On the day of Kartik Poornima this month, I had the good fortune of being at Somnath, the first of the twelve Jyotirlingas and after the elating darshan of Lord Somnath or Somashekhar, I wanted to tell you all the story of this great place.
Legend has it that the Lingam of Somnath has been there from aeons ago as a “swayambhu” which means one which is not manmade, but how the Lord came to be known as Somnath is an interesting story. The Lord Shiva was known as Mrutyunjaya and Bhairavanatha amongst many names before he came to be known as Somnath.
According to the Skanda Purana, Daksha Prajapati, who was the son of Lord Brahma, had many daughters amongst whom he married off twenty seven to Chandra, the Moon God. The twenty seven were Aswini, Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Mrigasirsha, Arudra, Punarvasu, Pushya, Aslesha, Magha, Poorva , Uttara, Hastha, Chitra, Swati, Visaka, Anuradha, Jyestha, Moola, Poorvashada,Uttarashada, Sravana,Dhanishta,Sadaya, Poorva Phalguna,Uttaraphalguna and Revathi.
Chandra was an extremely handsome person and was somewhat proud about his looks too. When the marriage took place, Daksha Prajapati told Chandra that all his twenty seven daughters should be treated on par and to be treated well. Chandra also agreed to be impartial and treat all his wives equally well.
However, after the wedding, Chandra developed a fondness for his fourth wife Rohini. She became his favourite and he spent almost all the time in her company. The other wives were patient at the beginning but soon started feeling neglected as their sister Rohini kept Chandra with her all the time.
One day, three of them, Krittika, Magha and Anuradha were discussing this problem amongst themselves.
“He has not spoken a word to me for almost a month!” said Krittika.
“You are talking of speaking. He has not even smiled at me for the past two months”, Anuradha said with a sigh.
“You both do not know that he has not even glanced at me for as long as I remember” Magha said with tears in her eyes. “Let us wait here. He will come in a short while to go to Rohini’s palace and we shall ask him what he has in mind. Does he not remember the promise he made to our father?” Magha’s voice was trembling with anger.
Hearing the conversation, Chitra came and said “ You are waiting for our husband? Hmph… He has not come out from Rohini’s palace since yesterday. Where will you meet him? I think we shall go and complain to our father. Come on!”
“That is the right thing to do” the sisters chorused and went to meet their father taking all their other sisters with them. Daksha was shocked to see the twenty six of his daughters teary eyed coming to see him so late at night.
“What happened my dears?” he asked, “And where is Rohini? Who has dared to trouble the daughters of the mighty Daksha Prajapati?” he roared.
The girls broke down. They told their father about Chandra’s indifference to them and his partial treatment to Rohini.
“We cannot take it any more” they said. “Please help us”
Daksha, terribly angered by the behaviour of his son in law, stormed into Rohini’s palace. Chandra was taken by surprise and did not expect this.
Pointing at Chandra , Daksha said, “You…. You have failed in your duty as a husband. You have made all my daughters sad, much against what you promised me at your wedding! You are proud and arrogant because you are handsome. I curse you now, that you will lose all your sheen and beauty and the brightness because of which you are arrogant!”
The moment the curse was uttered, Chandra’s glow started to reduce. Chandra was almost in tears. He fell at the feet of Daksha and said, “Sire, Indeed I am sorry for my behaviour. Please recall your curse and bless me”
Daksha was in no mood to be pleased. He turned away and said angrily , “I cannot recall my curse. The power to remove your curse is only with Mahadeva” . Saying so he stomped out of the palace.
Chandra was alarmed and so was Rohini. She was guilty that she was also party in bringing about the curse but both were helpless. Slowly day by day Chandra’s sheen and brightness started to reduce.
Chandra was desperate. And so were the devas, since the world was becoming darker night after night. They consoled Chandra and asked him to propitiate Lord Mahadeva. Chandra went from place to place praying to the Lord seeking relief from his curse.
When he came to this place near Veraval in present day Gujarat and found this Mrutyunjaya, he prayed fervently and asked the Lord to release him from the curse, The Lord was pleased and appeared before him.
“Chandra”, he said, “I cannot relieve you fully from the curse of Daksha, but, you will wane for one paksha (15 days) and wax for the next paksha. I will also wear you as a crescent on my matted locks”
The next moment Chandra regained his sheen , he was glowing as a full moon and he, along with Rohini fell at the feet of the Lord. Tears of gratitude were streaming from Chandra’s eyes.
“Rise up” said the Lord “and treat all your wives equally well. This place will henceforth be known as Prabhas Patan” (Prabhas means glittering, illuminating and patan means city in Sanskrit) “I will be known here as Somnath” (Som is another name for Moon)
And the Lord vanished. The day on which Chandra’s curse was released was the day of Kartik Purnima and therefore it holds special significance for this place.
Chandra is said to have built the temple for the Lord in Gold and it is said that Lord Krishna in Dwapara Yuga rebuilt the same with Sandalwood.
The temple was invaded many times from the 11th century and the last invasion was by Aurangazeb and the Rani Ahilyabai Holkar (1725 to 1795 AD) moved by the desecration caused to the temple, has built a similar temple very near the original which is still revered.
The original has been restored to a glorious condition thanks to the efforts of Sardar Vallabai Patel and Dr. Rajendra Prasad.