Somnath is one of the holiest and most visited pilgrimage sites for Hindu devotees all over India as it is the first out of twelve Jyotirlinga (Representation of Lord Shiva). The temple town of Somnath is located near Veraval in Gujarat and has a history that is both glorious and tragic.
The exact date of construction of the first temple is ancient and unknown. The first temple is said to have been built by the Moon God (Soma), thus the name Somnath, as repentance for a curse which robbed him of his lustre. Another popular legend associated with the temple is that Lord Krishna was shot by an arrow when he was resting under a tree near Somnath. He limped to the spot where the three great rivers Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati converged into the ocean and breathed his last at the very spot.
All of the above legends made Somnath a very important holy destination and pilgrims, sadhus and kings from all over ancient India flocked to the temple to seek blessings. The temple received gifts and wealth beyond imagination and as a result was a target of a series of plundering by invaders over centuries.
But each time the temple was ransacked and destroyed, the devotees responded with equal gusto and rebuilt the temple every time. That is why the temple stands as a symbol of the indomitable spirit and tremendous faith shown by its devotees. The present and newest temple which stands there was built in 1951 due to the efforts of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel.
The temple attracts pilgrims and tourists from around the globe each year and is a sight to behold on the festival of Maha Shivratri when all the ghats and temples are full with priests and devotees doing pujas and artis and chants of Aum Namah Shivay echoing everywhere. The mood is extremely jubilant with a lot of bhang thandai (local drink made of cannabis and sweet milk) being drunk and a general festive atmosphere.
Somnath is much more than a temple to its devotees; it’s the place where they feel connected to the supreme entity itself. They say one can find all answers in Somnath, if only the questions asked are correct and the person asking them pure at heart.
Andrew ScrivenerCity: Somnath