Somnath is also known by several other names -- Deo pattan, Prabhas Pattan or Pattan Somnath -- which it acquired during its long and eventful history. Somnath was once the most revered shrine in the country, for it had one of the twelve pre-eminent Jyotirlingas (the glowing Lingas) which held a special significance for the Hindus. Somnath's glory and fame are legendary. It is said that people from the remotest parts of the country came to at the shrine; revenues collected from ten thousand villages was spent on the maintenance of the temple. Two thousand Brahmins (priests) served the idol and a golden chain attached to a huge bell plate announced the commencement of prayers.
Somnath rose and fell many a time and the amazing drama of the iconoclast's zeal 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 sheer despair and built a new temple nearby.
The present site of Somnath is a pile of ruins and little is known of the early history of this place. It is believed to have been erected by the Vallabhi Kings in about 480-767 A.D. The first temple of Somnath is said to have existed before the beginning of the Christian era. The second temple, built by the Maitraka kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat, replaced the first one on the same site around 649. In 725 Junayad, the Arab governor of Sind, sent his armies to destroy the second temple. The Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple in 815, a large structure of red sandstone. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked this temple in 1026, and looted it of gems and precious stones. He then massacred the worshippers and had the temple burnt. It was then that the famous Shiva lingam of the temple was entirely destroyed. During his campaign mahmud was challenged by Ghogha Rana, who at the ripe age of 90, sacrificed his own clan fighting against this iconoclast. The temple and citadel were sacked, and most of its defenders massacred; Mahmud personally hammered the temple's gilded lingam to pieces and the stone fragments were carted back to Ghazni, where they were incorporated into the steps of the city's new Jamiah Masjid (Friday mosque).
The fourth temple was built by the Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki king Bhima of Gujarat (Anhilwara) between 1026 and 1042. The wooden structure was replaced by Kumarpal who built the temple of stone. The temple was razed in 1297 when the Sultanate of Delhi conquered Gujarat, and again in 1394. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple again in 1706.
The temple is dedicated to Someshwara, the Lord Shiva with moon in his head. The destruction brought upon this temple by Muhammad of Ghazni in 1025 A.D. is an important event in Indian history (see also: a time-line of India). In his blind fury, not only did he despoil an object of beauty but tore up the pages of history, which Somnath bore on its walls. It is said that the temple was supported by pillars which bore the names of its sculptors; this information has been lost to history forever.
In its external design the Somnath temple compares well with the temple of Rudramala at Siddhapur and is more or less of the same size in length. The dome, however, is as large as any other built in this period. The temple faces to east and once had an enormous central hall with three entrances, each protected by a lofty porch. The fragments that lie scattered at a short distance from the site give some idea of the sculpture decorating the temple. The richly carved doorways, the sculptured representations of Nandi, Siva's bull, and the figures of goddesses and their female attendants must once have presented a grand ensemble of great beauty. In the recesses of the balconied corridor, there is a mutilated form of Nataraja, the dancing Shiva. Although essentially a Brahmanical temple, the influence of Jain architecture is clearly discernible.
The Kathiawar style of temple architecture in the 11th century was so widespread that instances of it can be found in Rajasthan too. There is a group of five badly damaged temples at Kiradu in the Mallani district of Marwar, each of which displays many characteristics of the Solanki style of building. Certain Gupta influences are also apparent, obviously arising from their proximity to Gupta territory.
Of these five temples, the one dedicated to Lord Vishnu is probably the oldest, but the best preserved is the elegant shrine of Someshwara. The skeleton of a magnificent pillared hall still bears testimony to the intense devotion with which these deserted structures must once have been built. The square shafts of the richly wrought pillars end in the foliage motif so characteristic of Gupta decorative art, and above this is a circular disc and capital, consisting of four brackets.
The ruins of the Rudramala temple at Siddhapur on the banks of the Saraswati river testify to the ornated grandeur that the Solanki style had achieved when it was nearing its decline in the 12th century A.D. Clearly, this temple must have been one of the biggest and most lavishly decorated structures of its time.
Present State (1997)
The present temple is the seventh temple built on the original site (A mosque present at that site was shifted few miles away). Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, then Home Minister & the first Deputy Prime Minister of India took a pledge on November 13, 1947 for its reconstruction. It was completed on December 1, 1995 and President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma dedicated it in the service of the nation. T
The Present temple, Kailash Mahameru Prasada, is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture and reflects the skill of the Sompuras, Gujarat's master masons. he present temple was built by the Shree Somnath Trust which looks after the entire complex of Shree Somnath and its environs. Such a temple has not been constructed in India during the last 800 years. The temple is situated at such a place that there is no land in between from Somnath seashore to Antarctica. Such an inscription in Sanskrit is found on the ARROW-PILLAR erected on the sea-protection wall at the Somnath Temple.
In 1951 Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, who performed the Jyotirling-Pratishthapan ceremony of the new Temple said, "The Somnath Temple signifies that the power of creation is always greater than the power of destruction."
Today, it can be visited in the State of Gujarat by pilgrims and students of history.
Myths and Legends
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.
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.