Somnath temple

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Perhaps no other pilgrimage in India combines the eternal with the historical as vividly as that to the Somnath temple. ~ L. K. Advani
Whenever I have visited Prabhas Patan and watched the waves of the sea lapping up the feet of the Somnath temple, I have wondered how much of India’s timeless history has been witnessed by this imposing and lonely-looking shrine. ~ L. K. Advani
Mahmud’s sack of Somnath is too well-known to be retold here. What needs emphasising is that the fragments of the famous Šivaliñga were carried to Ghazni. Some of them were turned into steps of the Jama Masjid in that city. The rest were sent to Mecca, Medina, and Baghdad to be desecrated in the same manner. ~ Sita Ram Goel

The Somnath temple located in Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot of Gujarat. Destroyed and reconstructed several times in the past, the present temple was reconstructed in Chaulukya style of Hindu temple architecture and completed in May 1951.

Quotes[edit]

  • There are various accounts of why and how Mahmood Ghazni attacked Somnath. In his book Pakistan or The Partition of India, Dr B.R. Ambedkar refers to the raids on Somnath and quotes the description given by Al’Utbi, the historian of Mahmood Ghazni: ‘He demolished idol temples and established Islam. He captured…cities, and destroyed the idolaters, gratifying Muslims. He then returned home and promulgated accounts of the victories obtained for Islam…and vowed that every year he would undertake a holy war against Hind.’
  • Perhaps no other pilgrimage in India combines the eternal with the historical as vividly as that to the Somnath temple.... Whenever I have visited Prabhas Patan and watched the waves of the sea lapping up the feet of the Somnath temple, I have wondered how much of India’s timeless history has been witnessed by this imposing and lonely-looking shrine.
    Munshi’s novel provides a poignant account of how Somnath was both a witness to, and a target of, foreign invasions during the medieval period. Mahmood Ghazni, a Turkish sultan of the province of Ghazni in Afghanistan, attacked India seventeen times in a span of twenty-five years between the years AD 1001-26. Somnath was a particularly coveted target for him. Muslim chronicles indicate that 50,000 Hindus died in the battle for Somnath in AD 1024. The Shiva lingam was destroyed by the sultan himself. After the battle, Mahmood and his troops are believed to have carried away vast amounts of gold and other riches stored in the temple. They are also said to have taken Hindu statues and buried them at the entrance of a mosque in Ghazni so that the faithful could trample on them. Munshi’s novel describes not only the destruction and pillage of the Somnath temple, and the betrayal by some Hindus on account of petty caste considerations, but also the heroic defence by its devotees, who would reconstruct it after each successive attack.
  • Describing Somnath temple as a symbol of national faith, the President elaborated: ‘By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath is to say proclaiming to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts… Today, our attempt is not to rectify history. Our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith, convictions and to the values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages.’
    It is not out of place here to mention that the news of the reconstruction of the Somnath temple met with angry condemnation in Pakistan. A public meeting was held in Karachi to denounce the Indian government’s action.
    The Somnath temple today stands as a sobering reminder that a weak nation that cannot defend itself against external attacks stands to lose much more than its political freedom; it risks losing its cultural heritage, which is the heart and soul of India. By reconstructing the Somnath temple, as one of the early acts of the Government of India, Sardar Patel and Munshi, with the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi and Rajendra Prasad, made it a proud testimony of India’s determination to erase the history of bigoted alien attacks and regain its lost cultural treasure....
  • The linga he raised was the stone of Somnath, for soma means the moon and natha means master, so that the whole word means master of the moon. The image was destroyed by the Prince Mahmud, may God be merciful to him! - AH 416. He ordered the upper part to be broken and the remainder to be transported to his residence, Ghaznin, with all its coverings and trappings of gold, jewels, and embroidered garments. Part of it has been thrown into the hippodrome of the town, together with the Cakrasvamin, an idol of bronze, that had been brought from Taneshar. Another part of the idol from Somanath lies before the door of the mosque of Ghaznin, on which people rub their feet to clean them from dirt and wet.
    • E.C. Sachau (tr.), Alberuni's India, New Delhi Reprint, 1983. Also quoted in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • At that date, the Mohammedan conqueror, Mahmoud of Ghizni, crossed India; seized on the holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of its treasures the famous temple, which had stood for centuries--the shrine of Hindoo pilgrimage, and the wonder of the Eastern world.
  • From the time Muslims started arriving, around 632 AD, the history of India becomes a long, monotonous series of murders, massacres, spoliations, and destructions. It is, as usual, in the name of 'a holy war' of their faith, of their sole God, that the barbarians have destroyed civilizations, wiped out entire races. Mahmoud Ghazni was an early example of Muslim ruthlessness, burning in 1018 of the temples of Mathura, razing Kanauj to the ground and destroying the famous temple of Somnath, sacred to all Hindus.
  • The Somnath Mahadev Temple is an important place of worship in Daman. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple situated in the village Dabhel. It is believed that the Shiva Linga originated at its present place on the request of a monk who was a devotee of Shiva. The miraculous incident is believed to have taken place in the 19th century, which induced people to hold this place as holy and they built a small temple. It was rebuilt in the year 1972-73 with glass decorative. Every year there is a fair organized here known as “Gangaji Fair”. Other location of interest are Devka beach and Jampore Beach.
  • Alauddin became Sultan in 1296 AD. In 1298 AD he equipped an expedition to Gujarat under his generals Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan. The invaders plundered the ports of Surat and Cambay. The temple of Somnath, which had been rebuilt by the Hindus, was plundered and the idol taken to Delhi for being trodden upon by the Muslims. Kamala Devi, the queen of Gujarat, was captured along with the royal treasury, brought to Delhi and forced into Alauddin’s harem.
    • Sita Ram Goel: The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India.
  • Mahmud’s sack of Somnath is too well-known to be retold here. What needs emphasising is that the fragments of the famous Šivaliñga were carried to Ghazni. Some of them were turned into steps of the Jama Masjid in that city. The rest were sent to Mecca, Medina, and Baghdad to be desecrated in the same manner.
    • Sita Ram Goel: The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India.
  • But so far as the Hindus are concerned, this period was a prolonged spell of darkness which ended only when the Marathas and the Jats and the Sikhs broke the back of Islamic imperialism in the middle of the 18th century. The situation of the Hindus under Muslim rule is summed up by the author of Tãrîkh-i-Wassãf in the following words: “The vein of the zeal of religion beat high for the subjection of infidelity and destruction of idols… The Mohammadan forces began to kill and slaughter, on the right and the left unmercifully, throughout the impure land, for the sake of Islãm, and blood flowed in torrents. They plundered gold and silver to an extent greater than can be conceived, and an immense number of precious stones as well as a great variety of cloths… They took captive a great number of handsome and elegant maidens and children of both sexes, more than pen can enumerate… In short, the Mohammadan army brought the country to utter ruin and destroyed the lives of the inhabitants and plundered the cities, and captured their off-springs, so that many temples were deserted and the idols were broken and trodden under foot, the largest of which was Somnãt. The fragments were conveyed to Dehlî and the entrance of the Jãmi‘ Masjid was paved with them so that people might remember and talk of this brilliant victory… Praise be to Allah the lord of the worlds.”
    • Sita Ram Goel, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India (1994)
  • SOMNAT. A celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnat. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honour among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand. They believed that the souls of men used to meet there after separation from the body, and that the idol used to incorporate them at its pleasure in other bodies in accordance with their [p. 134] doctrine of transmigration. The ebb and flow of the tide was considered to be the worship paid to the idol by the sea. Everything of the most precious was brought there as offerings, and the temple was endowed with more than 10,000 villages. There is a river (the Ganges) which is held sacred, between which and Somnat the distance is 200 parasangs. They used to bring the water of this river to Somnat every day, and wash the temple with it. A thousand brahmans were employed in worshipping the idol and attending on the visitors, and 500 damsels sung and danced at the door-all these were maintained upon the endowments of the temple. The edifice was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak, covered with lead. The shrine of the idol was dark, but was lighted by jewelled chandeliers of great value. Near it was a chain of gold weighing 200 mans. When a portion (watch) of the night closed, this chain used to be shaken like bells to rouse a fresh lot of brahmans to perform worship. When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud bin Subuktigin went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans. He arrived there in the middle of Zi-l k'ada, 416 A.H. (December, 1025 A.D.). The Indians made a desperate resistance. They would go weeping and crying for help into the temple, and then issue forth to battle and fight till all were killed. The number of the slain exceeded 50,000. The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil, and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver and vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temples of the idols [p. 135] exceeded twenty thousand thousand dinars. When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without proper support, several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did, but met with no obstacle. One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skilfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on anyone side-- hence the idol was suspended in the middle. Some coincided, others differed. Permission was obtained from the Sultan to remove some stones from the top of the canopy to settle the point. When two stones were removed from the summit the idol swerved on one side, when more were taken away it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.
    • Asaru-l Bilad of Zakari’ya Al Kazwini (b. in Kazwin, Persia; written c. 1270 CE) In The History of India as Told by its own Historians. Vol I, 97-99. [1] Also quoted in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • The temple of Somnath was demolished early in my reign and idol worship (there) put down. It is not known what the state of things there is at present. If the idolaters have again taken to the worship of images at the place, then destroy the temple in such a way that no trace of the building may be left, and also expel them (the worshippers) from the place.'
    • Aurangzeb: Kalimat-i-Tayyibat, quoted in Sarkar, Jadu Nath, History of Aurangzeb, Vol. III, pp. 185-86.
  • “The Mlechchha (asura) stone breakers climbed up the shikhar of the Temple and began to rain blows on the stone idols on all three sides by their hammers, the stone pieces falling all around. They loosened every joint of the Temple building, and then began to break the different layers (thara) and the sculptured elephants and horses carved on them by incessant blows of their hammers. Then, amidst loud and vulgar clamour, they began to apply force from both the sides to uproot the massive idol by means of wooden beams and iron crowbars”
  • Dr. Mishra has also given a detailed account of Hindu heroism in defence of Somanath which Mahmud had attacked in AD 1026. According to Firishta, “The battle raged with great fury, victory was long doubtful.” According to another Muslim account, “Fifty thousand infidels were killed round about the temple.” Dr. Misra comments: “The like of this faith which inspired these fifty thousand sons of the soil to embrace death will be hard to find in the annals of any other land.”
    • Ram Gopal Misra, Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 A.D., Anu Books, Shivaji Road, Meerut city, 1983. Quoted by: Goel, S. R. (1984). History of heroic Hindu resistance to Muslim invaders, 636 AD to 1206 AD.
  • Allãh the Exalted may assign this (reward) to one who builds a house in the path of Allãh… [This auspicious mosque was built]. on the twenty-seventh of the month of RamaDãn, year [sixty-two]. and six hundred from migration of the Prophet (23rd July AD 1264), in the reign of the just Sultãn and [die generous king]. Abu’l-Fakhr (lit., father of pride), Ruknu’d-Dunyã wa’d-Dîn (lit., pillar of State and Religion), Mu’izzu’l-Islãm wa’l-Muslimîn (lit. source of glory for Islãm and the Muslims), shadow of Allãh in [the lands], one who is victorious against the enemies, (divinely) supported prince, Abi’n-Nusrat (lit., father of victory), Mahmûd, son of Ahmad, may Allãh perpetuate his… and may his affair and prestige be high, in the city of Somnãt (i.e. Somnath), may God make it one of the cities of Islãm and [banish?]. infidelity and idols…
    • English translation of Arabic inscription on a mosque in Prabhas Patan. Z.A. Desai :Epigraphia Indica-Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1961, quoted from Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. (Second Enlarged Edition) [2]
  • “The destruction of the temple of Somnãth, was looked upon as the crowning glory of Islam over idolatry, and Sultãn Mahmûd as the champion of the Faith, received the applause of all the Muslim world. Poets vied with each other in extolling the real or supposed virtues of the idol-breaker and the prose writers of later generations paid their tribute of praise to him by making him the hero of numerous ingenious stories.”
    • Muhammad Nãzim. The Lift and Times of Sultãn Mahmûd of Ghazna, second edition, 1971, p. 219. quoted from Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. (Second Enlarged Edition) [3]
  • While rejecting the offer of the BrãhmaNas to ransom the idol of Somnath with its weight in gold, Mahmûd is supposed to have said, “I am afraid that on the Day of Judgment when all the idolaters are brought into the presence of Allãh, He would say, ‘Bring Ãdhar and Mahmûd together one was idol-maker, the other idol-seller’... The Sultãn... then ordered a fire to be lighted round it. The idol burst and 20 manns of precious stones poured out from its inside. The Sultãn said, ‘This (fire) is what Lãt13 (by which name ATTãr calls Somnãth) deserves; and that (the precious stones) is my guerdon from my God.”
    • Mahmud of Ghazni is made to show his preference for the title of idol-breaker to that of idol-seller. Shykh Farîdu’d-Dîn ATTãr:ManTiqu’t-Tair cited by Muhammad Nãzim. The Lift and Times of Sultãn Mahmûd of Ghazna, second edition, 1971, quoted from Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. (Second Enlarged Edition) [4]
  • “It is stated, that shortly after the birth of Mahmûd, the astrologers of India divined that a prince had been born at Ghazna who would demolish the temple of Somnãth. They therefore persuaded Rãjã Jaipãl to send an embassy to Mahmûd while he was still a boy, offering to pay him a large sum of money if he promised to return the idol to the Hindûs whenever he captured it. When Mahmûd captured Somnãth the Brahmins reminded him of his promise and demanded the idol in compliance with it. Mahmûd did not like either to return the idol or to break his promise. He therefore ordered the idol to be reduced to lime by burning and when, on the following day, the Brahmins repeated their demand, he ordered them, to be served with betel-leaves which had been smeared with the lime of the idol. When the Brahmins had finished the chewing of the betel-leaves they again repeated their demand, on which the Sultãn told them that they had the idol in their mouths.”
    • Futûhu’s-Salãtîn cited by Muhammad Nãzim. The Lift and Times of Sultãn Mahmûd of Ghazna, second edition, 1971, quoted from Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. (Second Enlarged Edition) [5]
  • Even a sufi of the stature of Fariduddin Attar relates with great approval the following tale in his Mantiq-ut-Tãir: “It is said that when the Sultan (Mahmud Ghaznavi) captured Somnath and wanted to break the idol, the Brahmins offered to redeem it with its weight in gold. His officers pointed out to him the advantage of accepting the offer, but he replied: ‘I am afraid that on the day of judgement when all the idolaters are brought into the presence of God, He would say, bring Adhar and Mahmud together; one was an idol-maker, the other an idol-seller.’ The Sultan then ordered a fire to be lighted round it. The idol burst and 20 manns of precious stones poured out from its inside.”
    • Fariduddin Attar quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. ISBN 9788185990231
  • It is said by Lane Poole that Muhammad of Ghazni " who had vowed that every year should see him wage a holy war against the infidels of Hindustan " could not rest from his idol-breaking campaign so long as the temple of Somnath remained inviolate. It was for this specific purpose that he, at the very close of his career, undertook his arduous march across the desert from Multan to Anhalwara on the coast, fighting as he went, until he saw at last the famous temple: "There a hundred thousand pilgrims were wont to assemble, a thousand Brahmins served the temple and guarded its treasures, and hundreds of dancers and singers played before its gates. Within stood the famous linga, a rude pillar stone adorned with gems and lighted by jewelled candelebra which were reflected in rich hangings, embroidered with precious stones like stars, that decked the shrine..... Its ramparts were swarmed with incredulous Brahmins, mocking the vain arrogance of foreign infidels whom the God of Somnath would assuredly consume. The foreigners, nothing daunted, scaled the walls; the God remained dumb to the urgent appeals of his servants; fifty thousand Hindus suffered for their faith and the sacred shrine was sacked to the joy of the true believers. The great stone was cast down and its fragments were carried off to grace the conqueror's palace. The temple gates were setup at Ghazni and a million pounds worth of treasure rewarded the iconoclast "
    • Lane Poole quoted in B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)

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