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

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.


  • 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.
  • 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....
  • It is appropriate for me to quote here what Swami Vivekananda said about the lesson of medieval iconoclasm in India’s history. ‘Temple after temple was broken down by the foreign conqueror, but no sooner had the wave passed than the spire of the temple rose up again. Some of these old temples of South India, and those like Somnath in Gujarat, will teach you volumes of wisdom, which will give you a keener insight into the history of the race than any amount of books. Mark how these temples bear the marks of a hundred attacks and a hundred regenerations, continually destroyed and continually springing up out of the ruins, rejuvenated and strong as ever! That is the national mind, that is the national life-current. Follow it and it leads to glory.’
  • 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.
  • Muslims must realize and admit the wrongs perpetrated under the Islamic rule.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, 25 December 1947, in reaction to a Urdu poem protesting against the planned rebuilding of the Somnath temple and calling for "a new Ghaznavi to avenge the renovation of the Somnath temple", quoted by Rajmohan Gandhi: Revenge and Reconciliation, p. 237 and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa.
  • Munshi, who visited the site of the desecrated temple in the twentieth century, wrote,
    “The Third Temple of beautiful thin-grained red sandstone was thus destroyed. I saw the steps of the temple, the base of the pillars burnt and the debris of its south wall sloping seaward imbedded in the earth”.
    • K.M.Munshi 1965: 37). quoted from Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history.
  • 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.”
    • Wassaf quoted in Sita Ram Goel, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India (1994)
  • I confess that I do not like the idea of your associating yourself with a spectacular opening of the Somnath Temple. This is not merely visiting a temple, which can certainly be done by you or anyone else but rather participating in a significant function which unfortunately has a number of implications..”
    • Jawaharlal Nehru [1] March 1951. [2] Rajnikant Puranik, [3]
    • “I confess that I do not like the idea of your associating yourself with a spectacular opening of the Somnath temple. This is not merely visiting a temple, which can certainly be done by you or anyone else, but rather participating in a significant function which unfortunately has a number of implications. Personally, I thought that this was no time to lay stress on large-scale building operations at Somnath. This could have been done gradually and more effectively later. However, this has been done. I feel that it would be better if you did not preside over this function,”How past reconstructions of Somnath Temple have reflected politics of the time
  • I mentioned to the President sometime ago that I did not fancy his visiting the Somnath temple on this occasion. He said he had promised to do so and it was difficult for him to get out of his promise. There is nothing more to be done about it. But I have made it clear both to the President and to Mr. Munshi that I do not at all like these activities. …
    • Jawaharlal Nehru [4] Nehru’s note to Secretary-General and Foreign Secretary, MEA: Rajendra Babu had to go as he had promised. 17 April 1951. Selected Works Of Jawaharlal Nehru (2nd series 16 part 1 page 605) [5]
  • I am greatly worried about the Somnath affair. As I feared, it is assuming a certain political importance. Indeed references have been made to it internationally also. In criticism of our policy in regard to it, we are asked how a secular Government such as ours can associate itself with such a ceremony which is, in addition, revivalist in character. Questions are being put to me in Parliament and I am replying to them saying that Government has nothing to do with it and those persons who are connected in any way are functioning entirely in their personal capacity.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru [6]New Delhi April 22, 1951 Letter to Rajendra Babu, Selected Works Of Jawaharlal Nehru (2nd series 16 part 1) [7]
  • But apart from this, I must be quite frank with you about this ceremony. Indeed I have written to you about it in another connection already. I am troubled by this revivalism and by the fact that our President and some Ministers and you as Rajpramukh are associated with it. I think that this is not in line with the nature of our State and it will have bad consequences both nationally and internationally. As individuals, of course, it is open to anyone to do what he chooses in such matters. But many of us happen to be more than private individuals and we cannot dissociate ourselves from our public capacities.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru [8] Nehru’s letter to Jam Saheb: Nehru refuses to attend Somnath ceremony, suggests Jam Saheb to stay away from the ceremony as well New Delhi April 24, 1951 Selected Works Of Jawaharlal Nehru (2nd series 16 part – 1 page 610)[9]
  • When newspaper reports emerged of the Saurashtra government contributing Rs 5 lakh towards the ceremony, he wrote to Prasad, “At any time this would have been undesirable, but at the present juncture, when starvation stalks the land and every kind of national economy and austerity are preached by us, this expenditure by a government appears to me to be almost shocking. We have stopped expenditure on education, on health and many beneficent services because we say that we cannot afford it.” He also wrote to Chief Ministers on May 2, 1951, “It should be clearly understood that this function is not governmental and the GoI has nothing to do with it…We must not do anything that comes in the way of our state being secular.” Another thing Nehru opposed, as Thapar writes, “was a circular sent round to Indian ambassadors, asking them to collect and send to Somanatha containers of water from the major rivers of the countries to which they were accredited, as well as soil and twigs from the mountains of these countries.” Nehru asked the Ministry of External Affairs to ignore these requests.
  • In a letter addressed to the chief ministers on May 2, 1951, Nehru wrote: You must have read about the coming ceremonies at Somnath temple. Many people have been attracted to this and some of my colleagues are even associated with it in their individual capacities. But it should be clearly understood that this function is not governmental and the Government of India as such has nothing to do with it. While it is easy to understand a certain measure of public support to this venture we have to remember that we must not do anything which comes in the way of our State being secular. That is the basis of our Constitution and Governments therefore, should refrain from associating themselves with anything which tends to affect the secular character of our State. There, are, unfortunately, many communal tendencies at work in India today and we have to be on our guard against them. It is important that Governments should keep the secular and non-communal ideal always before them. (as cited by Thapar).
  • 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) [10]
  • Brothers and sisters, our religious books have mentioned Somnath Mandir as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas (the radiant representation of Lord Shiv). Hence, this temple happened to be the centre of religion, culture and wealth in ancient India and was known all around the world. However, although a centre of faith and worship can be demolished, its source can never wither away. And this is the reason why the flame of worship remained illuminated in the hearts of the Indian people despite the temple being vandalised. The dream of those people is now being met as the PRAN-PRATISTHA is being carried out in the presence of people who have come from different parts of the country. The Somnath temple stands today with its head held high proclaiming that one who is loved by the people, and for whom people carry faith and belief in their hearts can never be destroyed by anyone in this world. Come what may, this temple will stand erect till the time people carry faith for this temple in their heart..... On this holy day, we should learn from the PRAN-PRATISHTA of this Somnath Mandir, and all of us should vouch for the re-establishment of the dominance of India in terms of prosperity in the world. ... I think that this PRAN-PRATISHTA will only be completed on the day, we reclaim that dominance and do justice to the Somnath Mandir. Moreover, we should also strive to achieve the level of cultural brilliance which we had in the ancient times so that when people judge us by today's culture, they should know that we are still far better than them. Sardar Vallabhai Patel started this work of re-establishment. He played a vital role in uniting the fragmented states of India and wished in his heart that with that re-establishment, we should also re-establish this ancient heritage of India. God has fulfilled his dream today, but his vision will only be completed when India achieves the cultural glory which it had in the primitive era. LONG LIVE INDIA”
  • He (Ranjit Singh) worshipped as much in Hindu temples as he did in gurudwaras.... When he had the Afghans at his mercy and wrested Kashmir from them, he wanted the gates of the temple of Somnath back from them. Why should he be making all these Hindu demands? Whatever the breakaway that had been achieved from Hinduism, this greatest of our monarchs bridged in 40 years.
    • Khushwant Singh, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Persian poet, Sadi visited Somnath in the thirteenth century. He described his experience in Tale 140 titled, “The idol of Somanth”.
    “An ivory idol I saw in Somnath,
    Encrusted as Manat in pagan days;
    Its form the sculptor so had fashioned
    That no form fairer could be fancied;
    From every region caravans would make their way
    To gain sight of that form without spirit...
    To humble themselves before that tongueless one.
    The inwardness of this I failed to fathom...
    I mildly asked: ‘O Brahmin!
    At the doings in this locality I am amazed!
    These folk are bemused by this impotent image
    And fettered fast within the pit of error:
    His hand has no power, his foot cannot walk,
    And if you cast him down, he'll not rise up again;
    See you not his eyes are amber?
    It’s a mistake to see good-faith from those with stony eyes!’
    That friend at what I said became my enemy;
    In rage, like fire he grew and seized upon me;
    And down into a pit I cast him...
    So with a stone, stone-dead I killed that foul fellow,
    For tales no more are heard from one who's dead;
    But, seeing I had roused a tumult,
    I left that land and fled...”
    • (Sadi 1974: 214-219). quoted from Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history.
  • "This temple of Somnat was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak wood covered with lead. The idol itself was in a chamber; its height was five cubits and its girth three cubits. This was what appeared to the eye but two cubits were (hidden) in the basement. Yaminu'd daula seized it, part of it he burnt, and part of it he carried away with him to Ghazni, where he made it a step at the entrance of the Jami'-masjid.
  • The temple and town of Somniith, Biruni's Somniit, differs from Mathura and Kanauj in that it was not located on either of the sacred rivers of the Yamuna and Ganges. Away from the land- routes, on the peninsula of Kathiawar, it was thought to be relatively safe from Muslim interference. Not being on a sacred river, fresh Ganges water was brought daily for the god's bath.142 On a narrow strip of land, it was fortified on one side, and washed on three sides by the sea, while the tide was looked upon as the worship paid to the god by the sea.I43 Somniith (Skt Soma-niitha, 'lord of the moon') owed its name to the ebb and flow of the sea.144 During lunar eclipses, the crowd of pilgrims visiting the temple could swell to 200,000 or 300,000.14.... It is not possible any longer to identify the exact site of the icon which was thus destroyed, as the whole coastline of this area is littered with ruins. Moreover, there has been a succession of later Muslim invaders who tried to raze the temple to the ground. Time and again the Hindus started rebuilding the monument. This went on for 400 years, until the shrine was finally abandoned. In 1842, the British, after attacking the Mghans at Ghazna, decided to bring back 'the gates of Somnath' to India. Lord Allenborough proclaimed, on that occasion, that he had restored to the princes of India their honour by presenting them with these gates. The gesture, how- ever, merely angered the Muslim princes, while the Maharajas did not want the 'polluted' portal.
    • Wink A. Al-Hind-The-Making-of-the-Indo-Islamic-World-Vol-2-The-Slave-Kings-and-the-Islamic-Conquest-11th-13th-Centuries

Sack of Somnath by Mahmud of Ghazni

Main article: Sack of Somnath

Sack of Somnath by Alauddin Khalji's army, led by Ulugh Khan


Attack on Somnath by Zafar Khan and by Mahmud Begada

  • In AH 797 (AD 1394-95) he proceeded for the destruction of the temple of Somnãt. On the way he made Rajpûts food for his sword and demolished whatever temple he saw at any place.
    • Zafar Khan. Sultan Muzaffar Shah I of Gujarat (AD 1392-1410), Tabqat-i-Akhari, Translated from the Hindi version by S.A.A. Rizvi included in Uttar Taimur Kalina Bharata, Aligarh 1959, Vol. II., p.178
  • “…On the return of Moozuffur Khan to Guzerat, he learnt that in the western Puttun district the Ray of Jehrend, an idolater, refused allegiance to the Mahomedan authority. To this place Moozuffur Khan accordingly marched, and exacted tribute. He then proceeded to Somnat, where having destroyed all the Hindoo temples which he found standing, he built mosques in their stead; and leaving learned men for the propagation of the faith, and his own officers to govern the country, returned to Puttun in the year AH 798 (AD 1395).”
    • Zafar Khan. Sultãn Muzaffar Shãh I of Gujarat (AD 1392-1410)Somnath (Gujarat)
  • In AH 797 (AD 1394-95)… he proceeded for the destruction of the temple of Somnãt. On the way he made Rajpûts food for his sword and demolished whatever temple he saw at any place. When he arrived at Somnãt, he got the temple burnt and the idol of Somnãt broken. He made a slaughter of the infidels and laid waste the city. He got a Jãmi‘ Masjid raised there and appointed officers of the Shari‘h…”“In AH 804 (AD 1401-02) reports were received by Zafar Khãn that the infidels and Hindûs of Somnãt had again started making efforts for promoting the ways of their religion. ‘Ãzam Humãyûn started for that place and sent an army in advance. When the residents of Somnãt learnt this, they advanced along the sea-shore and offered battle. ‘Ãzam Humãyûn reached that place speedily and he slaughtered that group. Those who survived took shelter in the fort of the port at Dîp (Diu). After some time, he conquered that place as well, slaughtered that group also and got their leaders trampled under the feet of elephants. He got the temples demolished and a Jãmi‘ Masjid constructed. Having appointed a qãzî, muftî and other guardians of Shari‘h… he returned to the capital at PaTan.
    • Sultãn Muzaffar Shãh I of Gujarat (AD 1392-1410) Somnath (Gujarat). Tabqãt-i-Akharî by Nizamuddin Ahmad in S.A.A. Rizvi in Uttar Taimûr Kãlîna Bhãrata, Aligarh 1959, Vol. II. p 177 ff.
  • On his return (from Îdar) the Khãn made up his mind to destroy Somnãt, that is, the temple of PaTandev. But in the meanwhile he received a report that ‘Ãdil Khãn, the ruler of Ãsir and Burhãnpur, had crossed the border and stepped into die province of Sultãnpur and Nadrabãr which was under Gujarat… The Khãn postponed his march to PaTandev…In AH 799 (AD 1394-95) he invaded Jahdand (JûnãgaDh) which was in the Kindgdom of Rãi Bhãrã and slaughtered the infidels there. From there he proceeded towards Somnãt, and destroyed the famous temple. He embellished that city with the laws of Islãm.
    • Sultãn Muzaffar Shãh I of Gujarat (AD 1392-1410) Somnath (Gujarat) Mir‘ãt-i-Sikandarî in S.A.A. Rizvi in Uttara Taimûr Kãlîna Bhãrata, Aligarh, 1959, Vol. II, p. 256 , in Hindu Temples, vol 2

Attack on Somnath by Aurangzeb

  • 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.
  • About this time the (new?) temple of Somnath on the south coast of the Kathiawar peninsula was demolished, and the offering of worship there ordered to be stopped. The smaller religious buildings that suffered havoc were beyond count.
    • ‘Anecdotes of Aurangzib and Historical Essays’ by Jadunath Sarkar
  • Neither age nor experience of life softened Aurangzib’s bigotry. When an old man of over eighty, we find him inquiring whether the Hindu worship, which he had put down at Somnath early in his reign, had been revived through the slackness of the local governor...
    • Jadunath Sarkar , History of Aurangzib, Vol III.

See also

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