Travels & Countries

Kutch and Kathiawar: A tryst with history, Part VIII


(Continued from)

Tuesday

I decide to revisit the Dwarkadhish temple in early morning, to see the construction details in better fashion, as it was dark, when I visited the temple yesterday. This temple is certainly one of the finest and impressive specimens of temple architecture without any doubt. I also visit the Dwarka beach and the light house, where much developmental construction work appears to be in full swing.

We now take highway 8E, a coastal road going south. For the initial part, this road never touches the sea coast and all we can see is mostly wasteland with Gum Arabic trees interspersed with small villages. At one place, we find number of large birds looking for food. In Gujarat, no one normally hurts such birds and that is why, they are seen so commonly around. About 60 Km from Dwarka, near a place known as Miyani, the road touches the actual sea coast. I can see a small hillock on right side flanked by a creek. There is an ancient temple on this hill and we decide to break our journey here. The temple is dedicated to Goddess ‘Harsiddhi Mata.’ There are few shops selling usual religious stuff and curios at the foot of the hill. We park the car and enter into a nearby gate which leads to well paved steps. I start climbing but the steps are quite steep and in all more than 200 at least. I had to stop couple of times to catch my breath but finally make it to the top. The temple is small and consists of a mandapa and the sanctum or Garbhagriha. There are some bass relief carvings around the temple in one band.

The scene, as seen from the temple of the surroundings is really breath taking. Towards east, I see the bluish waters of the creek with a bridge and on the west, I can see calm waters of the Arabian sea. Reluctantly, I come down the steps and we proceed.

About 45 miles from this hillock, we pass the city of Porbandar, birth place of of one of the greatest personality of twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi. The road from here onwards, passes just along the coast. It is very picturesque, with continuing rows and rows of planted trees on both sides of the road and wind mills appearing beyond the trees almost at every 100 meters or so. Around 12 noon, we reach our destination, Somnath. We break for lunch and soon afterwords, find our ways to reach a large completely barricaded compound.

Somnath, was always known as ‘Prabhas Pattan’ from ancient times. It has been a revered or a sacred place for Hindus and was known as ‘Tirtha.’ In the Buddhist rock temples at Nashik and at Karle’n, there is a clear mention about this place, in rock inscriptions engraved on the orders of Rishabhdatta, who was the son-in-law of the then ruler, Saka Kshatrapa Nahapana, in around the first century of the first Millennium. The way this inscription has been written, it implies that this place must have been a sacred place for considerable period of time before Rishabhadatta’s time. As usual, there is a myth or a story associated with this place too. Number of Hindu scriptures like Mahabharata, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana, Varaha Purana and Agni Purana tell us about this Myth.

The story goes that ‘Daksha’ had 27 daughters, who were married to Soma.(According to Hindu astronomy, there are 27 constellations near about Ecliptic (Sun’s path in the sky) and Soma is another name for the moon.) Among the wives, Soma was devoted to Rohini ( A Star group from Taurus constellation) and neglected the others. On their complaining to their father, Daksha cursed Soma, who became consumptive ( affected by Tuberculosis) and therefore could not perform sacrificial rituals and this in turn prevented the growth of plants. The Gods then tried to persuade Daksha to withdraw the curse. But he was only willing to modify it on condition that Soma promised to be a husband to all his wives. This resulted in fortnightly waxing and waning of the moon. After the curse was removed, Soma bathed in the Saraswati river at ‘Prabhasa’ and regained his brilliance. Prabhasa actually means just that; Brilliance. In short, this myth is linked to the constellations, which are also known as lunar mansions through which the moon passes, the waxing and waning of the moon, eclipses and finally the notion of rejuvenation through bathing in the waters of ‘Prabhasa’ and to a fertility cult.

None of the ancient references however, make any mention of any Shiva temple at ‘Prabhasa Pattan’ and it is more or less accepted that the a well known temple could not have existed here before 8th century CE. The first major temple of Shiva Lingam was perhaps established at this site on the sea, by King Mularaja of Chalukya dynasty in second half of the tenth century CE. Following is the brief time line of temples, built at this place and their destruction.

Temple by Chalukya king Mularaja – 940-995 CE

Destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni – 1024 CE

New temple built by Bhoja Parmara

of Malwa and Chalukya king Bhimadeva – 1024-1042 CE

of Anhilvada pattan.

New temple built by Chalukya king Kumarpala- 1169 CE

Destroyed by Ala-ud-din Khilji’s general Alafkhan- 1299 CE

Reconstructed by Mahipaldeva- 1308 CE

Destroyed by Muzzafar Shah I, Sultan of Gujarat- 1375 CE

Reconstructed by Public effort – 1400 CE

Desecration and conversion to Mosque

by Mahamud Bagada, Sultan of Gujarat – 1459 CE

Renovation after Emperor Akbar’s conquest- 1560 CE

Destruction on orders by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb- 1670 CE

and conversion again into a mosque.

Building abandoned – 1707 CE

A new temple on a new site by Ahilyabai Holkar – 1783 CE

Ceremonial dismantling of Kumarpala temple

by Somnath trust for building a new temple – 1950 CE

Installation of present temple – 1951 CE

 1869 photo of Somnath temple built by Kumarpala 

( Photo curtsey British Museum)

I have purposely given this chronology here, to make readers appreciate the intensity of emotions that Somnath temple creats in the minds of ordinary people of India. The repeated destruction of the shrine was perhaps equally responsible to make Somnath, something of a symbol of national pride, for Indians.

I am standing now near the barricade and watching the Somnath temple in blazing afternoon sun. The architecture of the present temple in Chalukya style, is really stupendous and extremely impressive. This temple was constructed by master masons of Gujarat, Sompura Salats. The temple’s main tower or spire is 150 feet tall and has a further 27 feet high flag post at the top. The temple is situated at such a place that no landmass intercepts the line of sight from here to Antarctica. An arrow-Pillar has been erected on the sea protection wall to indicate this at the Somnath temple.

The security at the temple gate is tight and of very high order. No mobile phones or cameras inside. Not only that, you need to remove even leather belts along with your shoes. With all formalities over, finally I start walking towards the temple.

(To be concluded)

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About chandrashekhara

I am a retired electronics engineer. I am interested in writing, reading books. Other hobbies include Paper models, wooden fret work and social networking.

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