Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to restore the old glory of Somnath. And this was the dream of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as well, about seven decades ago. For PM Modi, the construction and revamp of temples in Somnath or Ayodhya is not a matter of narrow Hindutva, as India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru considered it. That is why PM Modi is trying to redevelop ancient temples with a historical value. This is being done to attract people once again to these ancient seats of religion. Government schemes like PRASHAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive) are for this purpose.
On Friday morning, the Prime Minister is going to dedicate to the nation three big projects related to Somnath, and with this, he will also lay the foundation stone for the temple of Parvati Mata. Because of the Covid pandemic, all these inaugurations will take place online. Modi is the president of the Somnath Trust and home minister Amit Shah is a member of it.
Dedication of Samudra Darshan Path
The most important of the three projects that Modi is going to dedicate to the nation is a promenade that has been named Samudra Darshan Path. It has been created at a cost of Rs 47 crore and this money has come from the central government’s ministry of tourism, which runs the PRASHAD scheme. This promenade is around 1.5 kilometre long and 27 feet wide, and a wall that runs along it has attractive paintings related to the life of Lord Shiva based on the Shiva Puran. Tourists can get a glimpse of the ocean and the grandeur of the Somnath temple from here.
Somnath also has a grand exhibition centre
PM Modi will also inaugurate an exhibition centre at this place which has all those statutes found during the excavation done to construct the temple. The remains of three ancient temples were found during the excavation. Most of these remains have been kept in the government exhibition centre. This centre also gives the visitors a glimpse of the history of the Somnath temple and finer points of its architecture and religious importance.
Somnath development works done under Centre’s PRASHAD scheme
Somnath Exhibition Gallery has been constructed by the Tourism Ministry of the Centre under PRASHAD Phase-1 scheme. A solid waste management plant has also been put in place. It is expected that these schemes will attract a huge number of tourists. Somnath is the most important jyotirlinga of Mahadev in the country.
The Ahilyabai temple complex
Along with the promenade and the exhibition centre, the PM will also inaugurate the reconstructed Ahilyabai temple complex known as Juna Somnath temple. This temple was first constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar between 1783 and 1787. Earlier, devotees used to worship Somnath in the same temple that was built by Ahilyabai. The Somnath Trust has got this new complex reconstructed at a cost of Rs 3 crore and no government money has been spent on this.
The grand Somnath temple was planned in Ahilyabai’s temple
The decision to reconstruct the demolished Somnath temple was taken by Sardar Patel on November 13, 1947, in the same temple complex that was constructed by Ahilyabai Holkar around 1783. In Vikram Samvat 2004, on the first day of the new year, Patel had taken the vow to reconstruct the Somnath temple. Now as a trustee of the Somnath temple, Modi is fulfilling the dream of Sardar regarding the overall development of Somnath, apart from making the temple complex more attractive. Before this, PM Modi already has the credit of constructing the tallest memorial of Sardar Patel in Kevadiya, Gujarat, famous as the Statue of Unity.
A Shiva Bhakt will lay foundation stone of Parvati Mandir
For the last seven decades, the Somnath temple has stood tall on the shores of the Arab Sagar but Parvati Mandir was not yet constructed. Now PM Modi is fulfilling this dream, himself being a big devotee of Lord Shiva. But the bhakti cannot be complete without the temple of Parvati! So on Friday, he is going to lay the foundation stone for the Parvati temple also. This project will entail an expense of Rs 30 crore and the money will come from donations, and no government money will be spent on this.
Emphasis on adding tourist facilities at Somnath
The government fund is being used only to develop the infrastructure around the Somnath temple so that it could boost religious tourism. To attract more people towards religious places like Somnath, the Tourism Ministry has created a scheme like the Iconic Destination Development Scheme which will get the nod of the Central Cabinet soon. If this happens, then a Rs 111 crore scheme will be started at Somnath which include a master plan for Somnath and this will have a new shopping complex, heritage walk, a new museum, Geeta temple, construction of a new riverfront at Triveni Sangam, Eco-Village Haat to exhibit local art and craft and foods.
Somnath master plan has a provision of Rs 282 crore
The revised cost of the master plan of Somnath is of Rs 282 crore of which Rs 111 crore will come from the Iconic Destination Development Scheme of the Central Tourism Ministry and the rest Rs 171 crore will be pumped in by the Somnath Trust and other government agencies. There are also plans to start flights from Keshod airport, sea-plane, ferry, cruise and boat services. Revamping a wall around the temple and lighting arrangement in the Somnath complex are also part of the plan.
Second phase of PRASHAD will have an expense of Rs 40 crore
The tourism department will spend around Rs 40 crore on the second phase of PRASHAD. Under this, a public plaza will be constructed which will have facilities for the tourists waiting to get a pass to see the temple and a parking facility for the differently abled nearby. All these projects will be complete in 2-3 years. If this happens, tourists including kids and elderly people, will be able to reach Somnath in no time via trains, roads, and flights. They will get all the facilities here and can even enjoy cruises in the Arabian Sea. This will bring Somnath on the tourist map of the country in a big way once again. Somnath has been a historically famous temple that also bore the brunt of attackers in the medieval period. The temple was looted and demolished.
Reconstructed Somnath temple was inaugurated by Rajendra Prasad
Somnath temple was demolished and plundered by the medieval Muslim attackers on many occasions and every time this temple came back to life with much more vigour with the help of the devotees. So after the demolition when this temple was reconstructed in Gujarat’s Prabhas Patan, it was inaugurated by the country’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad on May 11, 1951.
Somnath was attacked more than half a dozen times
This temple came to the same place where it was attacked at different times in history by Mahmoud Ghazani, Allauddin Khilji, Mahmood Tughlaq, Jafar Khan aka Muzaffar Shah, Mahamud Beghra and Aurangzeb. Once the Somnath temple was also desecrated by Portuguese military commander DaCosta.
Sardar inspired the reconstruction of Somnath temple
Just after India got independence, it decided to reconstruct the Somnath temple and restore its past glory. This resolution was taken by none other than Sardar Patel.
Muslim rulers had tried to give Somnath temple to Pakistan
At the suggestion of the Deewan (prime minister) Shahnawaz Bhutto, the-then Nawab of Junagadh Mahabat Khan III had plotted to secede to Pakistan. Junagadh had a more than 80 per cent Hindu population and the demolished Somnath temple was part of this principality.
The people of Junagadh revolted against the decision of the Nawab and they started a movement which was led by Shamaldas Gandhi who headed the temporary people’s government, Arzee Hukumat. Bhutto later fled to Pakistan and after the situation changed in Junagadh, he himself asked India to take control of Junagadh.
Sardar vowed on November 13, 1947, to reconstruct Somnath temple
On November 9, 1947, the Indian military took control of Junagadh and three days later, on November 12, Sardar Patel reached Junagadh, and from there he went to Prabhas Patan on November 13. He saw the demolished temple and he wept. He took a handful of water from the Arabian Sea and took the vow to reconstruct this temple and restore its past glory. The talk of the reconstruction started in the temple complex constructed by Ahilyabai Holkar. Those present were Arzee Hukumat head Shamaldas Gandhi, the ruler of Navanagar Jamsahab Digvijay Singh and VN Gadagil who was a minister in the central cabinet. Jamsahab promised to give one lakh for the reconstruction of the temple and Shamaldas said that the Arzee Hukumat of Junagadh will give Rs 51,000 and with this, the work on the reconstruction started.
Nehru and Maulana were not in favour of the reconstruction
The newly formed cabinet of the Government of India took the decision of reconstruction of the Somnath temple because, before this, the government had already taken the decision of reconstructing many mosques at government expense. On the suggestion of Mahatma Gandhi, Patel decided to get the temple reconstructed by a Somanth Trust with the money received as donation. Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad were not in favour of reconstructing the temple. Nehru saw it as Hindutva revivalism, and Azad wanted to keep the demolished temple in a ruined state as heritage. But Sardar knew that this demolished temple of Somnath is like a raw wound for the majority Hindus of the country.
The reconstruction started in 1950
Thanks to the determination shown by Sardar Patel, the reconstruction of the temple took off. On January 23, 1949, it was decided to form the Somnath Trust and after Sardar gave his green signal, on March 15, 1950, the Trust came into being and started functioning. Jamsahab Digvijay Singh was its first chairman.
Sardar did not live to see inauguration of reconstructed temple
After the Somnath Trust came into being, on April 19, 1950, the-then chief minister of Saurashtra, Uchharangray Navalshankar Dhebar, inaugurated the construction works and on May 4, 1950, Jamsahab Digvijay Singh laid the foundation of the temple. But before this temple could be inaugurated, Sardar Patel died on December 15, 1950.
After Sardar died, Nehru vehemently opposed Somnath temple
After Sardar Patel died, Nehru’s opposition to the Somnath temple increased. He targeted his two cabinet colleagues KM Munshi and NV Gadgil. He got infuriated when he learnt that on the invitation of KM Munshi, President Rajendra Prasad had consented to be present at the function held to inaugurate the temple on May 11, 1951. Nehru alleged that the construction of the temple had started without taking the Cabinet into confidence and debating the issue.
Nehru had asked Rajendra Prasad to stay away from Somnath issue
NV Gadgil had to present cabinet reports to take the wind out of Nehru’s arguments, which said that this issue of reconstruction of the temple has already been discussed in the cabinet that gave its nod to it. Ministers like Jagjivan Ram supported Gadgil. Gadgil has written about this in his book ‘Government from Inside’ in detail. Nehru was opposed to the use of the Government of India’s foreign offices to collect soil, water and other things from different countries for the inauguration of this temple. He was also opposed to the idea of the President going for the inauguration ceremony and he tried to stop him from doing so. But Rajendra Prasad did not listen to him and he attended the function. He even threatened to leave his post to attend the inauguration ceremony. Nehru was so angry that he even did not allow the PIB to issue a press release on the inauguration of the temple by the President.
Somnath is the symbol of the changed politics of the country
That was a time and this too is a time. After seven decades, the political landscape of the country has totally changed. This could be seen in the way the central government is dealing with this issue. The first PM of the country opposed the reconstruction of the temple while the one who is in power today, PM Modi, is facilitating everything and making everything available for the revamp works related to the Somnath temple. He also heads the Somnath Trust from January this year. Unlike Nehru, Modi has deep faith in Hindu Sanatan Culture and is deeply attached to Somnath. The same could be said about home minister Amit Shah who is also a member of the Somnath Trust. As the home minister of India, Patel facilitated the reconstruction of the Somnath temple, and now in the same capacity, Amit Shah is helping PM Modi achieve the next step.
Both Modi and Shah are Shiv Bhakts, part of Somnath Trust
Modi is a devotee of Shiva. He was a regular visitor of the Shiva temple in Vadnagar and when the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra started, he visited the shrine in 1989 itself. He visited the Somnath temple when he was a Pracharak in the Sangh. When Modi tested the politics of connecting with people through Rath Yatras in Gujarat, even Lal Krishna Advani chose Somnath to start his Rath Yatra for Ayodhya Ram Mandir reconstruction. Both these religious places have similarities as they were demolished by Muslim rulers and attackers.
Apart from Somnath, Modi also played a big role in Ayodhya
The whole planning of Advani’s Rath Yatra from Somnath was done by Modi himself. Before Ram Rath Yatra could reach Ayodhya, it was stopped by the-then chief minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav in Samastipur. But this did not stop the wave of the reconstruction of the Ram temple. A year after this, Modi went to Ayodhya with the-then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi to have darshan of Ramlala. Maybe, then he had promised that he will come again only when the works on the reconstruction of the temple will start. And this is precisely what happened. PM Modi got the opportunity to do the Bhoomi Pujan for the construction of the new temple.
Both as CM and PM, Somnath has been on Modi’s mind
The construction of Ram temple is going on at a great pace. And the development works of Somnath are also going on in full swing. During his long tenure as CM of Gujarat, Modi gave a push to the works on the Somnath temple. He also became a member of the Somnath Trust during this period. There was a time when the first PM of the country did not like to talk about Somnath and Ayodhya. But today, the man in the PM’s seat is presiding over the reconstruction and revamp of the temple sites, promising to return them to their old glory. The country has now shed the pretence of being a secular state and is now advancing rapidly on the path of glorious Indian culture. Somnath and Ayodhya symbolise this change. After getting Junagadh seceded to India, Patel had given the slogan of “Jay Somnath” and today Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who don’t believe in pseudo-secularism, are not just chanting “Jay Somnath” but “Jay Shri Ram” as well, and they have strengthened their grips on Indian politics and are charting the destiny of India.