Prabhas Patan is close to the port city of Veraval on the coast of Saurashtra. This is where one can find the fabled Somnath temple, one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India. Driving down along the coastline brings you to Diu and driving upwards takes you to Dwarka, one of the char dhams in India. A pilgrimage to Somnath is obligatory for devotees of Lord Shiva and, at the same time, one can take in other places such as Bhalka Tirth, Prachi tirth and Dehotsarg tirth. The beaches afford plenty of opportunities for relaxation. While here one can explore the coast or one can go into the interiors. There is no lack of places to visit in Somnath.
List of 12 Tourist Attractions in Somnath
1. Somnath Temple
Somnath temple is the prime attraction and the reason for visiting Somnath. Getting there is easy since there is a rail connection from Ahmedabad besides excellent road transport both private and government operated. The temple was so fabled for its wealth that it was sacked a number of times by Muslim invaders and by the Portuguese too but each time it was rebuilt by devotees. The last time it was renovated was under the directions of Vallabhbhai Patel in 1951. Somnath is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India and a much revered spot. Somnath also has religious significance because this is the place of the Triveni Sangam. The holy rivers Kapila, Hiran and Sarasvati, all meet each other here. According to legend, the Moon god was cursed here and became dark. He bathed in the Sarasvati to regain his light. Be that as it may, the Shiv temple is quite ancient but it was destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries by various kings and rulers like Mahipala I. the temple is built according to the Chalukya style of architecture. The main spire rises to a height of 15 metres topped by a flag pole 8.2 meters high. Within the temple premises is the Banastambha or pillar which stands at a point from where the South Pole is in a straight line with no land mass in between. The temple truly comes alive on Shivratri with lakhs of devotees congregating here to participate in the rituals and festivities.
Close to the temple one can find the Shri Kapardi Vinayak temple and the Shri Hanuman Temple. One must visit Vallabh Ghat because it is a sunset point and watching the sun sink into the sea is a truly satisfying sight. The sound and light show is also quite entertaining. Not far from the temple one can find the Ahilyabai temple built by Ahilyabai Holder in 1782.
2. Bhalka Teerth
Only 5 km away from Somnath one can find Bhalka teerth. This is a very holy place for Hindus, especially devotees of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna established his kingdom in Dwarka and lived in that city but met his end here. One day he was resting in the jungles of Bhalka when a hunter shot an arrow that pierced the Lord’s foot. Lord Krishna forgave the hunter and then passed away by immersing himself in the waters of the Hiran River. The temple has an ancient peepal tree.
3. Dehotsarg Tirth
Only 1.5 km from the grand Somnath temple you will come across Dehotsarg tirth located on the banks of the Hiran River. Dehotsarg tirth is marked by a small temple of Lord Krishna. It is said that Lord Krishna undertook his journey to heaven from this spot. His footprints in marble mark the spot from where he commenced his heavenly journey. There is also a cave here, the Dauji ni Gufa that is worth a visit.
The temple of Somnath sits on the seashore and the neighbouring beaches are just too inviting to ignore. Even if there are many pilgrims one can always find a spot along the beach that is peaceful and quiet. Sunset is the perfect time to enjoy at the beach and one can even watch the sun dip into the sea.
5. Triveni Sangam Temple
The Panch Prayag in Uttarakhand and the confluence in Allahabad are considered quite holy. If anyone bathes at such spots they believe that their sins are washed away and that their souls will attain salvation. Gujarat too has such a confluence of three holy rivers, the Kapila, Sarasvati and Hiran, close to the Somnath temple. They flow into the sea here. People who visit Somnath for darshan of Lord Shiva invariably make it a point to bathe in the Triveni Sangam and gain peace of soul. While here do not forget to step into the Gita and Laxminarayan temples that are close to the triveni sangam.
6. Suraj Mandir
The suraj mandir is located close to the Triveni ghats in Somnath and has temples dedicated to Surya deva. It may not be on a grand scale like the Konark sun temple or large like the Modhera sun temple but even then it has beautifully carved pillars. The temple is not in the best condition but a look at it will clearly indicate that in the days gone by Surya deva was adored and worshipped with fervour.
7. Panch Pandav Gufa
The Panch Pandav Gufa or cave is quite ancient and dates back to the times of the Mahabharata. It is believed the Pandavas visited this place and stayed in the cave which is the Panch Pandav Gufa. A temple was built here by devotees and remained in obscurity until 1949 when Narayan Das Baba discovered it.
8. Parshuram Temple
Lord Parshuram was a warrior Brahmin sage and much respected as well as feared for his quick temper and powers. It is believed that during his travels across India he came to this spot and chose to perform penance and meditation here in order to free himself of a curse. Ultimately Lord Shiva appeared and relieved the curse. The Parshuram temple marks the spot alongside the Triveni River in Somnath.
While all the above places are within easy walking distances of each other in Somnath, one can venture a bit afar and reach Chorwad or Chorvad, a beautiful spot for recreation and relaxation. It is just 26 km from Somnath and the betel nut available here is renowned all over India. At one time Chorwad was frequented by pirates which is how it got its name. There is an old Fort here that stands testimony to the existence of various rulers.
10. Gir Forest
Gir forest is not far from Somnath. One has to travel just 43 km by road in order to reach this sanctuary, the last abode of the Asiatic Lions. The Gir Forest National Park is spread over an area of 1412 square kilometres. One must really spend a couple of days here to explore the interiors that have seven rivers and a number of dams on these rivers. The Gir is home to a large variety of trees and wildlife like crocodiles, leopards, nilgai, antelopes, hyenas, mongoose, badgers, desert cats, cobras and hundreds of species of birds. One can drive on the highway that passes through the Gir forest and see a pride of lions by the roadside.
If you have come all the way to Somnath it is only fitting that you travel about 400 km, a night’s journey, to Dwarka, one of the four major chardham yatra centres and the kingdom of Lord Krishna. Dwarka is also located alongside the Arabian Sea and the Dwarkadhish temple is a landmark on the horizon. The temple in its current form was built by Raja Jagat Singh Rathore which is why it is also known as the Jagat Mandir. The temple is five storeys tall and no metal is used in its construction. The spire rises to a height of 78 metres topped by a large flag. One can also find the Rukmini Devi temple at a distance of 2 KM as well as the Gomti Ghat where it is worth taking a dip.
If you have had your fill of religious spots then you can head southwards from Somnath and, after driving 80 km you arrive in Diu, an island off Una and lose yourself in relaxation and enjoyment on the beaches. There are several beaches in Diu but Nagwa beach is the best and most frequented by hordes of tourists. Diu was a Portuguese stronghold and one can visit the Fort, the Museum and the St Paul’s Church. Gujarat is dry but in Diu, a Union territory, one can find all kinds of alcoholic beverages. Diu is a perfect way to wash away your tiredness after all the travel and refresh yourself on the beach.