Stating that people should no longer harbour feelings of vengeance against those who desecrated Somnath temple 17 times in the past, BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday said that the temple’s pride and glory could be restored by completely covering it in gold.
Addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of a promenade along the coastline near the temple, Shah, who is also one of the trustees of Shree Somnath Trust (SKT), said: “Today, one crore people visit the (Somnath) temple every year. There are good facilities here and Shree Somnath Trust is trying its best for developing more tourist facilities. But for people like me, for whom this temple has an article of faith since their childhood, the development of this temple is incomplete and meaningless till the time entire temple is not plated with gold. This is a resolve of scores of people… There cannot be a revenge against those who have tried to destroy the pride and glory of this place. Nor should we harbour any feeling of vengeance. A firm resolve to restore its pride and glory can only be its answer.”
The 1.5-km-long promenade will begin from near the Somnath temple and extend up to Triveni Sangam, the confluence of Kapila, Saraswati and Hiran rivers. The walkway will be developed at the cost of Rs 45 crore and it will have artistic seating arrangements every 200 metres for people to sit and watch sea as well as have darshan of various shrines. The project is being funded by Union Tourism Ministry under its Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) scheme which is aimed at promoting religious tourism.
Speaking about how the temple was “vandalised by Muslim invaders from 11th to 18th century”, Shah said that despite being targeted repeatedly by invaders, people restored the temple after every attack. “But every time, like the phoenix, the temple rose again. And today, we can see that a grand temple is there for the world to see,” he said.
He said that because the temple was also a symbol of pride of people, leaders took up the task of rebuilding it after India won freedom in 1947. “After Independence, foresighted leaders like Jamsaheb (Digvijaysinhji, the ruler of erstwhile Navagam state), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Kanhaiyalal Maneklal Munshi etc recognised that merely winning the freedom was not enough. They thought it was necessary to also restore self-pride of people.”
The BJP president said that the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched PRASAD scheme to promote religious tourism, to make places of worship clean, accessible, and to restore their religious importance.
Shah had joined the board of trustees of SKT two years ago. Its other trustees include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior BJP leader L K Advani, former chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
The BJP president’s remarks come just a day before polling in Rajasthan and Telangana.
Speaking on the occasion earlier, SKT secretary and former Gujarat chief secretary Pravin Laheri said that temple was receiving good amount of donations, and as a result, the sanctum sanctorum and a few pillars of the temple have already been plated with gold.