near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the god Shiva. Somnath is also known by several other names -- Deo pattan, Prabhas Pattan or Pattan Somnath -- which it acquired during its long and eventful history. Somnath's glory and fame are legendary. It is said that people from the remotest parts of the country came to worship at the shrine; revenues collected from ten thousand villages was spent on the maintenance of the temple. Two thousand Brahmins (priests) served the idol and a golden chain attached to a huge bell plate announced the commencement of prayers.
The temple is considered sacred due to the various legends connected to it. Somnath means "The Protector of (the) Moon god". The Somnath Temple is known as "the Shrine Eternal", having been destroyed many times by Islamic kings and rulers.The amazing drama of the iconoclast's zeal for its desecration and the devout Hindu's passionate desire for its restoration continued till the 15th century, when the Hindus finally gave up in sheer despair and built a new temple nearby. The present site of Somnath is a pile of ruins and little is known of the early history of this place.
It is believed that the second temple was built by the Yadava kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat, replaced the first one on the same site around 649 CE. The temple is dedicated to Someshwara, the Lord Shiva with moon in his head. The destruction brought upon this temple by Muhammad of Ghazni in 1025 CE. is an important event in Indian history. 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; this information has been lost to history forever. In its external design the Somnath temple compares well with the temple of Rudramala at Siddhapur and is more or less of the same size in length. The dome, however, is as large as any other built in this period. The temple faces to east and once had an enormous central hall with three entrances, each protected by a lofty porch. The fragments that lie scattered at a short distance from the site give some idea of the sculpture decorating the temple.
The richly carved doorways, the sculptured representations of Nandi, Siva's bull, and the figures of goddesses and their female attendants must once have presented a grand ensemble of great beauty. In the recesses of the balconied corridor, there is a mutilated form of Nataraja, the dancing Shiva. Although essentially a Brahmanical temple, the influence of Jain architecture is clearly discernible. The Kathiawar style of temple architecture in the 11th century was so widespread that instances of it can be found in Rajasthan too.
There is a group of five badly damaged temples at Kiradu in the Mallani district of Marwar, each of which displays many characteristics of the Solanki style of building. Certain Gupta influences are also apparent, obviously arising from their proximity to Gupta territory. Of these five temples, the one dedicated to Lord Vishnu is probably the oldest, but the best preserved is the elegant shrine of Someshwara.
Somnath Temple Inside
The skeleton of a magnificent pillared hall still bears testimony to the intense devotion with which these deserted structures must once have been built. The square shafts of the richly wrought pillars end in the foliage motif so characteristic of Gupta decorative art, and above this is a circular disc and capital, consisting of four brackets.
The ruins of the Rudramala temple at Siddhapur on the banks of the Saraswati river testify to the ornated grandeur that the Solanki style had achieved when it was nearing its decline in the 12th century A.D. Clearly, this temple must have been one of the biggest and most lavishly decorated structures of its time.
The present temple is built in the Chalukya style of temple architecture or Kailash Mahameru Prasad Style
and reflects the skill of the Sompura Salats, one of Gujarat's master masons. The temple's shikhra, or main spire, is 15 metres in height, and it has a 8.2-metre tall flag pole at the top.