Glimpses of India

Veraval - Somnath

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Oct 2010: There are many ways one can cover Gujarat from a tourist’s perspective. We decided that we would move to Veraval-Somnath-Gir-Junagadh circuit.

After having spent a day and half in Ahmedabad we took the overnight train from Ahmedabad to Veraval, a small historical fishing town whose maritime history dates back to centuries. It’s better to book yourself a berth in the air-conditioned coach in the train so that you are fresh and ready for what promises to be a tough day ahead. We arrived by about 6 am at Veraval Railway station which is nothing much to write about. Local transport is restricted to horse buggy or autorickshaws. We located a autowallah, who from his body language and conversation appeared pretty decent. He offered to drop us at the Veraval Circuit House for what sounded like a pretty reasonable amount. A small talk along the way and agreed to take us around Veraval and Somnath, later in the day. 
Oct 2010: There are many ways one can cover Gujarat from a tourist’s perspective. We decided that we would move to Veraval-Somnath-Gir-Junagadh circuit.

After having spent a day and half in Ahmedabad we took the overnight train from Ahmedabad to Veraval, a small historical fishing town whose maritime history dates back to centuries. It’s better to book yourself a berth in the air-conditioned coach in the train so that you are fresh and ready for what promises to be a tough day ahead. We arrived by about 6 am at Veraval Railway station which is nothing much to write about. Local transport is restricted to horse buggy or autorickshaws. We located a autowallah, who from his body language and conversation appeared pretty decent. He offered to drop us at the Veraval Circuit House for what sounded like a pretty reasonable amount. A small talk along the way and agreed to take us around Veraval and Somnath, later in the day.

The Circuit House located close to the Veraval beach looked like a relic of the Raj, more like a Bhoot Bungalow, albeit with a human presence. There were a number of government vehicles parked there which made it clear that we were perhaps the only non-government inmates. The magic words ‘CM saab ke guest aa gaye’ greeted us and this was not true as we only asked for help in locating a good accommodation in Veraval and later at Gir. The caretaker of the Circuit house looked like a character from a Ramsay Brothers horror movie, who had a bad dream and a disturbed sleep.  Nevertheless, he was a good man and offered us tea and sandwiches for breakfast. Having seen the hotels in Veraval, this was a good breakfast and clean rooms as well.

Veraval is a dusty down and the ideal way to move around is by way of an air-conditioned cab. We were informed that the town had only two indica cabs and the third, an air-conditioned cab would reach Veraval in a week’s time. We did not have a week to wait, so we settled for the same old auto which we took in the morning from the Railway station.  We had our breakfast and got ready for the tour. Our auto rickshaw driver not only knew the town inside out by could also converse in Malayalam.  “I have lots of friends in the Sea food industry at Veraval and I was sort of forced to learn the tongue twister of a language” he confided. This again proved that you can find a Mallu not only on the moon, but also in a far flung place like Veraval.

The fish industry here brings one more fact to the fore. Veraval is a bad place for vegetarians, as it stinks along the cost where the fishing boats are moored.  The visit to this part of Gujarat was set in memory by an earlier visit by my dad, mum and sister ages ago. All I knew was this place where Lord Krishna had met with an untimely demise.  Sure enough this was the USP that Veraval had to offer.

To be honest, the sacred spot, Balkha Teerth was a disappointment.  It indicated the spot where Lord Krishna was killed inadvertently by a hunter while he was sitting on a tree. The temple where the tree is said to be the one on which the Lord sat has been preserved in this temple, which is located alongside a drain. The surroundings of the temple was dirty and there was no feeling of sanctity which one gets when entering the Tirumala or Guruvayoor temple. This historic spot deserves a better ambience. There are a few other temples in the vicinity, all of them in a total state of disrepair. I hope some philanthrophists take up the cause of getting these temples back into a pristine condition.

A few minutes’ drive and we were at Dehotsarg, the spot where the Lord left this world. It is said that Lord Krishna after he was shot in the foot, walked to this spot which is 4 kms from Bhalka Tirtha.  It is said that it is at this place he collapsed and died. One spot in this place that most people may miss is the footprints of Lord Krishna, which is equivalent of a Samadhi. Having seen the lavish samadhis of political leaders in Delhi, I may not be wrong in saying that the Lord deserved a better deal. The fact of the matter is that the Lord never held any official government post and hence the raw deal. The temples in this complex are in a better condition than the ones we saw earlier at Veraval. Again, a complete makeover without disturbing the original contours of the temple can do wonders from a tourist’s perspective.

There are two major temples here, Gitamandir and Laxminarayan mandir. There are a few other temples including the Sitala Mata Temple and the Suraja Mandir (Sun temple) in the vicinity. Also look for Baldev Gufa. According to legend, Lord Krishna's elder brother Baldev disappeared through this cave and went to the netherworld, as he was considered to be an incarnation of Sheshnag, the king of snakes.

This temple complex is located at the confluence of three rivers, or Triveni Tirtha, The holy confluence of three rivers - Hiran, Kapila and mythical Saraswati. The sangam is said to be very holy spot and there are some bating ghats around the place. The meeting point of the three rivers is a serene spot. It may have to do with the lack of crowds and we spent quiet moments admiring the beauty of the place.

A walking distance from here is the piece de resistance, the highlight of our visit, the famous Somnath Temple. The Shree Somnath is first among the twelve Aadi Jyotirlings of India and this temple is a source of inspiration for millions of Hindus since time immemorial. Tight security is in force all around the temple. You need to deposit your cameras and bags before you are allowed into the temple. The temple has a ‘new’ feel around it and that has to do with the fact that the temple was last modified as late as 1951. Despite plunder by Ghazni and other invaders, it was built back each time rising up like the proverbial Phoenix.

The temple complex is quite big and it will take about three to four hours to see it in detail. The main complex houses the sanctum sanctorum including the famous Jyotriling. The main ceremonies here are the three aartis which are held at 7 am, 12 noon and 7 pm. We were lucky that we got in time for the noon aarti and there was not much of a crowd. Once the main sanctum is filled, devotees have to wait outside and watch the aarti from there. The aartis take about an hour to complete and is a treat to watch. Even a die-hard atheist would have a change of heart. It was no without reason that the temple attracted devotees and plunderers alike. On the left of the sanctum sanctorum is a door which opens an amazing view of the Arabian Sea. Walk a few feet and you can spot the The Abadhit Samudra Marg, Tirsthambh (Arrow) which indicates the unobstructed sea route to the South Pole. The nearest land towards South Pole is about 9936 km. away. Locals claim that if one were able to sail from here in a straight line, the end of the journey would be the North Pole. This is a wonderful indicator of the ancient Indian wisdom of geography and strategic location of the Jyotirling.

A temple renovated by Maharani Ahalyabai is adjacent to the main temple complex. The complex also houses an audio visual show which enables devotees to understand the history of temple. We had to give it a miss as we had to rush back to Veraval and then leave for Gir. A visit to Somanth will take about four hours. There is a guest house that is run by the Somanth Trust and those wishing for an overnight stay can book a room for themselves. It also has a restaurant attached to it and the food course is all gujju, so be prepared.  A Sound & Light Show ‘Jai Somnath’ is held in the temple complex from 8 pm to 9 pm every day. We did get a feeling that we could have perhaps spent more time at Somnath and perhaps stayed over for a night. But Gir was waiting for us.

Timing for Darshan at Somnath Temple : 6 am to 9 pm 
Timing for Aarti : 7 am, 12 noon and 7.00 pm

Lilavati Atithi Bhavan: Room rack rate range from Rs 500 to Rs 1600

For Lilavati Guesthouse Booking, Contact: Ph. 02876 233033

Shree Somnath Trust, 
Somnath Prabhas Patan - 362 268
District : Junagadh, Gujarat.
Ph. No. : +91-2876-231212