The small town of Somnath on the western coast of Gujarat is well known due to the Somnath temple. The Somnath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it’s an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. The Somnath temple is situated on the seashore and that’s why it’s also known as Shore temple of Gujarat. The Jyotirlinga of Somnath temple is considered to be the first Jyotirlinga among 12 Jyotirlinga in India. There are many places to visit in Somnath but the Somnath temple is the most important of all.
I had visited Somnath twice, the first time I traveled to Somnath from Dwarka and the second time I traveled from Sasan Gir to Somnath. During my both visits, I stayed in Somnath for one night.
A brief history of Somnath temple
There is no record when the first temple was first built. It is believed that the first temple was built by “Moon” God in ancient times. Somnath temple’s recorded history goes back to 1400 years. The Somnath temple was destroyed 17 times according to available records. The present-day temple is the seventh temple built on the original site.
According to the records Somnath temple was built by King of Vallabhbhai for the second time on the original site. It is believed that in 725 CE Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed this temple.
It was rebuilt by The Chaulukya Solanki kings in 997 CE. That temple was attacked several times between 1024 to 1038 by Mahmud of Ghazni and he looted the valuables from the temple.
In 1299 Alauddin Khalji’s army invaded Gujarat and they again raided this temple.
The temple was rebuilt and it was again attacked by Portuguese & Aurangzeb.
After the independence of India, In November 1947 Sardar Patel visited Somnath and he ordered the reconstruction of the present-day temple. While the construction work was in progress Sardar Patel passed away.
The construction of the temple was taken cared by Munshi, who was a union minister in Jawahar Lal Nehru’s government.
In May 1951, Dr.Rajesndra Prasad (First president of India) performed the installation ceremony in the temple.
The present-day temple is built in the Chaulukya style of architecture. Earlier the stones on the outer wall of the main sanctum were flat but in recent years beautiful figures and designs are engraved in stones.
Somnath temple story
This temple is considered the oldest pilgrimage sites in India. There is an interesting story related to the construction of the temple in ancient times.
According to Shiv Puranas, the Moon God was married to King Daksha’s 27 daughters. He was partial towards his wife Rohini and neglected his other 26 wives. When Daksha came to know about this situation, he got very infuriated.
To teach Moon a lesson, he cursed him that he would lose all his shine. Moon realized his mistake and to get himself out from the curse, he along with his wife Rohini started praying Lord Shiva’s Lingam form. After his long prayers, Lord Shiva reduced his curse.
Moon then constructed a temple in Somnath and requested Lord Shiva to stay here in form of Linga.
Interesting fact about Somnath Temple
The Somnath temple is made at such a place that there is no land in a straight line between Somnath temple’s seashore until Antarctica.
There is a pillar erected on the wall protecting the temple from the sea. On this pillar, an inscription in Sanskrit is found mentioning the position of the temple and it’s a relation with Antartica. This inscribed pillar is there since 7th century CE. The presence of the pillar in such early days proves that Indians knew about the South Pole much before others.
Interestingly there is mention of the South Pole and Antarctica in Uttara Rayamana also and that too was written long back.
Somnath Temple Timings
Temple opens 6.00 AM in the morning and remains open until 9.00 PM every day.
There are 3 aartis in the temple, first at 7.00am, second at 12.00 noon and the 3rd & last aarti at 7.00pm.
My favorite is 7.00 PM aarti and before that, it is a surreal experience to watch the sunset in the Arabian sea from temple complex. I recommend everyone to attend aarti for a great experience.
There is a light and sound show named “Jay Somnath” every evening at 8.00 PM for one hour. In monsoon months they don’t do light and sound show.
Best time to visit Somnath temple
The months from October to March are the best time to visit Somnath temple because the weather is good.
From March to June is summer and it is hot & humid. From July to September is the monsoon season, its very windy and rains heavily.
How to reach Somnath temple
There is no direct flight for Somnath. The nearest airport of Ahmedabad is 400 Km.
There is frequent bus service between Ahmedabad to Somnath. Other than regular buses with seating arrangements, there are overnight sleeper buses between Ahmedabad and Somnath.
Nearest station of Veraval is 5 Km from Somnath and there are several trains to Veraval from different parts of India.
Important things to know before visiting Somnath temple
* Mobile, Camera, and other electronic equipment are not allowed in temple premises.
* Leather items like bags, wallet, belts etc are not allowed inside the temple.
* There is a locker area outside the main gate for keeping the valuables.
* Water or any other liquids, drinks, and food items are not allowed inside the temple.
* If you want to offer anything inside temple then there is a counter inside the temple. You can pay and get the required item from that. No “Prasad or Garlands” are allowed from outside the temple.
* You have to leave footwear outside the main gate of the temple, so be prepared to walk barefoot or wear socks.
* From 2015 onwards the Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. They will have to take permission from the General Manager’s office which is within the Somnath Temple premises. They have to provide basic details, like the name and purpose of the visit along with photo ID card.
* The sunset from the temple is complex is a great experience.
* It gets slightly cold in winter months after sunset. Do carry something warm, if you plan to see light and sound show.
* There is a Somnath sightseeing bus run by Somnath temple trust, it goes to all close by temples & places at a very nominal price.
Other places to visit in Somnath
There are several temples in Somnath and it takes about a few hours or half a day visit these temples.
This is the most important place for the followers of Lord Krishna. The temple is the place where Krishna was resting under a tree in Bhalka forest when a hunter’s arrow pierced his feet. He forgave the hunter and immersing himself in the waters of the Hiran River in Somnath.
There is a small temple of Lord Krishna and Dauji ni Gufa at this place. According to the popular belief, Lord Krishna returned to heaven from this spot. In this temple, Krishna’s footprints are marked in marble.
Triveni Sangam Temple
It is where the confluence of three holy rivers, the Kapila, Sarasvati, and Hiran. It is very close to the Somnath temple. Most of the devotees who visit Somnath Temple also bathe at Triveni Sangam and visit Gita & Laxmi Narayan temple here.
Geeta Mandir, Suraj Mandir, Panch Pandav Gufa and Parshunath temples are other popular temples in Somnath.
The Somnath temple is on the seashore and the beach is next to the Somnath temple complex. There is a park developed between Somnath temple and beach, which is a nice place to relax. There is nothing spectacular about the Somnath beach.
Most people visiting Somnath temple like to take a dip in the sea due to its religious importance. The Somnath beach is clean but it is not suitable for swimming because the sea is quite volatile here. There are Horses and camel safari available at the beach, which is very popular among tourists.
These are some of the other popular places to visit in Somnath after you visit the Somnath temple.
Where to stay in Somnath
Somnath trust operated different category of hotels and Atithi Grah. In these, you will get accommodation for every budget.
Other than these there are several hotels in close proximity of Somnath temple and also in Veraval, which is 5 to 6 Km from the Somnath temple.
Places to visit near Somnath
There are several places for holidays near Somnath and the most popular places are –
* Somnath to Diu is 80 Km and Diu is one of the most popular beach destinations in Gujarat.
* Somnath to Sasan Gir is 65 Km. The Sasan Gir national park is the only natural habitat of Asiatic Lions.
* Somnath to Junagarh is 95 Km. There are some interesting architectural monuments in Junagarh.
* Somnath to Porbandar is 130 Km and it’s better known as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. The house, where Mahatma Gandhi born is preserved and maintained as a national monument.
* Somnath to Dwarka is 210 Km and most of the people visit both the places together due to their religious significance.