The temple at Somnath houses the “Lord of the moon”, foremost of the twelve Jyotir Lingams or “lingams of light”. Somnath lies on the Gujarat coast at Veraval and attracts millions of pilgrims every year.
The origin of Somnath temple is linked to a legend. Chandra the moon god married the 27 stars, the daughters of Daksha. But he showed far more love and affection for one of them, called Rohini. The other 26 wives felt insulted and took their complaints to their father. Daksha was angry and twice tried to persuade his son-in-law to change his attitude, but in vain. So he cast a spell on Chandra so that he would shrink and shrink until he was invisible.
The Devas (the celestial gods) were worried about Chandra’s situation and went to see Brahma, the creator god. Brahma told them the only way to counteract the spell was to pray to Shiva. So Chandra did penitence for six months and prayed ardently to Shiva. In the end Shiva appeared to him, blessed him and made it so that he would shrink for the first half of each month and grow back in the second half, reaching his original size again as the full moon.
According to legend Somnath is the place where Chandra worshipped Shiva. The holy bathing tank or kund in Somnath is supposed to have been created by the Devas, so devotees believe that when they bathe in it they can be cleansed of all their sins.
It is said that the temple was built in four stages: first in gold, by Chandra himself; then in silver, by Ravi the sun god; then in wood by Lord Krishna; and finally in stone, by King Bhimadeva.
The temple is also known as the “eternal shrine” because it was destroyed six times by Muslim invasions and rebuilt each time.