Somanath Shiva Temple – one of the Dwadash Jotirlingas
We had many activities in the morning in Porbandar. We went to the Ramakrishna Ashram, Sudama Mandir, and Kirti Mandir. The walking and taking rickshaws took time. It was getting late and we still had to reach Somanath before the 7:00 p.m. arati. We were happy to have a good time in Porbandar and soon left the city after having a delicious lunch.
On the bus, we all started thinking of Shiva. Some were singing, some talking, while some were catching up on their sleep. Three to four people were sick with stomach problems, but the team of doctors was taking care of them. Those who were sick got the opportunity to travel in the van that was accompanying us. This way they could stop whenever there was a need. When people got better, they joined us in the bus and everyone welcomed them back warmly.
On the way, all of a sudden, people saw the ocean on the right. It was very close and the coast was roaring with high waves. All of the youngsters cheered loudly. The ocean was inviting. We stopped the bus on the side. Unfortunately, the ocean was on the other side of the highway. The driver had missed an exit to go to that side. Now, in order to go close to the ocean, we would have to cross four lanes of the highway. Meanwhile, vehicles on the highway were traveling at great speeds. We decided against taking the risk of crossing such a busy highway, and watched the ocean from the bus. After some time, the bus continued to go ahead. And what did we find? The van people were walking back up the beach. At the sight of them, all of the youngsters in our bus started to protest and said, “It’s not fair!” They wanted to walk to the water too.
Well, the ride to Somnath was pleasant and we enjoyed great views of the ocean every now and then. We soon arrived at the “Lords Inn” where we were staying overnight. All checked-in and were rushing to go to the Somnath temple for the 7:00 p.m. arati. Swami Atmadipananda (Yagnesh Maharaj) of Porbandar Ashram had called a devotee, Mr. Narendra Dave, who was going to guide us here. We found him already waiting for all of us at the hotel. So we quickly got ready and rushed onto the bus.
The bus had to park a little bit away from the temple. It was a long walk to the temple. We had to leave our shoes, belts, phones, and cameras at the counters. After doing so, we all ran to the temple. The arati had already begun. We stood at the door with hundreds of people. It was a thrilling experience to see the devotion of so many people. There was no singing, but the atmosphere was lively and full of energy. People were clapping with the rhythm of the drums and the sounds of metallic plates while looking at the Shivalingam. Many were reciting “Om Namah Shivaya.” At the entrance, devotees stood in line (men and women separately) to have “darshana” of Shiva. After arati, one could easily go near the Shivalingam and have “darshana.” Several Vidyapith people bought “Ganga Water” and took it to the Shrine. They poured the “Ganga Water” in a vessel. From that vessel, with the help of a motor, the water would go through a pipe and would pour directly on the Shivalingam. It was a modern way of doing “abhikhekam.” Still, it was a good feeling that we had offered Ganga water to Shivaji.
Then, our guide Narendraji led us outside the main temple. Behind the main temple, there was a flat pedestal, a few feet high. This pedestal is said to have been the site of the old “Parvati Temple.” We all walked up the steps and sat at the top. In front us lay the roaring ocean. There was a great view from all sides. Narendraji told us the mythological story of the Somanath temple. It was related to the moon. “Soma” means moon and “Nath” means Lord. It is amazing that though this temple had been destroyed several times, it had been built again and again. With the help of Saradar Vallabhbhai Patel and government, the temple was very well built and has since been well maintained.
On the right side of the temple there were beautiful, colorful statues depicting the stories of the “Dwadash Jyotirlings.” We saw all of them. Then, Narendraji took us to the “Swayambhu Shivalingam,” meaning the Shivalingam manifested by itself.
After spending much time at the Somanath Temple and being touched by the atmosphere created by the devotion of people, we went back to the hotel planning to come back early the next day. We had a delicious dinner. All then rushed to their rooms. Our plan was to go to the temple the next day at 6:15 a.m. to attend the 7:00 a.m. arati. No one wanted to miss this one.
Around 6:00 a.m. the bus left from the hotel. The sky was full of dark clouds. There was thunder and it was raining. All were wearing their Vidyapith’s T-shirts. Many had Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary T-shirts, while others had Vidyapith’s blue logo T-shirts. Our wish was to take a group photo in front of the Somanath Temple in our Vidyapith uniform after the arati. As we walked through the rain to get onto the bus, it seemed as though our wish was not going to work out. We thought we would leave the fate of that wish upon Shiva.
As we entered the temple, we were surprised to see that many people had already come into the temple and had taken seats from where the arati could be seen. Women were on the left and men were on the right, facing Shiva. While sitting in the temple, we could see the worship of the Shivalingam on the closed circuit TV screen. First they gave a bath to the Shivalingam, and then very artistically decorated it with colors and cloth. It seemed as though there were very talented artists doing the worship of Shiva. Meanwhile Trupti Aunty and a few students started singing Shiva’s various dhoons many of which involved “Om Namah Shivaya.” Slowly all started joining in. It was a very inspiring atmosphere. The temple again filled with people. Then, arati started. All stood up. The same emotions and devotion were rising in the minds of all. One has to be there in person to feel the environment.
After arati, we all went outside to the left side of the temple. As we walked down the steps we could see the roaring ocean. It was still drizzling. We all sat and wanted to recite the Shiva Mahimna Stotra. Trupti Aunty had made copies of the Shiva Sangeet in Ahmedabad. Exactly as we were passing out our Shiva Sangeet copies and arranging ourselves, we heard the Shiva Mahimna Stora from the loud speakers albeit in a different tune. However, all felt that we should recite it in our own tune. All joined in singing Shiva Mahimna. Those who did not know were listening and reading it with others. It was a most memorable Shiva Mahimna recitation. We also sang “Nagendraharay Trilochanaya…” All enjoyed singing the hymn and dhoon “Shiva, Shiva, Shiva, Shiva, Om Namah Shivay…”
Then, we decided to just look at the ocean and quietly spend some time on our own. We tried to fill our eyes, minds, and hearts with the waves of the ocean and wondered about infinite nature of the universe.
Some students then proposed that we go to the “Parvati Temple,” stand there looking at the ocean, and recite the Shanti Mantras. All were excited with this idea. The ancient Shiva temple, the age-old ocean, and the Vedic chanting, all these three were connected as if it was the connection of the Vedic times of Rishis to the modern times of the 21st century. The Shanti Mantra chanting was very powerful. After the chanting, all sat down quietly. Spirituality was becoming tangible. Pilgrimage properly done is really helpful for spiritual development. Filled with inner joy, we all came out of the temple.
Guess what! Shiva wanted us to have a group photo in front of this great temple. Rain had stopped and the sun had started coming out. We were looking for a professional photographer. Several of them came forward. Finally, one expert came and everyone gave him the camera. It was amazing. The photographer said that he would deliver the requested copies of the photograph to the hotel in a short time for a reasonable price. No deposit was asked. It was all trust.
We came back to our hotel and had an excellent breakfast. Narendraji was ready to take us to other known sites. First, we saw the Gita temple. Shri Krishna’s statue was exceptionally beautiful. His sweet smile and flute-playing pose was attracting all minds. All 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita had been carved on the pillars. After saluting Shri Krishna we all sat down and recited Gita Chapter 15. Most of the group knew it by heart. The environment created a divine mood. We had good singers in the group and that helped. The whole temple vibrated with this recitation. Those who knew the meaning of the chapter enjoyed it even more.
Next we visited Balaram’s cave where Shri Balaram had left his body. Then, we visited a meeting place of three rivers: Hiran, Saraswati, and Kapila. River Saraswati had been underneath. The pool of water looked like an ocean. Narendraji asked us to do little bit of worship of the place of pilgrimage. We took “Sankalpa” taking water in our hand to do spiritual practice. Our last stop was “Bhalka Tirtha” where a hunter had shot a poisonous arrow and hit Shri Krishna’s foot, mistaking it for a deer from afar. When the hunter realized what he had done, he felt very bad. At that time, Shri Krishna told him that he should not feel bad. He had simply done his job. Since millions were killed in Mahabharat war and his own army was killed due to an inner dispute, it was time for Shri Krishna to go.
After visiting all the sites, it was time for us to go to the hotel and checked out. After checking out, we found that the photographer had brought the requested copies of our group photo. All were amazed to see how fast he and his team worked, and the quality of the copies was excellent. In addition, upon our request, he had brought with him a “nariyal vala”- a coconut vendor—who had brought many green coconuts. We all drank fresh coconut water. It was a pleasant surprise and a great treat. After the refreshing drink, the coconuts were cut open and we enjoyed eating the “malai” by scraping it out from inside. Fully satisfied of our Somanath trip, we all sat down in the bus to go to Junagadh.
“I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.” (Look Shiva Mahimna Stotra, shloka no. 7)
– a quote from Swami Vivekananda’s famous lecture at the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, September 11, 1893.