Places abound in natural beauty, pilgrim places of national importance, memorable historic sites, myriad of handicrafts of Gujarat are a constant attraction for tourists within and outside the country.
It is needless to say that more tourists should be attracted and brought to the land with longest coastline in Gujarat. These centers of State heritage should be preserved.
To promote religion tourism the State has set up Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board. What else can convey the State's earnestness other than the fact the Chief Minister himself   heads the board. The idea is to establish an aura of harmony and spirituality around these abodes of Gods.
In the first phase, six pilgrim places have been selected. The objective is their all round development. The places are : Somnath, Dwarka, Girnar, Dakor, Ambaji and Palitana.
The majestic temple of Somnath is a testimony of the firmness through the changing course of time. Waves of turbulent Arabian Sea lashes the temple situated near Veraval of coastal district of Junagadh. Looted and destroyed by host of foreign invaders it has been re-established time and again as an edifice of the inner strength of the country's cultural fabric.

The First Jyotirlinga Somnath

This is the first among the twelve jyotirlingas. From the early days Prabhas Patan is a pilgrim place, confluence of mythological Saraswati, Hiranya and Kapila. As the mythology says Lord Shiva's Kalbhairav linga is situated at Prabhas. Moon also worshipped this Shivlinga will be identified with the moon. That's why this temple is popularly known as Somnath, the one named after the moon.

Remains found from the region and its description in the writings of Indians and Foreigners give the idea of its being a colony of Aryans in ancient times. The temple of religious as well as historical significance is believed to have been built sometime around 4 AD.

Splendid Temple

This was probably the wealthiest temple of its time when Mohammed Gazni looted it in 1026 AD. At that time daily pooja was performed with flowers from Kashmir and water from the sacred Ganga. Offerings were made from the earnings of ten thousand villages. One thousand brahmins worshipped the Shivlinga everyday and a golden chain weighing 200 mounds was used to ring the temple bell.

There were fifty six gem studded pillars in the temple, each encrusted with gold by different Shivdharmi kings. They were studded with valuable stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls, topaz etc. The Shivalinga of Somnath Mahadev is tem-foot high and six foot wide. Solanki King Bhimdev dedicated a golden palanquin which he had got after conquering Bundelkhand. He directed Vimal Shah to build temple of Somnath. The Garbhgruha is very majestic. Three paths lead to it. The Gudhmandap supported by thirty six pillars give the glimpse of the grandeur of the Solanki period. The carvings on the ceiling of the Mandap are unique. The Acharya of Pashupath seat of the temple in the time of Bhimdev and they held it for three hundred years.

Legend of Temple Construction

In 1225 AD Bhave Brihaspati wrote in praise of Somnath. The broken stone having these praises have been found near a wall of Bhadrakali temple in Prabhas Patan. As the story goes, the temple was originally built by Som, thereafter in the second phase, Ravan built a silver temple, Shri Krishna built a temple of wood and Bhimdev of stone. At the time of Kumarpal a massive renovation of the temple was taken up under the supervision of Acharya Bhave Brihaspati.

In 1026 AD Mohammed Gazni first looted the temple, then came Afzalkhan, the commander of Aladdin Khilji and also Aurangzeb. Like this it was looted and destroyed as many as seventeen times, yet it stood all tests of time with greater firmness and time.

Excavation for the foundation of the new temple, brought out the remains of the glory that the temple was. From Maitrak's period to that of Solanki at the depth of about thirteen feet. Sculpted Shiva Tripurantak, Natraj, Bhairav yogi etc. are striking. Many belonged to the time before Bhimdev and they are on display at the local museum.

The Construction of the New Temple

The Iron man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was instrumental in the construction of the present temple an edifice reminding visitors of the splendor that Somnath was. Renowned temple architect Prabhashandar designed it and the First President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad installed the Jyotirlinga in the new temple on the auspicious day - the 5th Sud of month Vaishakh in Vikram Samvat 2007, i.e. 11, May, 1951.

This is the first temple constructed in the form of Kailash Mahameru Prasad after 800 years. The reconstructed temple was dedicated to the nation on Dec 1, 1995 by the President Dr. Shankardayal Sharma.

For the pilgrims and tourists, there are guest houses, rest houses and inns etc. Somnath visit offers a spiritual journey and also a lovely beaches and the Gir Forest around it.

There are plenty of places of tourist interest around Somanth. A museum containing photographs of old temple, old sculptures, Bhalkatirth where Lord Krishna was struck by the arrow of a junter, temple of Hinglaj mata where he was cremated, Suryanarayan temple, Siddhnath Mahadev temple, temples of Shri Ramchandraji and Lord Krishna, Bhimeshvar Mahadev, Narsinhji temple, Triveni Sangam and the holy water kund of Adiprabhas and jai prabhas.

Sea beach of Chorwad, just 25 kms away and Sasan Gir, 45 kms, are other major tourist attractions. Somnath is easily accessible. Nearest airport is Keshod and nearest railway station is Veraval only five kms away. From Ahmedabad it is 406 kms, the facility of buses of the State Transport and private coaches is frequent.

Somnath has inspired many poets and writers. In the words of Famous Gujarati poet Narmad :

Jai ! Jai ! Garvi Gujarat !
Uttarman Amba maata
Puravaman Kali Maata
Chhe Dakshin Disaman Karant  raksha Kunteshwar Mahadev,
Ne Somnath ne Dwarkesh ae  Pachcim Kera dev
Chhe Sahayamanb Sakshaat
Jai ! Jai ! Garvi Gujarat !

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