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Friday, June 19, 2020

the magnificent Somnath ~ invasions, demolitions and reconstruction of Grand Temple

Think of  Lord Krishna  - one is instantly reminded of Sri Parthasarathi, Thiruvallikkeni divyadesam,  great Krishna temples like Guruvayur, Udupi, divyadesams -  Kabisthalam, Thirukkannamangai, Thirukkannapuram,  His Mathura, the places He grew up – Gokulam, Govardhanagiri, Vrindavan .. .. and Dwaraka !

Dwarka is a very ancient place, associated with Lord Krishna – the city is now in Devbhoomi Dwarka district in the state of Gujarat, located on the western shore of the Okhamandal Peninsula on the right bank of the Gomti River.  It was only in AD 1808 that the British Govt began to make good its footing in Kathiawad – four of them known as   JhalaAvad (or the enclosure of the Jhala Rajputs), Halar, Sorath, and Gohelwad (the enclosure of the Gohel Rajputs).  It may be said that the history of Kathiawad is the history of India in miniature. Especially is this true when we consider that with the exception of the invasion of Alexander the Great, all descents upon India which have occurred throughout the ages have affected the province either directly or indirectly.

On the West of India, between the Gulfs of Kaehh and Cambay, the ancient and once famous country of Kathiawad projecting  into the Arabian Sea.  The land of Kathiawad was holy and was known as the place flowing milk and honey,    towards which merchants from Arabia, Turkey, Northern Africa and South-Eastem Europe directed their ships and acquired the wealth to be obtained from trade with the Indies.   Prabhas Patan, also known as Somnath Patan or Prabhas Ksheta, historically named Dev Patan, is an area situated in Veraval, Gir Somnath district in Saurashtra region of Gujarat.   Somnath temple  is located here.   One enters the temple town from the city Veraval through Junagadh  gate. This is a triple gate with historical significance and is an ancient structure which was built centuries back. This gate has many intricate carvings on the walls. It is through this gate that the foreign invader Mahmud Gazni broke in to enter the holy city and destroyed the temples in the town and looted the great wealth.

Sad history is Somnath was raided and demolished many times by  several Muslim invaders, more specifically Muhammad of Gajini – the temple as its stands now  was reconstructed in Chaulukya style of Hindu temple architecture and completed in May 1951.    This Dec 2019 had the fortune of visiting Somnath and worshipping at these holy places.

Shree Somnath is first among the twelve Aadi Jyotirlings of India. Ancient Indian traditions maintain a close relationship of Somnath with release of Chandra (Moon God) from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati.  With the advice of Prajapita Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth and worshipped Bhagvan Shiva. Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Bhagvan Shiva blessed him and relieved him from the curse of darkness. Pauranic traditions maintain that Moon had built a golden temple.  A magnificent temple stood there and millions had worshipped at this holy place, which was savaged and brutally destroyed again and again by Islamic invaders.

Though plundered by invaders, the Temple was rebuilt every time with the reconstructive spirit of the people. The modern temple was reconstructed with the resolve of Sardar Patel who visited the ruins of Somnath temple on November 13 1947. Then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, did the Pran-Pratistha at the existing temple on 11 May 1951.   

In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple in 815 CE, a large structure of red sandstone. In 1024, during the reign of Bhima I, the prominent Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its jyotirlinga.  By some accounts in 1783, Maratha king Mahadaji Shinde, victoriously brought back three silver gates from Lahore after defeating Mahmud Shah Abdati, to Somnath.  They were however to be placed in the temples of Ujjain.  In 1842, Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough issued his the Proclamation of the Gates, in which he ordered the British army in Afghanistan to return via Ghazni and bring back to India the sandalwood gates from the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

Here is something excerpted from a history book ‘the history of Kathiawad’ by Capt. H WilberforceBell, a century ago

In A.D. 1025 took place one of the most stirring events  in the whole history of Kathiawad, for Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and completely destroyed the temple of Somnath at Prabhas Patau, and in so doing created one of the great landmarks of Indian history. Of the wonderful Temple of the Moon we are so fortunate as to possess  such records that to make a mental construction of the same or to understand the grandeur and greatness attached to it we are not obliged to draw extensively on the imagination. We have been left, indeed, the account of an eye-witness, for the great Arab commentator, Al Biruni, visited Somnath when in India and placed on record all he saw with much exactitude of detail.  Al Biruni was born near Khiva in a.d. 973, and died about 1031. He made several tours in India.  Ibn Asir, another Musalman historian, relates that whenever there was an eclipse a hundred thousand Hindus assembled at the Somnath temple for worship, and the shrine was endowed with the produce and revenue of more than ten thousand villages. In the temple, he says, were jewels of most excellent quality and incalculable value. One thousand Brahmans attended daily worship, and a  band of three hundred and fifty sang and danced at the  gate of the temple, each one of whom received a daily  allowance.

Mahmud of Ghazni was fired with the desire to loot, and doubtless he was actuated by the zeal of religious fanaticism. Though there is some discrepancy in dates, most probable year of departure of Ghazni was A.D. 1024. Mahmud of Ghazni's was only the first of a series of expeditions against Somnath, for no less than five times subsequently — namely in a.d. 1297, 1318, 1395, 1511, and  1520 — did Mahomedan leaders take their men to attack  it. The beautiful relic of Hindu architectural art now at Prabhas Patan is doubtless that which was built by  Bhimadeo of Anhilwad Patan, and has withstood these five incursions and the ravages of time. To attempt to describe it is wellnigh impossible. It is very massive  and imposing, and its inner shrine is octagonal in shape.  The stones of which it is composed are cut with great regard being paid to symmetry, and the carving in relief on the exposed sides leaves nothing to be desired from an artistic point of view. The whole building reflects  the best period of Indian architecture and is quite worthy of the famous Siddha Raj Jaisinha of Anhilwad, who is  reputed to have undertaken the adorning of Bhimadeo's building.

The gates of the original Somnath temple, which were taken away to Ghazni, have never been traced, and they are traditionally supposed to have found a resting-place elsewhere.   The arrival of Colonel Walker with the  Gaekwad's army in a.d. 1807 to conclude a settlement   regarding the tribute to be paid, the happenings in Kathiawad were of minor importance. In a.d. 1804 Rana Sultanji of Porbandar was deposed by his son Haloji, and had friendship with  Nawab of Junagadh, who hadin the same year mortgaged Kutiana to Raghunathji and thus declared his friendship with the family which had done so much for him. Colonel Walker's arrival opened up a new epoch in the annals of Saurashtra, and the year  A.D. 1807 was the beginning of an era of peace such as the peninsula had not experienced since Mahmud of Ghazni made his incursion to obtain possession of the treasure of Somnath temple nearly eight hundred years before.

The Viceroy and Governor-General of India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, P.C, G.M.S.I., G.C.I.E., C.B., visited Kathiawad in November a.d. 1900. Landing at Verawal, he was an interested visitor to the temple of Somnath, and afterwards proceeded to Junagadh, where he opened the Arts College and Technical Institution. Whether he signed the register at Somnath would be an out of portion Q .. .. !! because another politician visited this great temple but signed in the register as non-Hindu and his party spokesperson later clarified that he was indeed a Brahmin, though his father and mother belong to different religion !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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