Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2017-02-07 11:59 Most people go to Somnath, located near Veraval in Gujarat, to visit the Somnath temple. The town of Prabas Patan, where the temple is located, is commonly referred to as Somnath because of the jyotirlinga temple, said to be the first among twelvejyotirlingas. In school, we had read that Mohammed of Ghazni had attacked this temple in 1024 and taken away huge treasures, and that the temple was plundered a number of times by many other rulers. Hence, I expected to see an ancient temple similar to Virupaksha Temple of Hampi. But when I saw the majestic Somnath temple from a distance, the first thought that came to my mind was: it looks so new! My guide informed me that in the 7th century, a second temple was built over the first one by the Yadavas. The temple was rebuilt several more times, with the present structure coming into being only in 1951. In front of the temple is a statue of Vallabhbhai Patel. I was informed that it was Patel who ordered a new temple to be built and it was KM Munshi, the renowned scholar, who executed it. It is said that Mahatma Gandhi had suggested building a new structure entirely out of donations from public. Somnath temple at sunset Somnath temple Sunset at Somnath Krishna's cremation place Like Mahabalipuram in TN, Somnath is situated on the sea shore. The location of the temple, built in Chalukyan style, is such that there is no land between Somnath and Antarctica in a straight line. The evidence of this is seen in an inscription written on the banastambha erected on the sea wall. The temple attracts a large number of devotees. The deity, a majestic Linga, is decorated with finery and inspires awe. In the compound of the temple is a museum, where an attractive sound and light show is held every evening. The temple premises contain two other temples dedicated to Vinayak and Hanuman; close-by is the Ahalyabai temple built by Ahalyabai Holkar. Outside the compound is the Vallabhghat, the sunset point. After visiting the Somnath temple, pilgrims go to Gita Mandir and Laxminarayan Mandir- both of which are modern temples. Built in 1970 by the Birlas, hymns from Bhagavad Gita are engraved on the walls of the Gita temple. Triveni Sangam, where three rivers - Hiran, Kapila and the mythical Saraswathi reportedly meet, is located nearby. Till my visit to Somnath, I had thought that the mythical Saraswathi River and the Triveni Sangam are located only in Allahabad! Another popular spot is the seashore. It is always busy with tourists and has a mela-like appearance. Horse and camel rides on this beach reminded me of Juhu beach in Mumbai. From Somnath we went to Gir Lion Park, which is about 45-kms away. Established in 1965, Gir National Park is the home of Asiatic lions. Spread over an area of 1412 sq kms, the park is divided into two parts – Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and Devalia Safari Park. In earlier times, Gir forest was the hunting grounds of Nawabs of Junagarh. Concerned over the decline in lion numbers, it was declared a protected area in 1900. On reaching the park, we took the jungle trail after obtaining permits and hiring a jeep and a guide. After driving in the forest for over two hours, we got lucky as we got a glimpse of lions, deer, sambar and a fox. We were told that there are 523 lions in the protected area. In the afternoon, we went to the safari park, which is very similar to our Bannerghatta Park. We spotted lions, leopards, sambars, nilgai, cheetah, blackbucks and wild boars. Jackal at Gir Lion walking Spotted deers Gir has a number of places to halt. The Forest Guest House, an ancient British structure where we halted, is quite comfortable. There are other comfortable lodgings as well. Somnath can be reached by train and air (Rajkot and Diu). In a matter of two days, we had our fill of sea, forests, wildlife and divinity. What more can you ask? Author: Dr. D V Guruprasad (Former DGP) is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.