Trustees of Shree Somnath Trust and Rajya Sabha MP Chunibhai Gohel on Saturday flagged off the 12 raths (chariots) from the premises of the famous Somnath temple in Gir Somnath district for promotion of 12 jyotirlings among devotees and to also publicise the proposed Dwitiya Dwadash Jyotirling Mahotasav to be organised at Somnath temple from February 23.
JD Parmar, a retired professor who is a trustee of Shree Somnath Trust (SST), Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Chunibhai Gohel and officers of SST flagged off the 12 raths from the Somnath temple premises on Saturday. These 12 raths, or a fleet of tableaux, dedicated one each to 12 jyotirlings of Lord Shiva in the country will roam in the 33 districts of the state for six days. While one rath is dedicated to Gir Somnath district alone, the remaining 11 will cover the 32 districts over the next six days. “Each of the 11 raths will cover around three districts each over the next five days and talk about 12 jyortirlings and their religious importance. They will also talk about the Dwitiya Dwadash Jyotirling Mahotsav (2nd festival of 12 jyotirlings) which will begin at Somnath temple on February 23 and conclude on February 25,” Vijaysinh Chavda, general manager of SST said on Sunday.
SST is the religious trust which manages and maintains Somnath temple, shrine of one of the 12 jyotirlings of Lord Shiva in the country.
Chavda said that raths will halt a pre-decided place every evening and pooja will be performed of the rath at 8 am and 8 pm every day. The raths will return to Somnath February 22, on the eve of the Dwadash Jyotirling Mahotsav.
SST secretary Pravin Laheri said that this is a religious festival and second of its kind after the one organised at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh last year. “This is a religious festival. There are 12 signs of Lord Shiva which are worshiped the most. But we have many common issues also. For example, there is no connectivity to most of the places. Some are in remote places and some even in forest areas. So, we don’t find adequate amenities there. Some like Kashi Vishwanath and Rameshwaram are in mid-sized cities but others are in far off places. So, Madhya Pradesh and Ujjain people thought that let’s have common platform to exchange views and how they perform rituals and yagnas etc. So, this is more a religious-cum-management conclave,” Laheri told The Indian Express on Sunday.
He said that the three-day event will have an inaugural ceremony on the first day, a seminar on the second day and valedictory session on the third day. SST chairman and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel will perform pooja of 12 jyotirlings on the inaugural day while Chief Minister Vijay Rupani will hoist the holy flag and inaugurate the event on February 23. Later in the evening that day, BJP national president Amit Shah, who is also one the six trustees of SST will lead a procession of jyotirlings from Somnath Sanskrit University campus to the Somnath temple. On the second day, a documentary on Somnath shrine will be released and there will be a sammelan of religious figures. Laheri will also deliver a talk on management of temples. On the third and final day of the event, guests will take a tour of Somnath temple premises while columnist Jay Vasavada will deliver a talk. The SST secretary said that around 400 delegates from temple boards managing the other 11 jyotirlings will attend the event.
“Besides the chairman, almost all the trustees of the SST , except Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the conclave. The PM has prior engagements and therefore will not be able to come,” Laheri, the IAS officer who retired from the service as the chief secretary of Gujarat further said.
Keshubhai is the incumbent president of the SST while top BJP leaders like LK Advani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah are its trustees. Prof Parmar and Harshwardhan Neotia, chairman of Ambuja Neotia Group are the other trustees.
The festival and outreach programme by the Somnath temple comes in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election. But when asked if the event has any political angle to it, the SST secretary said. “No, no. Last year it was done and every year it has to be done. It is absolutely a religious programme. It is (about) temple management and Shiv bhakti (worship of Lord Shiva). Everybody is welcome and it is open to all. Hindus are naturally predominant (worshipers) but other people also worship Lord Shiva and they also visit. So it is not a political thing,” said Laheri.
Incidentally, Amit Shah had visited the temple on December 6 and laid the foundation stone of a promenade on the temple complex had asserted that covering the entire Somnath temple with gold can restore its pride. His remarks had come on the eve of polling for Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Telangana.