It’s believed to be the first Jyotirlinga and is situated in Gujarat. Much more than the supposed divinity of this great shrine, it’s the invasion(s) of Mahmud Ghaznavi that attracted more people towards this temple. According to legends, Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazani invaded Somnath Temple 17 times.
But this is apocryphal. He did invade. That’s beyond any doubt, but not 17 times. The great Indian historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar of Dacca (now Dhaka) University opined that he (Mahmud of Ghazni ) came to attack only twice, though he plundered the booty hidden in temple’s garbhgriha (basement). An 1869 photograph taken by the early English photographer Allen Robson, shows the ruined Somnath Temple.
Hindu and Indian historians like Akhilesh Mishra, Meenakshi Jain and Ishwari Prasad also believed that so many invasions by one man was actually a hyperbole and was not feasible for anyone.
Sacchidanand Sinha also endorsed this opinion and called it fictitious and apocryphal. They called it ‘bragging of Muslims’ (without any prejudice whatsoever).
It was the wealth of this temple in those days that attracted invaders, esp. Muslim invaders. Not delving into socio-political scenario of India during that time, I must say that Somnath Temple is now used as a proverbial metaphor (of Indians’ collective inertia and their excessive belief in divine intervention).
He came but the country didn’t resist, though they all resented. Why didn’t anyone try to stop the invader to loot the boot(y)? This is a million dollar question. I’m digressing a bit but the same fate happened when Marathas got the drubbing in the third Battle of Panipat in Jan 1761.
Abdali’s forces just massacred the Marathas and the latter didn’t even resist bravely as Hindu Marathas thought that the god would come to their rescue and obliterate the enemies. Alas, that didn’t happen and Marathas were roundly beaten and bruised.
A must visit for all those who go to Gujarat and happen to be devout Hindus. Somnath temple timings are 6 am to 9:30 pm.
Coming back to the importance of this temple, this is the first Jyotirlinga. ironically, devotees come to this temple to pray to Lord Shiva and the main specification of this temple is that Lord Shiva destroys the enemies. But why on earth did the deity remain inert during the plundering of the shrine by Mahmud of Ghazani’s marauding army?
Its tranquil set up is indeed eye-catching. British historians Gooch and Collingwood called it India’s richest temple. Imagine, even after so many attacks and free-for-all looting, the shrine remained the richest temple in India. It’s been taken over (or should I say USURPED?) by Vaishno Devi shrine, Tirupati in South and Shirdi Sai Baba in Maharashtra.
Devotees from all nooks and crannies come to visit Somnath temple. Its reverential status is unparalleled in India. But it must be said that it’s the legend of Ghazani that gives an extra edge to the mystique of Somnath Temple.