Muslim vandalism through the ages See the mutilated image ofShiva Nataraja at Somanath
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was totally against the reconstruction of Somanatha Temple. He persuaded the Archaeological Department of the Government of India to preserve the ancient ruins of the temple as an Ancient Monument under the Ancient Monuments Preservations Act. He wanted to use this argument as an excuse to prevent the reconstruction of the new Somnath Temple. When this question was pressed by the Archaeological Department, Sardar Vallabhai Patel in a fearless manner recorded as follows in a concerned file: ‘... The Hindu sentiment in regard to this Temple is both strong and widespread. In the present conditions, it is unlikely that, that sentiment will be satisfied by mere restoration of the temple or by prolonging its life. The restoration of the idol would be a point of honour and sentiment with a Hindu public.’
Sardar Patel was clear in his objective that the restoration of the idol of Somanath should not interfere with the maintenance of the old temple. The specialists, on closer scrutiny, also found that the ruins were salt-eaten and irreparable, nor could they support a new shikhara. Age-old religious injunctions also stood in the way of installing the deity in ruins which could not be renovated as prescribed. It was, therefore, finally decided to rebuild the Somanatha Temple.
On December 13, 1947, the Standing Committee of the Ministry of Works, Mines and Power of the Government of India approved of the idea and N V Gadgil, the Union Minister In-Charge, instructed his Consulting Architect to visit Prabhasa Patan. Though the Government of India sponsored this scheme, Sardar Patel at the suggestion of Mahatma Gandhi decided that the Government should not make any contribution in the form of money for the reconstruction of the Somanatha Temple. On December 25, 1947, the Union States Ministry decided to request the Junagadh authorities to lease a sufficiently large area around the temple for development on these lines. At a Conference held at Jam Nagar on January 23, 1949, under the Presidentship of Sardar Patel and attended by Union Minister Shri Gadgil, U Dhebar, Minister of Saurashtra, Jam Saheb and Samaldas Gandhi it was decided to create a new Board of Trustees for undertaking the reconstruction of Somanatha Temple and for controlling and supervising its subsequent maintenance and administration.
The objects of the new Somanath Trust were to include ‘not only the rebuilding and the maintenance of the Somanath Temple itself and its auxiliary institutions, the renovation of Dehotsarga whare Lord Sri Krishna parted with His body, but also the general improvement of the neighbourhood so as to restore its atmosphere of sanctity’”
Sri K M Munshi was instructed by Sardar Patel to prepare the Trust Deed.
Upto the end of the 13th century, Somanatha was worshipped throughout
India as a deity of equal importance with Kasi Vishwanatha. From the 4th or 5th century, it was one of the greatest seats of Sanskrit learning presided over by the great teachers of the Pashupata Cult of Shaivism, which exercised its influence in the whole of India. It was the considered view of both Sardar Patel and K M Munshi that the reconstruction of Somanath Temple by itself was not enough in those days of cultural resurgence, nor did the authoritative tradition of that great temple permit its dissociation from a centre of learning. If the temple was to be a real centre of attraction for the country, they felt that it should have a close association with an All India Sanskrit University and should also have a suburb where people could come either for health, study or for rest, and a gho-shala. All these proposals were approved by Sardar Patel. Thanks to the united efforts of Sardar Patel and K N Munshi, we have today a full-pledged somanath Sanskrit university at somanath.
His Highness the Jam Saheb laid the foundation stone of the Seventh Temple on May 8, 1950. A silver Nandi was consecrated and with its aid K M Munshi performed on October 19, 1950, the ceremony of pulling down the Fifth Temple, which, hoary and in ruins, was awaiting the shrine’s resurrection.
Thus Sardar Patel and K M Munshi triumphantly marched together and succeeded magnificently in reconstructing the Somanatha Temple at Prabhasa Patan. Somanatha has been the shrine beloved of India. For ages, it has been not merely the shrine of the Hindus; pilgrims of other faiths are also referred to in old chronicles as visiting it. In its worship India found ancient glory and unending inspiration. In maintaining it with magnificence, India felt a throbbing zeal to maintain the core of her faith, tradition, and collective greatness.: Our ancient Hindu race subconsciously felt that it was Somanatha which connected it with the past and the present; it was the eternal symbol of its faith in itself and its future. That is why as often as the shrine was destroyed by the Muslim invaders, the irrepressible urge to restore it sprang up again and again all the time in its heart. That is why Somanatha, as a Jyotirlinga, has been given a premier place in religious literature for ages. That is why from Mahabharata downwards, the Pauranic literature has referred to Prabhasa with a reverence not shown to any other sacred place.
As K M Munshi sums it up forcefully and beautifully: ‘That is why for a thousand years Mahmud of Ghazni’s destruction of the shrine in 1025 AD has been burnt into the Collective Sub-conscious of the race as an unforgettable national disaster. It was perhaps a symbolic projection of the unexpressed wish of myriads of hearts of all generations who yearned for Somanatha’s resurrection. The national urge was reflected when Sardar Vallabhai Patel, with uncanny insight, saw on November 12, 1947 that we would never genuinely feel that freedom had come, nor develop faith in our future, unless Somanatha was restored’.
(The writer is a retired IAS officer)
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