Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jyotirling Yatra1 - Somnath

Having a made a decision to visit all the shiva temples , the jyotirlings were on top of the wish list. We had been visiting them over the years. Hence these updates will be a few years old.

Somnath is the first among the twelve Aadi Jyotirlings. Located  on the western coast of India, itderives its name from the tradition that the first temple was built by the Moon God in gratitude to the Lord Shiva for ridding him of a curse placed on him by his father in law. Som in Sanskrit means “Moon” and hence the name Somnath for the temple built by “Som”.

The temple is so situated that there is no land from here to the South Pole. An arrow indicates the direction.

Pauranic legends tell us that the Moon God had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is believed to have built Somnath temple with Sandalwood.

The present day temple was the brainchild of Sardar Vallabhai Patel who had visited Junagadh when he was tasked to build a united India integrating 500 princely states into India. There is a massive statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel in the front looking at the temple with devotion which he helped build. 

The then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, did the Pran-Pratistha at the existing temple on 11 May 1951.

We reached Ahmedabad from BLR by the Indigo flt at 8.30 am. We took a cab to Modhera and Rani-Ki –Vav. I will give details of those magnificent heritage sites in  a different post. We were back in Ahmedabad by 6.30pm and proceeded to the railway station for our train to Veraval which is about 7 km from Somnath. The scheduled departure was 10.00 pm and it left on time to arrive at Veraval at 7.30 am. We took an auto to Somnath which is a 20 min ride. The auto driver was chatty and friendly and was keen that we hire him to show us around Somnath. Luck wasn’t on our side as we did not get a room in the temple guest house. I was unable to see the room but my impression of the facility from outside was that it was neat and clean and well maintained.
The aarthi timings are  7.00 am , 12.00 noon and 7.00 pm. The auto driver suggested that  we go to the temple at 12.00 in time for the noon aarthi. I had been waiting for years to make this trip and was keen to have the darshan first before I do anything.We checked into a hotel close to the temple and freshened up and left for the Somnath Mandir immediately.

The security is extremely high. No bags/ mobiles/cameras. Though the security personnel  were present everywhere they were unobtrusive and very helpful. One thing which strikes you apart from the overwhelming security is the cleanliness,, not just here but all of Gujarat.
Everything about the temple is massive. It  has  a 7 tiered gopuram which rises about 150 ft with  a flag pole on top of it. It faces east and is bang on the shores of the Arabian sea. Once you enter the temple there is a massive courtyard with a beautiful lawn. 
The temple built in the 1950’s is built on the same lines as the old temple built on 56 pillars. Coming from the south, where one can see “100 pillar mandapam” or a “ 1000 pillar mandapam” I wondered the significance of 56. There is a legend associated with 56. Krishna had come to the rescue of villagers from the anger of Indra who had brought torrential rain and floods for 7 days by lifting the Govardhana giri. The people had taken refuge under the mountain and were saved from the wrath of Indra. Indra realized his mistake and the futility of taking on Krishna came to his senses and peace returned to the villages. Kishna is supposed to have 8 meals/day. 7X8 =56 item menu is prepared for Krishna. Krishna is supposed to have shed his mortal coil in Somnath. Is that why we have the Somnath temple built on 56 pillars?
When we enter the sanctum there is a huge Ganesha on the left and a huge Hanuman on the right both made of white marble. The floor is white marble inlaid with black granite. Up ahead is the sanctum sanctorum with a huge lingam. The goddess is behind the linga and can be seen only if you stand slightly to the side.

An interesting system allows you do abhishekam to the lingam without entering the sanctum sanctorum. There is a small opening on the platform in the front where you pour the abhishekam water (water/milk etc) . The priest pushes a button. and the milk/ganga jal trickles on the lingam . The pipes are well concealed and appears neat.

Outside is "sakshi Ganapathi" who keeps a record of all the devotees who visit the Somnath temple.

There is an open air auditorium for  sound and light show. We missed the show as we had to leave for Dwaraka by late noon. But going by the pictures on the net it seems like a brilliant effort and a lot has gone into choreographing the show. I would encourage the readers to stay overnight and see the program.

Also of interest is a small gallery displaying old photos of the temple. This is within the temple complex. There are photos of excavations and the old stones with markings 

Dehotsarga also called Balkh Tirth where Krishna shed his mortal coil is nearby. The tirtha stands at the confluence of Hiranya, Saraswati and Kapila rivers. Vallabhacharya's Baithak is also there at PrabhasPatan