For someone in their 20’s, a trip to a temple is perhaps the most useless suggestion one can offer for weekend travel. That’s exactly what I am going to suggest. And as you read through this post, you might just end up agreeing with me. Here’s my take on my weekend trip to Somnath temple.
So here I was. All geared up on a Fri evening to board a train from Mumbai to Veraval (the closest railhead to Somnath). It’s an 18hr journey and if you’re a foodie, it takes you across a route where your taste buds and stomach can get an awesome workout. And if you’re the friendly talkative types, and love to strike up conversations with fellow passengers in the train, you are sure to get tons of stories, one of the most happy & outgoing people in our country and an endless supply of snacks through your journey!!!
Before the journey, you should always know about the place that you are going to! No, never do this and take away the essence of your trip but when it comes to visiting any place that has its trails in history, you should know not about what it is or how it was, but to know which land you belong to.
Somnath, the home to the sacred Jyotirlinga. Now you would have heard the word Jyotirlinga from grandparents, parents, relatives or might have come across this on news channels or Twitter but what exactly is a Jyotirlinga, but have you ever bothered to google what exactly is a Jyotirlinga. Let us, with reference from Shiv Mahapurana, try and understand this story behind Jyotirlinga;
Once Brahma (the god of creation) and Vishnu(God of Preservation) had an argument over supremacy of creation.To settle the debate, Supreme God Shiva pierced the three worlds appearing as a huge Infinite Pillar of Light, the Jyotirlinga which later cooled into the Holy Mountain Annamalai (on which the Temple of Arunachaleshvara is located). Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat.This lie of Brahma angered Shiva making him curse Brahma that even though he is the creator of the universe he would not be worshipped. The jyotirlinga is the Supreme Siva, partless reality, out of which Shiva appeared in another Form, Lingodbhava. The jyothirlinga shrines are Temples where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. Originally there were believed to be 64 jyotirlingas while 12 of them are considered to be very auspicious.
Coming back to Somnath, the most interesting fact about this temple is that it is the one which was destroyed and yet it was rebuilt 16 times!!! The temple was built in pure gold and silver and was among the wealthiest until it was looted by the Arab and Afghani invaders and the Mughals. In 1947, the temple was finally rebuilt for the last time by SardarVallabhbhai Patel and the Shivlinga was placed by then president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Apart from the interesting history, there are many reasons that this temple located by the Arabian Sea gives you to spend your weekend. A very pocket friendly and time saving way to get in touch with our glorious past, history and have some peace of mind.
For a solo traveller the best way to visit Somnath, is to take an overnight train from Mumbai which will cost you around 500 bucks. Train takes around 18hours. So start on Friday night at 21.35 hours from Bandra and reach Veraval at 15.35 hours (next day). Once you get down at Veraval and you are out of the railway station there would be many rickshaws and cabs drivers shouting ‘Somnath mandir’ to you. Somnath Temple is about 7kms from Veraval station and it should take you around 25–30 mins to reach the temple and cost you not more than 100 bucks.
Once you reach near the temple there are various Dharamshalas and Lodges(motels) where you can freshen up and lock you extra luggage. The rooms are available from 50 bucks onwards according to your preferences. If you are traveling in peak/holiday season then you can also book a room via Oyo rooms. Once you are settled, you can walk to the temple. Enroute to the temple, you see various small hawkers selling beautiful souvenirs filled with color and other small accessories. But don’t forget to bargain!
Inside the temple, on the walls, you will get to see beautiful sculptures of Shiva, Lord Brahma and Vishnu. On the sea protecting wall of the temple you will get to see Arrow-Pillar known as the Baan-Stambh. Baan Stambh stands at a point on Indian landmass, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude. Attending the aarti is highly recommended. You will get to hear drums, cymbals and bells combine to orchestrate a 30-min symphony that is music for your soul.
Take darshan at the temple and later sit by the sea to enjoy beautiful sunset. The sea side at the backyard of the temple is the place where you need to take the pause and just let the nature get into you.
Next day early in the morning you can visit the Triveni Sangam Temple. You can walk your way to this temple. It is about a kilometre away from the Somnath Temple. You can take a nice boat ride at the Sangam and might get to see some seagulls on your way.
For the return leg, one can take a train from Veraval in the afternoon at 13.20 hours and reach Bandra next day at 7.10 in the morning and get back to routine work.
If you have more time, then club the Somnath visit with a trip to Gir Forest which is 70kms from Somnath. It is home to the Asiatic lion and another relaxing getaway.
P.S. Non-Hindus require special permission to visit Somnath temple. This permission is granted at the Temple itself.