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The Rama and Krishna circuits may undermine the sanctity of holy sites

Questions about whether the Ayodhya and Dwarka of today exist on the precise spot that they did in ancient times raise doubts about the duplication

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  • The Centre has approved projects worth Rs 300 crore for the development of these circuits in UP alone
  • Questions about whether the Ayodhya and Dwarka of today exist on the precise spot that they did in ancient times raise doubts about the duplication
  • The challenges faced by the committee are many as they have to create one template for all pilgrims even though there are myths and counter-myths

The Ministry of Culture has set up two national committees for the Rama and Krishna circuits. Religious leaders, spiritual gurus, and educationists associated with RSS-backed organisations have been asked to come together to advise the government on developing the two circuits as “Religious tourism” destinations.

The committee formed would devise ways to encourage tourism by identifying theme-based pilgrimage circuits along India’s age-old religious sites associated with Ram and Krishna. The two religious circuits are to map all the major sites associated with the two deities and develop them as religious tourism destinations. It is expected that this initiative would definitely influence the vote bank ahead of the polls.

The Ramayana circuit is expected to stretch from Nepal to Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka. The Krishna circuit will move from Mathura to Dwarka at one end and to Arunachal Pradesh on the other, sources said. The UP government has also been asked to send in proposals.

The Centre has approved projects worth Rs 300 crore for the development of these circuits in UP alone.

The committee had to narrow down many tirthas, or religious sites as the lives of both Ram and Krishna in their human avatars, were marked by constant mobility. On June 14, the committee proposed 11 sites across six states for what is being called the Ramayana circuit: Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringhverpur and Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh; Sitamarhi, Buxar and Darbhanga in Bihar; Jagdalpur in Chattisgarh; Bhadrachalam in Telangana; Hampi in Karnataka; and Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. Under the Krishna circuit, they proposed Dwarka in Gujarat; Nathdwara, Jaipur and Sikar in Rajasthan; Kurukshetra in Haryana, Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana, Nandgaon and Govardhan in Uttar Pradesh and Puri in Odisha, says the Scroll.in report.

Questions about whether the Ayodhya and Dwarka of today exist on the precise spot that they did in ancient times raise doubts about the duplication of these sacred places.

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Ram Paidi ghat in Ayodhya. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
Ram Paidi ghat in Ayodhya. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

“The pilgrims” India, writes Diana Eck in her book ‘India: A Sacred Geography’, “ is a vividly imagined landscape… created by linking, by duplication, and multiplication of places so as to constitute an entire world.”

Some interpretations put pilgrims to be beyond the boundaries of an actual physical presence as the Mahabharata, says, they can be in the mind. Tuladhar says to Jajali: “O Jajali, all rivers are holy, all hills are pure, and the human soul is the true tirtha. It is therefore senseless to undertake pilgrimages and become guests in alien lands.”

Revered gurus such as Gorakhnath and Kabir, also voiced their opinion on going on long and elaborate pilgrimages and bathing in holy rivers to cleanse one’s soul, says Scroll.in.“Ganga na jaoon ji, main Jamuna na jaoon ji main na koi teerath nhaoonji !” – I shall not go to the Ganges, or the Yamuna, neither will I bathe in the holy waters at a tirth – Goraknath has famously proclaimed.

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The challenges faced by the committee are many as they have to create one template for all pilgrims even though there are myths and counter-myths, multiple interpretations of religious lore and multiple versions of Ram and Krishna’s story.

Preparing a calendar of events for the guided tours of Ramayana and Krishna circuits is sure to create issues given that there are so many events to choose from.

To create a specific and centralised tourism patterns in this sacred landscape without destroying the broad spiritual margin is indeed a herculean task. It is also needs to be  ascertained whether the identification of these cities by the committees was not driven by political dimensions. After the conflagrations over Ram and Krishna Janmbhoomi that rocked the state in the 1990s and unleashed horrific communal violence in several parts of India, killing thousands, the government needs to ensure that lands claimed by religions are not used for political mileage.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Some people believe that these circuits may undermine the faith of these holy sites. The need is to reconsider on these.

  • AJ Krish

    Where people arrive at large numbers, business flourishes. Whether they are pilgrimages or tourist spots, people open up stores to cater to the needs of the visitors. I don’t see any fault with commercializing pilgrim centers.

  • Aparna Gupta

    Some people believe that these circuits may undermine the faith of these holy sites. The need is to reconsider on these.

  • AJ Krish

    Where people arrive at large numbers, business flourishes. Whether they are pilgrimages or tourist spots, people open up stores to cater to the needs of the visitors. I don’t see any fault with commercializing pilgrim centers.

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12 Interesting Facts About Somnath Temple Probably You Didn’t Know

The Somnath Temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot.

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Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
  • Somnath Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode
  • The first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past
  • Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga

Somnath Temple is a specimen of fine architecture of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas Shrines of Shiva. This place is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode, therefore it is dubbed as Eternal Shrine. This legendary temple has been vandalized numerous times in the history but with the help of some Hindu Kings, the temple was reshaped each time.

Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. The temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot. Lord Shiva has a strong connection here and also known as shrine eternal.

Somnath Temple History

According to popular tradition, the first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple has been built at the same site by the “Yadava kings” of Vallabhi around 649 CE. In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In 815 CE, the Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple, a huge structure of red sandstone.

Also Read: Top 10 Famous Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu

The Chaulukya (Solanki) king Mularaja possibly built the first temple at the site sometime before 997 CE, even though some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier temple.

Somnath Temple Attacks

Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga. Ghazni took away the wealth of almost 20 million dinars. As per historical records, the damage to the temple by was quite negligible because there are records of pilgrimages to the temple in 1038, which has no much mention of any damage to the temple.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

But claims are there that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees who tried to defend the temple. The temple at the time of Ghazni’s attack appears to have been a wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time.

According to an inscription of 1169, Kumarapala rebuilt it in “excellent stone and studded it with jewels,”

Also Read: Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

Then in 1299, the Somnath Temple was invaded by Alauddin Khalji’s army, led by Ulugh Khan. They defeated the Vaghela king Karna and sacked the Somnath temple. Legends state that the Jalore ruler Kanhadadeva later recovered the Somnath idol and freed the Hindu prisoners, after an attack on the Delhi army near Jalore. However, some other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims.

The Somnath Temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son Khengara sometime between 1331 and 1351.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage.

In 1395, the temple was again destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate.

In 1546, the Portuguese who were based in Goa attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath Temple and destroyed several of its structures.

Somnath temple to Dwarka

Dwarka is an ancient city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is very near to Somnath temple and due to its relevance to Hindu pilgrimage; people do tend to visit this place also.

Also Read: The Temple of Death: The Abode of Yamraj

The magnificent Temple of Dwarka has an elaborately tiered main shrine, a carved entrance and a black-marble idol of Lord Krishna.

Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons

The road distance between Dwarka and Somnath is 231 km and the aerial distance from Dwarka to Somnath is 210 km. One can also cover the distance through train which is almost 398km distant.

Here are some facts that are attached to this sacred and architecturally marvellous temple.

  1. The present-day Somnath Temple was built in five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.
  2. Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga, the Philosopher’s stone, which is associated with Lord Krishna. The stone is said to be magical, which was capable of producing gold. It is also believed that stone had alchemic and radioactive properties and thus it remains floating above the ground.
  3. The temple finds its reference in the sacred texts of Hindus like Shreemad Bhagavat, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda. This signifies the importance of this temple as one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India.
  4. According to records, the site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times as it was said to be the junction of three rivers, Kapila, Hiran and the mythical Saraswati. The meeting point was called as Triveni Sangam and is believed to be the place where Soma, the Moon-god bathed and regained his lustre.
  5. According to Swami Gajanand Saraswati (a Hindu scholar), the first temple was built 7, 99, 25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skanda Puran.
  6. The temple is said to be located at such a place that there is no straight-line land between Somnath seashore till Antarctica continent. In a Sanskrit inscription, found on the Arrow-Pillar called Baan-Stambh is stated that the temple stands at a point on the Indian piece of land, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude.

    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
  7. According to the text of Skanda Purana, the name of Somnath Temple will change every time the world is reconstructed. It is believed when Lord Brahma will create a new world after ending the one we are living, Somnath will acquire a new name of Pran Nath Temple.
  8. On the walls of Somnath Temple, the sculptures of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu can be seen.
  9. According to another reference in the Skanda Purana, there are about 6 Brahmas. This is the era of 7thBrahma who is called Shatanand.
  10. The flag mast on the peak of Somnath Temple is 37 feet long and it changes 3 times a day.
  11. The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati.
  12. Non-Hindus doesn’t require any special permission to visit Somnath Temple. The decision was taken in view of security issues.Now, pack your bags and begin your journey to one of the most the sacred places of India.