THE 17TH OF MAY, 1970 WILL REMAIN ETCHED IN THE HISTORY OF BHARAT (INDIA) IN GOLDEN LETTERS. It is the day when one of the holiest of Lord Shiva shrines, Somnath, was revived with a promise of security by the Shiva-Shakti Avatar, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. On that auspicious day, streams of cars and buses arrived at the great Somnath temple on the coast of Saurashtra (India) to witness Swami opening the Digvijayadwar (gateway of ultimate victory) of the magnificently renovated temple of the ancient Someshwara shrine.

This ancient temple is situated on the spot sanctified by Vedic rituals. It is the holiest of holy sites–and also lauded in the epic Mahabharata. The place is called Somnath on account of the Sparsha Linga in the temple, which was worshiped by Soma (the Moon God), who is the presiding deity of the mind. It is associated with the penance of the Pandavas (the five noble sons of Pandu) and the divine lives of Lord Krishna and his brother Balarama. The temple attracted a broad spectrum of worshippers of Shiva and spiritual seekers, like the Sivayogis, who had specialized in Somavidya, and the Pasupata sect of Siva worship founded by Lakulisa 1,700 years ago.

Amazing History

History documents that the temple was built and rebuilt on the same sacred spot whenever it became dilapidated due to age or whenever it suffered from depredation. The third of this series of calamities transpired when it was destroyed by the Muhammad of Ghazni, ruler of the Ghaznavid empire, in 1026 A.D. It is said that the fifth temple, too, met with the same fate at the hands of the invading rulers of Delhi. On Diwali Day, 1947, when the Indian Army entered the territory of the Nawab of Junagadh, where Somnath is situated, a leader of independent India, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, gave a clarion call, “We have decided that Somnath should be reconstructed. This is a holy task in which all should participate.”

The temple was rebuilt entirely with generous donations from devotees. The Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, who later became an ardent devotee of Bhagawan Baba, also supported the temple construction. It was he who laid the foundation stone for the temple in 1950. Though the construction was labor- and resource-intensive, he persevered in his mission. Finally, he crowned the beauty of the temple by erecting a mighty tower.

Somnath Temple 1869

The Sanctity and Sacredness of Somnath

Many Hindu texts detail the most sacred pilgrimage sites of Lord Shiva, along with a guide for visiting the site. The best known were the Mahatmya genre of texts. Of these, Somnath temple tops the list of jyotirlingas in the Jnana Samhita–chapter 13 of the Shiva Purana. This oldest known text with a list of jyotirlingas elaborates the following:

Saurashtre Somanatham Cha Srishaile Mallikarjunam Ujjayinyaam Mahakalam-Omkaaram-Amaleshvaram

At Saurashtra is Somnath and at Srisailam is Mallikarjuna. At Ujjain is Mahakala or Mahakaleshwar,
and at Omkareshwar are the lingas Omkareswar and the Amaleshwar or Mamaleshwar.

Paralyam Vaidyanatham Ca Dakinyam Bhimashankaram Setubandhe Tu Ramesham Nagesham Darukavane

At Parli is Vaidyanath, and at Dakini is Bhimashankar. At Setubandha is Rameshwar, and at Darukavana is Nageshwar.

Varanasyam Tu Vishvesham Tryambakam Gautami-tatte Himaalaye Tu Kedaaram Ghushmesham Ca Shivaalaye

At Varanasi is Vishwanath, and at the bank of river Gautami or Godavari is Tryambakeshwar.
At Himalaya is Kedarnath, and at Shivalaya is Grishneshwara.

Etaani Jyotirlingani Sayam Pratah Patthen-Narah Saptao-Janma-Krtam Papam Smarannena Vinashyati

Those people who meditate upon these Jyotirlingas during the evenings and
mornings will have their sins committed across seven births destroyed by such remembrance.

The Golden Day

By 1970, the new temple, called Mahameru Prasad, had been completed, and, in place of the original linga, the temple priests installed a new stone linga. The entrance Gopuram, named after the late Jamsaheb of Nawanagar, who was also the President of the Somnath Trust, was ready for inauguration by Bhagawan. The late Jamsaheb had prayed intensely to Swami that He should inaugurate the Gopuram. Years of prayers and yearning finally yielded fruit, and the Rajmata of Nawanagar was delighted when Baba agreed to travel to Saurashtra (in Gujarat) to fulfill the prayer of the royal family.

It was a landmark event in the history of Somnath that deserves to be inscribed in letters of gold, for Bhagawan had declared that He would reveal the real Somnath that day. No wonder there was an immense gathering of eager spiritual aspirants seeking darshan not only at Somnath but all along the 290-kilometer route from Jamnagar to the shrine–at Rajkot, Junagadh, and a host of other towns and villages.

Bhagawan opened with a silver key the lock on the exquisitely carved and embossed door of the imposing Digvijayadwar (named after Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja. Then, He proceeded along the red carpet through the festooned passage to the main temple. Entering the holy shrine, Swami created 108 golden bilva leaves (sacred leaves of Lord Shiva) and 108 golden flowers with a mere wave of His hand. The devotees in His entourage reverentially touched the leaves and flowers. He then showered them on the four-foot-high Linga installed in the shrine while a group of Pundits chanted the sacred Vedic mantras.

Touch of the Sparsha Linga

A few minutes later, Baba waved His hand again. Lo and behold! There was a flash of light, and the Sparsha Linga of Somnath lay nestled in His hand. According to the Skanda Purana, the Sparsha Linga is a Swayambhu Linga (formed on its own) ‘as bright as the sun’ and ‘the size of an egg.’ This linga of great prowess situated underground was now resting in the divine palm! That was the authentic Someshwar He had promised to reveal, nestling for untold centuries underground, under the main upper linga, away from the hands of desecrators, predators, and foreign invaders.

Swami in the sanctum sanctorum of the Somnath temple on May 17, 1970.

After revitalizing it with His divine touch, He then materialized a silver peetham (pedestal) and installed the linga thereon. He did not return it to its earlier invisible abode as He had done in Badrinath. Instead, He declared that from now on, this temple shall ever remain free from any attack. No despoiler from any quarter shall lay his evil hand on this temple. There is no danger to it anymore. I am therefore making this linga freely available for public darshan and worship by devotees.

Bhagawan gave the Sparsha linga with the peetham to the chief priest so that it may be worshiped uninterrupted henceforth. The devotees gathered were all delighted. Then, with the trustees of the temple, the Collector (government official), and the local officers, Baba went around the temple and unfurled the flag on the 150-foot-high tower over the shrine. Thousands of devotees expressed their reverence and gratitude to Baba as He gave darshan.

The word ‘Somnath’ can also be understood as Sa (with) + Uma (Goddess Parvati) + Nath (Lord Shiva), which is indicative of the Ardhanareeshwara (Left side of the body is Goddess Parvati and the right side is Shiva) or Shiva-Shakti that Swami represents. Jyotirlinga can be understood as Jyoti (light) + Linga, which means the linga of light! Is it any surprise that Prof. Kasturi records the appearance of the Sparsha Linga as a streak of blinding light? Indeed, the devotees were blessed on that holy day to witness both–the Jyotirlinga and the Someswara Linga!!

How Sainath Took Jam Saheb to Somnath

Rajmata Gulabkunverba Saheba, wife of the Jam Saheb, with Swami.

Swami indeed arrived at Somnath after Maharaja Jam Saheb passed away. However, He traveled with this noble devotee to Somnath in a mysterious manner! Before Jam Saheb was introduced to Swami in 1965, he suffered from multiple serious ailments. The leading members of the medical fraternity had lost all hope for his recovery. Just when the family felt all was lost, the family guru, ‘Guru Maharaj,’ came to Jam Saheb and presented him with a picture of Swami, saying, “My job as the Guru is to lead you to God. This is God incarnated on earth. Pray to Him, and all will be well.”

With complete faith in the words of his Guru, Jam Saheb began to pray to the picture. Barely a few hours passed when a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba arrived from Puttaparthi. Handing over a few packets of vibhuti, he said, “Swami has sent Prasadam for you.” This action was astounding because, obviously, Swami had given him the vibhuti long before Jam Saheb had even started praying to Him! Needless to say, he recovered and braved the travel to Puttaparthi to express his gratitude to Swami.

In the interview that ensued, Swami blessed Jam Saheb and asked him, “What do you want?”

“Swami, I know my time is up, and my life is ebbing away. I request you to give me an extension of time to complete my responsibilities.”

Swami replied, “I shall give you one year. Complete all that you need to and be ready.”

Exactly one year to that day, Jam Saheb left his mortal coil. Minutes after his passing away, a message arrived from Swami: “Tell Rajmata [his wife] that I have personally taken the soul of Jam Saheb to Somnath temple.”

Many months later, Swami traveled to Bombay and graced the residence of the Rajmata of Jamnagar. Rajmata’s daughter, who was in the dining room while Swami sat in the living room, had a fleeting thought, “Swami said that He took my father’s soul to Somnath. I wish He would give me some confirmation about this.”

Just then, the door opened, and Swami was standing in the doorway. However, when the daughter looked at Him, unmistakenly, it was the face of her father! He smiled, and her father’s face stayed on for a few moments before reverting to Swami’s smiling countenance. The confirmation was instantaneous, and she was elated that Sainath had indeed taken her beloved father to Somnath!

Just as the devotees that had gathered in the Somnath temple on May 17, 1970, cried out in exuberant jubilation, “Jai Bolo Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ji Ki Jai (Victory to Lord Sri Sathya Sai Baba), let us also celebrate and be grateful for the blessings of the supreme Lord Sai, whom the Yogis have worshiped and whom devotees have yearned for, and who has touched our lives too!

Image Courtesy:
Mr. Aravind Balasubramanya  



Mr. Aravind Balasubramanya comes from a family that has been devoted to Swami from early 1960s. He completed his Bachelor of Science from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, receiving a gold medal. He also holds an M.S. (Chemistry) and an MBA from the SSSIHL. He worked for Radio Sai from 2007 to 2021. Aravind has authored five books on Swami. He was Swami’s photographer for nearly five years. Aravind has dedicated his life to serving Swami and sharing His teachings through various media channels. He presently is part of the SSSIO Digital Media team and mentors the YAs.

First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 3, Iss. 3