is situated is unique. It was built at the meeting point of Kapila, Hiran, and Saraswati rivers on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Although many texts refer to the Moon God building the first Somnath temple in gold, Ravana later replaced it with a silver temple structure. Lastly, Krishna replaced it with a sandstone structure.

The exterior design of the temple was similar to the Rudra Mahalaya Temple at Siddhpur, which was also desecrated by Mughal rulers. The Somnath temple was rumored to have the biggest dome at one point in history.

At present, it faces the East like in the olden days. It used to have a large central hall adorned by three entrances on three sides.

The intricately carved honey-colored temple structure is carefully designed using some of the best craftsmen in the state. The doorways are heavily carved with figures of Nandi, Vahan of Lord Shiva, and many gods and goddesses.

Although the temple has been reconstructed, parts of the old temple still remain untouched. The Kalash on top of the Shikhar is around 10 tonnes.

The temple structure is about seven floors (storeys) and 155 feet tall. The best feature about this architectural masterpiece is the ornate engravings, silver partitions, convex pyramidal, and the magnificent Nandi idol, which forms one of the major attractions.

The most exciting aspect of the temple is the Sanskrit inscription found on the Bāṇastambha (arrow pillar) near the sea-protection wall. It said, “There is no land between the place where the temple complex lies and Antarctica if you had to draw a straight line to connect the two.”

This inscription turned out to be true because the only landmass near the latitude and longitude of the Somnath temple (20.8880° N and 70.4012° E) is an uninhabited island.

Although this is a Brahmanical temple, the Jaina influences are clearly visible in many places. Apart from the main Shiva temple, the temple complex houses many Hanuman temples and Kapardi Vinayak shrines.

Kamnath Mahadev Temple

Beach view at Somnath Temple

A famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva near the Holy bank of Vatrak, it is also a seat of Shri Sharada Peetam of Sri Adi Shankara.

The temple complex of Kamnath Mahadev Temple is a magnificent structure. It had been built in the 19th century, almost 200 years ago. It is located on the ghats of the Vishwamitri river.

According to many legends, many miracles are associated with this temple.

The main deity, Kamnath, is the central idol surrounded by many smaller structures. The two water bodies inside the temple complex, a holy pond known as Dudhiyu Talav, and a bathing pool called ‘Mahadev no Kund’ are auspicious places to visit inside the temple.

It is believed that King Mayurdhwaj was cured of leprosy after he bathed in Dudhiya Talav. This explains why so many devotees take a dip in this pond. The long and narrow cave in the interiors is believed to be the spot where Adi Shankaracharya meditated for years.

The main attraction is the representation of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Shiva at the opening of the cave.

Due to its historical significance and rumored miracles, devotees from different places visit the Kamnath Mahadeva Temple at the end of the month of Shravan. A grand fair to mark the culmination of this holy period is an event that many devotees attend.

Significance of Somnath Temple

The Somnath temple is considered to be one of the first Jyotirlingas in the country. Jyotirlingas are one of the most auspicious places. Many Shaivas from all over the country flock towards the Somnath temple at different periods.

Owing to various legends and the historical significance of the temple, devotees are exceptionally pleased about traveling to the Somnath temple.

Apart from that, the incredible story of resilience has increased this temple’s glory. Many worshipers who travel to the Somnath temple are looking for peace from their troubled existence.

The scenic beauty surrounding the temple complex that overlooks the Arabian Sea is a sight to withhold.

One of the best things about the Somnath temple was the story of the hidden Shivalinga. It is believed that the Shivalinga was hidden within the hollow space in the Syamantak Mani or the philosopher’s stone.

Now, this stone is believed to have alchemic properties and is also fabled to produce gold. This stone was also believed to have magnetic properties that helped the Shivaling to remain suspended in the air.

Somnath Temple Timings

Sea waves at the Beach of Somnath Temple

If you are looking for the best time to visit Somnath, you can check out the best seasons to visit. Somnath has a mild climate with a moderate temperature ranging from 20 °C to 28 °C during winters and 28 °C to 34 °C during the summers. Although Somnath is open throughout the year, the best season to visit is winter for a pleasant stay.

The Aarti Timings of the Somnath Temple are as follows:

Morning 7.00 AM, 12 Noon and Evening 7.00 PM

Darshan timing is morning 6.00 AM to 9.30 PM

However, these timings are subject to change due to the COVID-19 restrictions. It is better to call and confirm the timings for a better experience.

If you cannot visit the temple, there is a large display board where you can clearly view the Shiva Linga inside and watch the Aarti.

Apart from worshiping and asking for blessings, many devotees find peace after visiting the Somnath temple. Vallabh ghat looks mystical under the sunset rays. Also, the view of the Arabian Sea from Vallabh ghat is splendid.

The temple offers many things to visitors who are looking for inner peace and tranquility.

Hotels Near Somnath temple

The Shri Somnath Trust offers rooms for guests willing to stay at the Somnath temple complex for darshan purpose.

There is VIP Guesthouse, 18 normal guest houses, and an economical dormitory. The trust has around 200 guest houses.

Sr. No.BedTypeTariff(Rs.)Deposit (Rs.)
1.2Deluxe A.C.2250/-3000/-
2.2A.C. SUITE4000/-5000/-
3.2Premier Room3000/-4000/-

Apart from this, there are other living options for stay. You can look at many hotels located in Somnath near the temple complex:

The Fern Residency Somnath: This hotel is 2.7 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath in Veraval.

Hotel Majestic Somnath: This hotel is 2.1 km from the Mahadeva Temple in Somnath.

Hotel Kruti: Present in Somnath, this hotel is 2.2 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

Avadh hotel: Present in Somnath, this hotel is 2.8 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

Sun Plaza: In Veraval, this hotel is 2.6 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

Athiz Inn Somnath: In Somnath, this hotel is 2.4 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

Somnath Sagar: Present in Somnath, this hotel is 2.8 km to Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

Safari Hotel & Resort: Present in Somnath, this hotel is about 3.3 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

The Grand Daksh: Situated in Somnath, this hotel is approximately 4.2 km from Mahadeva Temple.

The Square Somnath: Situated in Somnath, this hotel is 3.1 km to Oyo Rooms Near Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

Avadh hotel: Present in Somnath, this hotel is 2.8 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

The Divine Resort: Present in Veraval, this hotel is 6.9 km from the Mahadeva Temple Somnath.

How to Reach There

Peaceful Night moment at Somnath Temple

Somnath has its own railway station that is well-connected to major cities of India. However, if you do not have direct trains from your town to Somnath, you can travel to other cities.

The railway station closest to Somnath is Veraval. It is located at a distance of only 5 km. Due to frequent trains, it is easier to travel to Somnath from Veraval.

You can also choose to travel to Dui, another well-connected city. The distance between Diu and Somnath is 95 km.

Ahmedabad is another well-connected city in Gujarat. You can travel to Ahmedabad through railways, roads or book a flight. From Ahmedabad, you can easily travel to Veraval Somnath using rail or road facilities. Somnath is 465 km away from Ahmedabad.

Apart from railways, Diu also has an airport, which happens to be the closest airport from Somnath temple. From Dui airport, it costs around INR 2000 to reach Somnath temple.

Places to Visit Around Somnath

There are many tourist spots in and around Somnath. The Gir National Park, home to the Asiatic Lion, is situated around 43 km from Somnath.

This sanctuary is approximately 1400 sq km and was started to protect the lions whose dwindling numbers were less than 200. At present, there are about 285 protected lions. It is a marvelous place to visit with your family and friends.

Another tourist spot is Chorwad, a beach resort developed by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. It is located at a distance of about 26 km from Somnath.

Apart from that, you can even visit Veraval, a major fishing port and the base point for Somnath visits.


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