While people should no longer harbour feeling of vengeance against those who desecrated Somnath temple 17 times, the only redemption can be to restore its pride and glory by plating the entire temple with gold, BJP president Amit Shah said on Thursday.
After speaking about the history of the Somnath temple and how it was vandalised by Muslim invaders between 11th to 18th century, Shah said the temple had come a long way after it was rebuilt in 1950s. But he said, the only answer to repeated attacks on the temple could be to restore its glory and pride one more time.
“Today, one crore people are visiting the 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. From a religious point of view, to plate Lord Shiva’s shrine with gold could be the height of folly. There cannot be a revenge against those who have tried to destroy 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. As people, as a follower of the religion, to restore the pride and eminence of this jyotirlingam could be our collective resolve,” Shah said.
The BJP president is also one of the trustees of Shree Somnath Trust (SKT), a religious trust which manages and maintains the Somnath temple and other temple in the complex. Shah was addressing a gathering on Chowapaty Ground near the Somnath temple after laying the foundation stone of a promenade along the coastline near the temple. 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 Rs45 crore and it will have artistic sitting 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.
Shah said that despite being targeted repeatedly by invaders, people restored the temple after every attack and added that Somnath was not merely a shrine but an article of self-pride and religion of people. “The place where we have gathered today for the ceremony to lay the foundation stone (of the proposed walkway), had remained the battleground of struggle for one’s own religion and self-pride for 600 years. Lakhs of people sacrificed their lives for their religion and self-pride. Attempts had been made 17 times to desecrate this jyotirlingam and the shrine and they had succeeded also. 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.
The BJP president had reached Somnath with his family last evening after campaigning for days in Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoramsaid. His comments come just a day before polling in Rajasthan and Telangana.
Shah, who is a Rajya Sabha member also said suggested that restoring the glory of the temple was necessary to restore pride of people and followers. “In our scripture, God doesn’t have a defined shape. He is niranjan, nirankara (without a defined shape). But worshiping the nirajan, nirakar shakti (divinity) is very tough. So, two ways of worship were devised. One was to do pranpratishtha (a ritual to bestow pran (life) in an idol) and the other was to believe that gods live in a particular place where there is no need for a shrine or an idol. Worship of 12 jyortilingams and 52 shaktipiths are such places which are worshipped due to their geographical and astronomical location. The first among these 12 jyotirlingams is this Somnath in Saurashtra region. If one reads its old narrations, there are references of there being a temple decorated with gold, silver and precious gems. There are chapters also dealing how this temple was vandalised 17 times. And the last time it was vandalised, they loaded gold and gems on 1051 camels and took it away. This much wealth people of this country had offered to prabhu Somnath (Lord Shiva),” said the SKT trustee.
The politician 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, Kanaiyalal Maneklala Munshi etc recognised that merely winning the freedom was not enough. They thought it necessary to also restore self-pride of people. Therefore, on the festival of Diwali then, they resolved to rebuild this temple. And, today, this grand shrine of Lord Shiva blesses people living even far away. Scores of people, including Dr Rajendra Prasad, Kaniayalal Maneklal Munshi, Jamsaheb, Morarji Desai, Prasanvadan Mehta etc toiled for years for development of this temple and this place. And today, it is in a state where one can feel happy. Every year, one crore people from entire country come to Somnath for darshan,” he said.
Shah had joined the board of trustees of SKT two years ago. Its other trustees include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior BJP LK Advani, former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, retired Gujarat chief secretary Pravin Laheri, retired professor Jivan Parmar and Ambuja-Neotia Group chairman Harshvardhan Neotia. Keshubhai is the chairman of the trust while Laheri is its secretary.
Shah said that he had no doubt, the entire temple will be plated with gold in near future. “The pace with which the work to plate the temple with gold is progressing, I am confident that in very near future, people will be able to see all the kalash (peaks) of the temple plated with gold. Simultaneously, Pravinbhai Laheri has drawn plans to put in place arrangements so that people can express their faith in the temple and there will be facilities and order also,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion earlier, SKT secretary Laheri said that temple was receiving good donations and that in the last five to seven years, and resultantly, the sanctum sanctorum and a few pillars of the temple have already been plated with gold.
The BJP president said that the BJP government led by Narendra Modi had launched PRASAD scheme to promote religious tourism, to make our places of worship clean, accessible and to restore their religious importance. Somnath has also been covered in this PRASAD scheme. “Under this scheme, we have laid the foundation stone of a walkway. Through this small but important event today, a project has been undertaken to increase facilities of Somnath yatradham (the place of pilgrimage). This walkway, to be developed at the cost of around Rs45 crore will become a huge attraction for those who stay for night in Somnath. There are scores of narrations of Som Samudra, Ratnakar Samudra etc in our scripture. People will have darshan of this Samudra (sea) through galleries while strolling on this walkway. One will be able to have darshan of all the shrines located between the flag of the jyotirlingam (atop the Somnath temple) to Triveni Sangam through the walkway. We shall all try to restore pride of this jyotirlingam,” said Shah.
Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani, Junagadh MP Rajesh Chudasama and Rajya Sabha member Chunibhai Gohel were also present on the occasion.