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SOMNATH (Veraval)

Veraval, mentioned earlier, is a port city and has a shipbuilding yard to manufacture coastal ships. It is also the city nearest to the great Somnath Temple which had an extremely chequered history. Legend has it that the original temple was built by Somraj, the moon-god himself, out of gold. Later, Ravana made with silver, then Krishna in wood and finally King Bhimdev in stone.

Somnath Temple

What is more certain is that the description of the richness of the Somnath temple by Al Biruni, an Arab traveler, brought in the most unwelcome guest to all - Mahmud of Ghazni in AD 1024. At that time the temple was so rich that it had 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and 300 barbers to shave off the heads of the pilgrims. After 2-day battle, Mahmud destroyed the temple and carted off its fabulous wealth to his homeland. This started a tradition of Muslims destroying the Hindu temples and Hindus rebuilding them as soon as they got an opportunity in the following centuries. The Somnath Temple was razed again in 1297, 1394 and finally 1706 by the notorious Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who did the most damage to Hindu-Muslim relations in India. It was rebuilt by the Hindus again in 1950. The present temple was built to traditional pattern on the original site by the sea.

The Somanath temple was renovated by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. The temple earlier was destroyed by Muslims during the invasion of Ghazni Muhammed. Sasan Gir forest 54 kms from Junagadh. This famous sanctuary has been spread over an area of 1,400sq kms. Lions, Hyenas, Foxes, Deer and Antelopes are founded here. Dwaraka - A Hindu pilgrimage centre. The place is much related to Lord Krishna. The Dwarakanath Temple here is a 5 storey building supported by 60 colomus. Krishna Janmashtami is a famous festival that is celebrated here on a grand scale. Nageshwarlinga Temple, one of 12 of the Jyotirlingas is also seen here.

Wankaner

Wankaner (50 kms from Rajkot which is 256 kms from Ahmedabad) Royal Place of Wankaner and its Museum, the Maharana's collection of vintage cars, Ranik Devi temple, Watson Museum in the Jubilee Gardens are the places of tourist interest.

Balak Tirth Temple

Between Somnath and Veraval is the Balak Tirth Temple which contains a reclining statue of lord Krishna, signifying death here while resting over a deer-skin. A Bhil huneter mistook him for an animal and killed him accidentally. Also, near Veraval is the site of his cremation - a three river Sangam. It is a sacred spot of great antiquity.

The Ahir women in this area - the members of the same tribe as his consort Radha still wear black - in what must be the longest mourning in the history of mankind.


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