Temple of Somnath

sights / Religious

Temple of Somnath information

Somnath , India
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This temple has been razed and rebuilt at least seven times. It’s said that Somraj, the moon god, constructed a gold version, rebuilt by Ravana in silver, by Krishna in wood and by Bhimdev in stone. A description of the temple by Al-Biruni, an Arab traveller, was so glowing that it prompted a visit in 1024 by a most unwelcome tourist – the legendary looter Mahmud of Ghazni from Afghanistan. At that time, the temple was so wealthy that it had 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and even 300 barbers. Mahmud of Ghazni took the town and temple after a two-day battle in which it’s said 70,000 Hindu defenders died. Having stripped the temple of its fabulous wealth, Mahmud destroyed it. So began a pattern of Muslim destruction and Hindu rebuilding that continued for centuries. The temple was again razed in 1297, 1394 and finally in 1706 by Aurangzeb, the notorious Mughal fundamentalist.

After the 1706 demolition, the temple wasn’t rebuilt until 1950. The current serene, symmetrical structure was built to traditional designs on the original coastal site: it’s painted a creamy colour and boasts a little fine sculpture. The large, black Shiva lingam at its heart is one of the 12 most sacred Shiva shrines, known as jyoti linga . Colourful dioramas of the Shiva story line the north side of the temple garden, though its hard to see them through the hazy glass. A one-hour sound-and-light show highlights the temple nightly at 7:45pm.

Cameras, cellphones, and bags must be left at the cloakroom before entering.