Somanath is made of two words ‘ Soma’ meaning moon and ‘Nath’ means owner or protector. So the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva because he has given moon a place on his hair. Shiva is hence called Chandrashekhar or Chandramouli.
Somanath Temple also called Deo Patan is one of the most sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus .It is first among the twelve jyotirlinga dedicated to Shiva .It is belived that the temple is build by Chandradev himself in the honour of Lord Shiva ,it is mentioned in ancient texts like Rigveda and Bhagwadgita . The temple has been destroyed multiple times by many Muslim invaders , and then reconstructed . So it is unclear that when the original construction was done.
After several attacks only ruins of original temple were remaining . After Indian Independence the ruins were cleared and a new temple was built at its place which is the present Somnath temple ,under the leadership of first home minister of India , Sardavallabhai Patel.
The temple is located in Gujrat , in Prabhas Patan ,near Verawal in the Saurashtra region .it is believed that this location is the first piece of land from north pole to south pole on this particular lattitude. Other than being a famous pilgrimage site , it was also popular as a station for those who went to and fro between Sufala in the country of Zanj (east Africa) and China.
The temple is close to other famous places like Junagarh , Dwarka ,Padhri and Bharuch and one of the most revered coastal site for Hindus along with Dwarka in Gujarat ,Puri in Odisha, Rameshwaram and Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu .
The Somnath temple is not directly mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. For example In chapter 109,118,119 ,Vana Parva of Mahabharata as well as Sections 10.45 and 10.78 of Bhagwad Purana mentions the “Prabhasa-Pattana” site of Somnath to be a tirtha on the coastline of Saurashtra .
There are many explanation for this . The most relevant one is described as :
The appropriate context for the legends and mythologies in the Mahabharata are the Vedic mythologies which it borrowed, integrated and re-adapted for its times and its audience. The Brahmana layer of the Vedic literature already mention tirtha related to the Saraswati river. However, given the river was nowhere to be seen when the Mahabharata was compiled and finalized, the Saraswati legend was modified. It vanishes into an underground river, then emerges as an underground river at holy sites for sangam (confluence) already popular with the Hindus. The Mahabharata then integrates the Saraswati legend of the Vedic lore with the Prabhasa tirtha, states Hiltebeitel.The critical editions of the Mahabharata, in several chapters and books mentions that this “Prabhasa” is at a coastline near Dvaraka. It is described as a sacred site where Arjuna and Balarama go on tirtha, a site where Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita fame chooses to go and spends his final days, then dies.
Famous poet of fifth century Kalidasa in his poem ,Raghuvansam ,mentions the name of some of the revered pilgrimage sites of Lord Shiva of his time which includes Benaras, Ujjain,Triambaka , Prayaga, Pushkara ,Gokarna , and Somanatha-Prabhasa.
According to Shiva Purana, Somanath is the first jyotirlinga of shiva .
The ninth century King Nagabhatta II mentions that he completed the tirtha of Somanath and Saurashtra . Such mentions of literary and royal pilgrimage altogether suggests that Somanath was the major pilgrimage and the most famous jyotirlinga even during prehistoric times.
invasions and attacks
Arab traveler Al Baruni is said to have mentioned it in his travelogue, which impressed Akranta Mahmud Ghaznavi in 1026, attacked the temple, looted property, and almost destroyed the temple.
The magnitude of the attack is said to have been carried out by Ghaznavi with nearly 5,000 people who attacked the Somnath temple. Thousands of innocent people were killed while protecting the temple. Among them were those who were either worshipping here or visiting the temple. There were also people who lived in nearby villages and came to protect the temple.
However, even after this attack, the glory of the temple did not diminish.
According to history, King Bhima of Gujarat and King Bhoj of Malwa rebuilt the temple. Then, in 1297, when the Delhi Sultanate subjugated Gujarat, this temple once again suffered destruction. In 1297, when Nusrat Khan, commander of Sultan Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate, attacked Gujarat, he demolished the Somnath temple again and looted all wealth. Thus the period of reconstruction and invasion of the temple continued. After the invasion of Nusrat Khan, the temple was rebuilt by Hindu kings.
Then, for the third time in 1395, Sultan Muzaffar Shah of Gujarat demolished the temple again and then looted it. When the temple was rebuilt, Ahmed Shah, the son of Muzaffar Shah, repeated his father’s act in 1412, but it was once again built by Hindu kings. In the meantime, the devotees’ devotion was never less than the temple.
The temple also faced the attack of the brutal Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. The Somnath temple was demolished twice during Aurangzeb’s time. After demolishing the temple for the first time in 1665, when Aurangzeb saw that Hindus still offer prayers at the place, he sent a military team there to commit robbery and genocide.
The temple that is currently standing was rebuilt by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of Independent India, in 1950. On December 1, 1995, The President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma dedicated this temple to the nation. Even the 6-time attacks could not remove the glory of this temple from the minds of the devotees.
The temple was built in Kailash Mahameru palace-style for the seventh time, with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel associated with the construction work. However, many historians also claim to have attacked Somnath 17 times.
Despite of the several attack and conquests ,several attempts of reconstruction and demolition the temple has managed to restore its glory and is one of the most visited sites in Gujarat along with Dwarka.