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October - November 2004
by Hemang Palan
temple of 'Bhagwan Somnath', dedicated to the Moon God, is situated
in the sacred Prabhas Patan region near Veraval port on the southwest
Arabian sea-cost of Gujarat state's Saurashtra belt in India.
In the vicinity of Somnath lies Gir forest famous for its natural
habitat of world renowned Asiatic Lions.
Destroyed six times by notorious Mughal invaders, the existing Somnath temple is the seventh shrine of 'Shiva'. It rose and fell many a times and the amazing drama of the iconoclast's zeal for its desecration and the devout Hindu's passionate desire for its restoration continued till 15th century when Hindus finally gave up in sheer despair and built a new Somnath temple nearby the original one.
The destruction brought upon this temple by Mahmood Gazani, the 'Sultan' of Gazani (modern day Afghanistan) in 1025 AD is one of the most unfortunate chapters in Indian history. It was a Thursday in the month of January when Mahmood invaded Prabhasa with a mighty army comprising of lakhs of Moghul soldiers. Thousands of Hindus and 'Rajas' tried to repulse the attack but failed to defeat. He smashed the huge 'Shivalinga' of 'Bhagwan Somnath', vandalised the temple structure, looted mighty treasures of the temple housing heaps of silver, gold, diamonds, pearls and various other precious stones and abducted hordes of young men and women as slaves which he took along with him after 18 days of massacre and carnage. The 'mission' cost him three-forth of his army as had to encounter fierce attacks from Raja Bhoj of Malwa and Raja Beesaldev of Ajmer while back home. In his blind fury, not only did he despoil an object of beauty but tore up the pages of history which Somnath bore on its walls. It is said that the temple was supported by pillars which bore the names of its sculptors. Unfortunately, this information has been lost to the history forever.
Thereafter, the Portuguese Governor of Diu-de-Castone plundered the ports of Saurashtra nearby Somnath. He also descended upon Prabhasa and put it to loot and arson sparing neither mosques nor temples. The whole of Prabhasa was then reduced to ruins. The portuguese took away the famous inscription well known Sankrit by the name of 'Bhipuratak Prashsti'. This inscription is kept nowadays in the village 'Sitta' of Portugal.
After partition of
India in 1947, the Indian Army took over the administration of Junagadh
state in control of Prabhasa Patan. On December 13, 1947; Sardar Vallabhbhai
Patel, then Deputy Prime Minister of India, visited Somnath with Maharaja
Jam Saheb Digvijaysinghji of Jamnagar State. The ruined condition of
the temple moved Sardar Patel - the iron man of India, to such an extent
that he went to the seashore nearby, took few drops of water from the
Arabian Sea on his Palms and made a vow to rebuild the temple and install
the deity under the supervision of a galaxy of stalwarts form all walks
of life. The Somnath Trust Board was thus established.