Updated: Sep 7
What is special about Somnath temple ?
Among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva, the Somnath Temple in Gujarat is counted as the first one. The Somnath Jyotirling Temple has a very ancient history that is borne out by archaeological excavations. Here is the story of Somnath Jyotirlinga from Shiva Purana.
What is the history of Somnath temple ?
The Somnath temple, located in Prabhas Patan (also known as Somnath Patan or Prabhas Kshetra), in Gujarat, is considered to be the first among the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Despite having been reconstructed several times after repeated destruction by Muslim invaders and rulers from the 11th to the 18th century, the Somnath Jyotirlinga continues to be a holy pilgrimage site for Hindus. Prabhas finds mention as a holy site even in Rig Veda and Bhagvada Purana. It is from this temple that people begin their “Dwadasha (twelve) Jyotirlinga Pilgrimage”. The legend of the origin of this Jyotirlinga is described in Shiva Purana.
What is the story of Somnath Jyotirling ?
Long ago, there was a divine king, Prajapati Daksh, who was a son of Brahma himself. He married his 27 daughters, who were beautiful constellations, to the bright and luminous Chandra (Moon). The magnificence of the daughters and the splendour of Chandra complimented each other. However, Chandra loved one of the wives, Rohini, the most, and disregarded the rest of his wives. This made them very unhappy. Together, the 26 daughters went to their father King Daksh and told him how Chandra was favouring only Rohini, neglecting them.
Daksh was disheartened to know his daughters’ situation. He went to Chandra and advised, “Oh Chandra, you come from a glorious lineage and must know how to treat others in a fair and just way. All your wives are equal, do not discriminate among them. You must not be partial to Rohini. Discrimination is a sinful behaviour that will take you to naraka (hell).” Trusting Chandra to mend his ways, Daksh returned to his home.
Despite the rebuke from King Daksh, Chandra continued to be obsessed with Rohini, ignoring all the other wives. When his daughters complained again that Chandra had not changed his behaviour, Daksh was enraged. He approached Chandra again and said, “Oh Chandra, I requested you to stop your discriminatory behaviour and to treat all your wives with love and respect. However, you have ignored my advice. I am cursing you today that you will be afflicted with consumption (tuberculosis) and lose all your radiance!”
As soon as King Daksh uttered these words, Chandra was afflicted with consumption and wasted away into nothingness within moments. He lost his beauty and radiance. The moon is an important factor in the stability of the earth. The shrinking of Chandra immediately affected the tides on the earth, stopped the growth of crops and destabilized all the three worlds or realms (Prithvilok or Earth, Swargalok or Heaven, and Paataal-lok or the Nether World) leading to a great outcry among all the residents. Seeing this, Indra, the King of devatas (gods) and Swargalok, along with all the other devatas and sages, went to the supreme creator, Maharishi Parampita Brahma and told him everything about Chandra.
Lord Brahma said, “Dear gods and sages, whatever has happened cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, I can offer you a solution to the problem. Go to Chandra and tell him to go to the holy place (which later came to be called Prabhas), create a pond there, and worship Lord Shiva by doing the Mahamritunjaya Jaap (Rudra Mantra or Tryambakam Mantra, addressed to Shiva) according to the prescribed ceremony. Chandra must install a Shivalinga in front of himself and pray to Shiva continually. Lord Shiva will be appeased by this worship and free him of this wasting disease.”
Thus, on the instructions of the gods and sages, Chandra went to Prabhas. The gods created a pond there called the Chandrakunda. Chandra would take a holy bath in that pond every day and worship Shiva, conforming to the rituals. Chandra did a severe penance, continuously praying to Lord Shiva for six months. Eventually, Lord Shiva was pleased with Chandra’s sincere worship and appeared in a formless way to him and said, “Blessings to you, O Chandra! You can ask me for a boon. Ask whatever your heart desires.” Hearing these words of Lord Shiva, Chandra fell at his feet and asked with folded hands, “Oh Lord of Lords, if you are pleased with me, please make my body free of the consumption that ails me. Please forgive me for my wrongdoings.” Lord Shiva replied, “O Chandra, you have committed a grave sin. I cannot reverse the curse of King Daksh, but I can modify it. I bless you so that you will grow weaker kala (1/16th part of the Moon) by kala, every day for a fortnight (known as paksha) and again grow stronger and luminous every day, kala by kala, during the next fortnight!”
Elated and grateful, Chandra sang a hymn to Lord Shiva, which pleased him so much that from his formless appearance, Lord Shiva manifested in a bodily form to Chandra. He appeared in the form of a Linga (a sign or symbol of Shiva), Someshwar, and became famous in all the three realms as Somnath Jyotirlinga.
Even today, the waxing and waning of the moon reminds us that it is a sin to discriminate against others. It is believed that any person who goes to Somnath to worship this Jyotirlinga with devotion becomes cured of diseases like consumption and leprosy. Anyone who takes a bath in the pond, Chandrakunda, also known as Somnath Kund, is said to get rid of all their sins.
What is the meaning of Somnath ?
The word Soma means the Moon, and Someshwar or Somnath denotes the form of Shiva that manifested to Moon. The place itself got its name Prabhas (meaning “lustre’) from Chandra regaining his shine here. It is believed that the original temple was built in four phases. The first building was made of gold, built by Chandra, which was followed by a silver temple built by Ravana, the King of Lanka. Later, Lord Krishna rebuilt it with sandalwood, while more recently, Bhimdeva (Ruler of Gujarat during Solanki Rajput reign) rebuilt it with stone. Another belief is that Lord Krishna left his mortal body in a forest near the Somnath Temple, which is now known as Bhalka Teertha.
How many times was Somnath temple attacked ?
The Somnath temple is like the mythical phoenix, having been destroyed and rebuilt at least 17 times through the centuries. Mahmud of Ghazni was a Turkish invader who looted the temple many times between 1000 AD to 1024 AD. The remains of many former temples of ancient times have also been unearthed during recent excavation works. The archaeological relics, like sculptures, building parts and inscriptions, are displayed in a museum in Prabhas Patan
Things to know about Somnath jyotirling
Can we touch the Somnath jyotirling ?
No one is allowed to touch the jyotirling apart from the priests of the temple
What is the best time to travel to Somnath ?
Best months to visit Somnath are between October to February. The winters start from November and last till February end. The temperature during these months range between 10 degree to 30 degree Celsius
Which airport is nearest to Somnath temple ?
Nearest airport to Somnath is Diu airport which is approximately 80 km from the temple and its takes around 2.5 hours by taxi to travel between the two places
What are the other famous places to visit around Somnath temple ?
Some of the famous must visit places are:
Gir Wildlife Sanctuary
Prabhas Patan Museum
Veneshwar Mahadev Temple
Laxmi Narayan Temple