Mahadev or Lord Shiva is of the foremost importance in Hinduism. He is the main pillar of the holy trinity. Jyotirlingas are the divine places of lord shiva where he resides in different forms. The word “Jyoti” means light or radiance and linga or lingam means “sign” or “image’. So, the word jyotirlinga means ‘the radiant signs of lord shiva’.
The Jyotirlingas are said to have appeared in places where lord shiva himself manifested on earth.Thus, giving them the name of ‘Swayambhoo’ meaning self-manifested. Each jyotirlinga is considered to be a different manifestation of lord shiva.
The Somnath jyotirlinga is considered to be the 1st of the 12 jyotirlingas, situated in Gujarat. Reconstructed several times in the past after repeated destruction by several Muslim invaders and rulers, it is unclear when the first version of the Somnath temple was built. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt 16 times and was well known to be one of the richest temples in the history of Hinduism.
The story behind the origin of the temple goes as follows. according to shiva Puran, Chandra, or the moon was the son of atri and ansuya. He was married to the 27 daughters of Prajapati Daksha. While giving the hand of his 27 daughters in marriage to Chandra, Daksha asked Chandra for a promise.
He asked Chandra to love and treat all his 27 daughters equally to which Chandra obliged. After some time of his marriage, Chandra grew especially fond of one of his wives Rohini. He spent most of his time with her and ignored his other wives. On seeing the preference given to Rohini the other 26 daughters of Daksha became unhappy.
They went to their father Daksha and narrated the whole situation. On seeing the partiality and injustice done to his 26 daughters, Daksha was infuriated. In his anger, he cursed the moon to lose his shine and luster and eventually fade away to death.
The dying Chandra did not know what to do and pleaded with Daksha to take his curse back, but it was too late. Chandra went to lord Brahma to ask for help with the curse. Brahma advised Chandra that he can get liberated from the curse if he pleases lord shiva by chanting his ‘Mahamrityunjaya mantra’.
Holding on to the slim ray of hope, Chandra went to the famed holy ground prabhas patan, established a linga, and prayed earnestly to lord shiva.
Pleased with Chandra’s devotion, Shiva appeared and said “though I cannot reverse Daksha’s curse, I can soften it to some extent. From this day onwards, you will increase in brightness for 15 days in Shukla paksha and then wane for 15 days in the Krishna paksha. You will fill the world with your radiance on the full moon day and disappear on the new moon days.”
Chandra was disappointed at the thought of waxing and waning. His crescent shape would just be a constant reminder of the curse and his reduced strength. Shiva consoled him by offering to wear the crescent moon in his hair to show his devotees that they were dear to him even in their lowest moments.
Thus, Shiva came to be known as Chandrashekhar, or ‘the one with Chandra mounted on his head’. From then on lord shiva assumed the name somchandra and resided in this place eternally.Eventually, the temple came to be known by the name Somnath, meaning the god of the moon. On getting shiva’s blessings, the moon regained his light, and this is why this town is also referred to as prabhas.
It is said that the original Somnath temple was built by the moon in pure gold and later rejuvenated by Ravan in silver, by Krishna in sandalwood, and finally by Bhimadeva in stone. Thereafter, this temple was raided multiple times by invaders in the medieval centuries. the latest temple is made with reddish-yellow stones.