Located in “Prabhas Patan” near Veraval in Saurashtra of the West coast of Gujarat, Somnath is considered to be first among 12 “jyotirlinga” – shrines of Shiva. Jyoti which means radiance, and lingam representing the image/sign of Shiva, Jyotirlinga literally means “the radiant sign of lord Shiva”
According to Hindu scriptures, it is believed that the Jyotirlinga at Somnath was worshipped by the moon. hence the name Somnath as Som refers to the moon.
Somnath is referred at various places in Hindu scriptures, especially in Mahabharata, as Lord Krishna’s kingdom “Dwarika” is very near to Somnath (around 150 kms) and it is believed that at the end of Mahabharat war, Lord Krishna and his entire clan was destroyed through infighting in a Jungle near Somnath. Lord Krishna a devotee of Lord Shiva used to perform puja (offering prayers) at this place regularly and he took his last breath here.
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This legendary temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times by Islamic kings and Hindu kings respectively. Most recently it was rebuilt in November 1947, when Vallabhbhai Patel visited the area for the integration of Junagadh and mooted a plan for restoration. After Patel’s death, the rebuilding continued under Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, another minister of the Government of India. The exhibition hall situated right next to the main entrance of the temple displays pictures depicting the state of the temple in 1947 when they started rebuilding it.
Once inside the temple, the first thing one realizes is the cleanliness and beauty of the garden maintained by the temple authority. which to be frank, is not a regular thing at most of the key religious places around India.
The temple is situated right next to the sea and there are beautiful seating arrangements made inside the campus to enjoy the beauty of seashore right from inside the temple area. Also, because of its vicinity to the sea, the temple bells and drums during aarti(collective prayers with music & songs) time get a mix of sea waves as a natural musical instrument, which makes it quite a spiritual experience.
There is an arrow pillar inside the temple, near the wall that faces directly to the sea. This arrow marks the place such that there is no land in a straight line between Somnath seashore until Antarctica.
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The temple is open daily from 6 AM to 9 PM. There are 3 aarti daily; in the morning at 07:00, at 12:00 and in the evening at 19:00. Apart from this, there is a light and sound show in the evening from 8 pm to 9 pm. The musical gatherings help your soul simmer in the godliness and offers immense peace.
There are plenty of places to stay near the temple other then temple trust’s facilities. Most of which can be booked online. Nearest and best that I found was Sagar Darshan Guesthouse, It is sea facing, has a good food court and is managed by Dhirubhai Ambani trust, so is much better maintained than most of the other facilities.
Approx. one km from the temple you can find Triveni Sangam, which is the meeting place of three rivers Hiranya, Kapila and Saraswati (now extinct) to the Arabian Sea. However, due to ongoing projects of the Government to develop the facilities, The meeting place of the rivers is not worth seeing anymore. A few meters ahead of Triveni Sangam is the campus where Geeta Mandir and Neej Dham are situated. NeejDham is considered to be the exact place where Lord Krishna took his last breadth.
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Gir Lion Sanctuary is around 45 kms from Somnath. So the best thing to do is, complete your schedule at Somnath by noon and head straight to the Gir Sanctuary, it takes around one hour to enjoy lion safari there. Also, make sure you take your lunch at one of the “kathiawadi dhabas” on the way to Gir sanctuary to get a taste of delicious kathiyawadi and Gujarati food.
Somnath is well connected by road with Rajkot and Ahmedabad. Nearest airports are Rajkot and Diu. The nearest railway station is Veraval. There is a daily train to Somnath from Ahmedabad that reaches Veral early morning and leaves from Somnath to Ahmedabad in the evening. So if you are planning a one day outing, it is the best way to go to Somnath.