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Badrinath Temple
DistrictChamoli district
DeityBadrinath (Vishnu)
Location in Uttarakhand
Geographic coordinates30°44′41″N79°29′28″E / 30.744695°N 79.491175°ECoordinates: 30°44′41″N79°29′28″E / 30.744695°N 79.491175°E
CreatorAdi Shankara
Completed7th century C.E.

Badrinath or Badrinarayan Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu which is situated in the town of Badrinath in Uttarakhand, India. The temple and town form one of the four Char Dham and Chota Char Dhampilgrimage sites. The temple is also one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Badrinath—holy shrines for Vaishnavites. It is open for six months every year (between the end of April and the beginning of November), because of extreme weather conditions in the Himalayan region. The temple is located in Garhwal hill tracks in Chamoli district along the banks of Alaknanda River at an elevation of 3,133 m (10,279 ft) above the mean sea level. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage centers of India, having recorded 1,060,000 visits.

The image of the presiding deity worshipped in the temple is a 1 ft (0.30 m), the black stone statue of Vishnu in the form of Badrinarayan. The statue is considered by many Hindus to be one of eight swayam vyakta kshetras, or self-manifested statues of Vishnu.[1]

Mata Murti Ka Mela, which commemorates the descent of river Ganges on mother earth, is the most prominent festival celebrated in the Badrinath Temple. Although Badrinath is located in North India, the head priest, or Rawal, is traditionally a Nambudiri Brahmin chosen from the South Indian state of Kerala. The temple was included in the Uttar Pradesh state government Act No. 30/1948 as Act no. 16,1939, which later came to be known as Shri Badarinath and Shri Kedarnath Mandir Act. The committee nominated by the state government administers both the temples and has seventeen members on its board.

The temple is mentioned in ancient religious texts like Vishnu Purana and Skanda Purana. It is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, an early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD.

Location, architecture, and shrines[edit]

Tapt Kund hot springs next to Badrinath Temple, enclosed inside bath house

The temple is located in Garhwal hill tracks along the banks of the Alaknanda River[2] in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, a state in North India. The hill tracks are located 3,133 m (10,279 ft) above the mean sea level.[3][4] The Nar Parbat mountain is located opposite to the temple, while the Narayana Parbat is located behind the Neelakanta peak.[5]

The temple has three structures: the Garbhagriha (sanctum), the Darshan Mandap (worship hall), and Sabha Mandap (convention hall).[3][5][6] The conical-shaped roof of the sanctum, the garbhagriha, is approximately 15 m (49 ft) tall with a small cupola on top, covered with a gold gilt roof.[5][7] The facade is built of stone and has arched windows. A broad stairway leads up to the main entrance, a tall, arched gateway. Just inside is a mandap, a large, pillared hall that leads to the sanctum, or main shrine area. The walls and pillars of the hall are covered with intricate carvings.[1]

The main shrine houses the 1 ft (0.30 m) Shaligram (black stone) idol of Lord Badrinarayana, which is housed in a gold canopy under a Badri Tree. The idol of Lord Badrinarayana shows Him holding a Shankha (conch) and a Chakra (wheel) in two of His arms in a lifted posture and the other two arms resting on His lap in a Yogamudra (Padmasana) posture.[3][6] The sanctum also houses images of the god of wealth—Kubera, sage Narada, Uddhava, Nar and Narayan. There are fifteen more images that are also worshipped around the temple. These include that of Lakshmi (the consort of Vishnu), Garuda (the vahana of Narayan), and Navadurga, the manifestation of Durga in nine different forms. The temple also has shrines of Lakshmi Narasimhar and for saints Adi Shankara (AD 788-820), Nar and Narayan,Ghantakarna, Vedanta Desika and Ramanujacharya. All the idols of the temple are made of black stone.[1][3][5]

The Tapt Kund, a group of hot sulfur springs just below the temple, are considered to be medicinal; many pilgrims consider it a requirement to bathe in the springs before visiting the temple. The springs have a year-round temperature of 55 °C (131 °F), while outside temperature is typically below 17 °C (63 °F) all year round.[3] The two water ponds in the temple are called Narad Kund and Surya Kund.[8]


There is no historical record about the temple, but there is a mention of the presiding deity Badrinath in Vedic scriptures (c. 1750–500 BC).[5] According to some accounts, the temple was a Buddhist shrine till the 8th century and Adi Shankara converted it to a Hindu temple.[6][9] The architecture of the temple resembling that of a Buddhistvihara (temple) and the brightly painted facade which is atypical of Buddhist temples leads to the argument.[1] Other accounts relate that it was originally established as a pilgrimage site by Adi Shankara in the ninth century. It is believed that Shankara resided in the place for six years from AD 814 to 820. He resided six months in Badrinath and the rest of the year in Kedarnath. Hindu followers assert that he discovered the image of Badrinath in the Alaknanda River and enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs.[7][10] A traditional story asserts that Shankara expelled all the Buddhists in the region with the help of the Parmar ruler king Kanak Pal. The hereditary successors of the king governed the temple and endowed villages to meet its expenses. The income from a set of villages on the route to the temple was used to feed and accommodate pilgrims. The Parmar rulers held the title 'Bolanda Badrinath', meaning speaking Badrinath. They had other titles, including Shri 108 Basdrishcharyaparayan Garharaj Mahimahendra, Dharmabibhab, and Dharamarakshak Sigamani.[11]

The throne of Badrinath was named after the presiding deity; the king enjoyed ritual obeisance by the devotees before proceeding to the shrine. The practice was continued until the late 19th century.[11] During the 16th century, the King of Garhwal moved the murti to the present temple.[7] When the state of Garhwal was divided, the Badrinath temple came under British rule but the king of Garhwal continued as the chairman of the management committee.The selection of priest is done after consultation between Garhwal and Travancore royal families[11]

The temple has undergone several major renovations due to its age and damage by an avalanche. In the 17th century, the temple was expanded by the Kings of Garhwal. After significant damage in the great 1803 Himalayan earthquake, it was largely rebuilt by the King of Jaipur.[1] It was still under renovation as late as the 1870s[2] but these were completed by the time of the First World War.[12] At that time, the town was still small, consisting of only the 20-odd huts housing the temple's staff, but the number of pilgrims was usually between seven and ten thousand.[12] The Kumbh Mela festival held every twelve years raised the number of visitors to 50,000.[12] The temple also enjoyed revenue from the rents owed to it by various villages bequeathed by various rajas.[2]

During 2006, the state government announced the area around Badrinath as a no construction zone to curb illegal encroachment.[13]


According to Hindu legend, god Vishnu sat in meditation at this place. During his meditation, Vishnu was unaware of cold weather. Lakshmi, his consort, protected him in the form of the Badri tree (jujube or Indian date). Pleased by the devotion of Lakshmi, Vishnu named the place Badrika Ashram. According to Atkinson (1979), the place used to be a jujube forest, which is not found there today. Vishnu in the form of Badrinath is depicted in the temple sitting in the padmasana posture. According to the legend, Vishnu was chastised by sage Narada, who saw Vishnu's consort, Lakshmi, massaging his feet. Vishnu went to Badrinath to perform austerity, meditating for a long time in padmasana.[1][10]

The Vishnu Purana narrates another version of the origins of Badrinath. According to the tradition, Dharam had two sons, Nar, and Narayan—both of which are modern names of Himalayan mountains. They chose the place to spread their religion and each of them wed the spacious valleys in the Himalayas. Searching for an ideal place to set up a hermitage, they came across the other four Badris of the Pancha Badri, namely Bridha Badri, Yog Bhadri, Dhyan Badri and Bhavish Badri. They finally found the hot and cold spring behind the Alaknanda River and named it Badri Vishal.[10]

Literary mention[edit]

The temple finds mention in several ancient books like Bhagavata Purana, Skanda Purana and Mahabharata.[8] According to the Bhagavata Purana, '[t]here in Badrikashram the Personality of Godhead (Vishnu), in his incarnation as the sages Nar and Narayana, had been undergoing great penance since time immemorial for the welfare of all living entities'.[14] The Skanda Purana states that '[t]here are several sacred shrines in heaven, on earth, and in hell; but there is no shrine like Badrinath'. The area around Badrinath is also celebrated in Padma Purana as abounding in spiritual treasures.[7] The Mahabharata revered the holy place as the one which can give salvation to devotees arriving close to if, while in other holy places they must perform religious ceremonies.[8] The temple is revered in Nalayira Divya Prabandham, in 11 hymns in the 7th–9th century Vaishnava canon by Periazhwar and in 13 hymns in Thirumangai Azhwar. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Badrinath.[15]

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Number of tourists
Char DhamBadrinath • Rameswaram
Dwaraka • Puri

Devotees of all faiths and all schools of thought of Hinduism visit the Badrinath Temple.[17][18] All the major monastic institutions like Kashi Math,[19] Jeeyar Mutt (Andhra mutt),[20]Udupi Pejavar[21] and Manthralayam Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutts[22] have their branches and guest houses there.

The Badrinath temple is one of five related shrines called Panch Badri, which are dedicated to the worship of Vishnu.[23] The five temples are Vishal Badri - Badrinath Temple in Badrinath, Yogadhyan Badri located at Pandukeshwar, Bhavishya Badri located 17 km (10.6 mi) from Jyotirmath at Subain, Vridh Badri located 7 km (4.3 mi) from Jyotirmath in Animath and Adi Badri located 17 km (10.6 mi) from Karnaprayag. The temple is considered one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine) sites, comprising Rameswaram, Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka.[24] Although the temple's origins are not clearly known, the Advaita school of Hinduism established by Adi Shankara attributes the origin of Char Dham to the seer.[25] The four monasteries are located across the four corners of India and their attendant temples are Badrinath Temple at Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at Dwarka in the West and Sri Sharada Peetam Sringeri at Sringeri, Karnataka in the South.[24][25]

Though ideologically the temples are divided between the sects of Hinduism, namely Saivism and Vaishnavism, the Char Dham pilgrimage is an all-Hindu affair.[26] There are four abodes in the Himalayas called Chota Char Dham (Chota meaning small): Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri—all of which lie in the foothills of the Himalayas.[25][27] The name Chota was added during the mid of 20th century to differentiate the original Char Dhams. As the number of pilgrims to these places has increased in modern times, it is called Himalayan Char Dham.[28]

The journey across the four cardinal points in India is considered sacred by Hindus, who aspire to visit these temples once in their lifetimes.[29] Traditionally, the pilgrimage starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding clockwise in a manner typically followed for circumambulation in Hindu temples.[29]

Festivals and religious practices[edit]

Badrinath Temple at Night

The most prominent festival held at Badrinath Temple is Mata Murti Ka Mela, which commemorates the descent of the river Ganges on mother earth. The mother of Badrinath, who is believed to have divided the river into twelve channels for the welfare of earthly beings, is worshiped during the festival. The place where the river flowed became the holy land of Badrinath.[30]

The Badri Kedar festival is celebrated during the month of June in both the temple and the Kedarnath temple. The festival lasts for eight days; artists from all over the country perform during the function.[30]

The major religious activities (or pujas) performed every morning are mahabhishek (ablution), abhishek, gitapath and bhagavat puja, while in the evening the pujas include geet govinda and aarti. Recital in vedic scripts like Ashtotram and Sahasranama is practiced during all the rituals. After aarti, the decorations are removed from the image of Badrinath and sandalwood paste is applied to it. The paste from the image is given to the devotees the next day as prasad during the nirmalaya darshan. All the rituals are performed in front of the devotees, unlike those in some Hindu temples, where some practices are hidden from them.[5] Sugar balls and dry leaves are the common prasad provided to the devotees. From May 2006, the practise of offering Panchamrit Prasad, prepared locally and packed in local bamboo baskets, was started.[31]

The temple is closed for winter on the auspicious day of bhatridwityia or later during October–November.[32] On the day of closure, Akhanda Jyothi, a lamp is lit filled with ghee to last for six months.[33] Special pujas are performed on the day by the chief priest in the presence of pilgrims and officials of the temple.[34] The image of Badrinath is notionally transferred during the period to the Narasimha temple at Jyotirmath, located 40 mi (64 km) away from the temple.[35] The temple is reopened around April–May on Akshaya tritiya, another auspicious day on the Hindu calendar.[32] Pilgrims gather on the first day of opening of the temple after the winter to witness the Akhanda Jyothi.[33]

The temple is one of the holy places where the Hindus offer oblations to ancestors with the help of the priests.[36] Devotees visit the temple to worship in front of the image of Badrinath in the sanctum and have a holy dip in Alaknanda River. The general belief is that a dip in the tank purifies the soul.[37]

Administration and visit[edit]

Alaknanda River in Badrinath

The Badrinath Temple was included in the Uttar Pradesh state government Act No. 30/1948 as Act no. 16,1939, which was later known as Shri Badarinath and Shri Kedarnath Mandir Act. A committee nominated by the state government administers both the temples. The act was modified in 2002 to appoint additional committee members, including Government officials and a Vice chairman.[38] There are seventeen members in the board; three selected by the Uttaranchal Legislative Assembly, one member each by the Zilla Parishads of Garhwal, Tehri, Chamoli and Uttarkashi, and ten members nominated by the state government.[39]

As indicated in the temple records, the priests of the temple were Shiva ascetics called Dandi Sanyasis, who belonged to Nambudiri community, a religious group common in modern Kerala. When the last of the ascetics died without an heir in 1776 AD, the king invited non-ascetic Nambudiris from Kerala for the priesthood, a practice that continues in modern times.[35][40] Till 1939, all the offerings made by the devotees to the temple went to the Rawal (chief priest), but after 1939, his jurisdiction was restricted to religious affairs.[35] The administrative structure of the temple consists of a chief executive officer who executes the orders from the state government, a deputy chief executive officer, two OSDs, an executive officer, an account officer, a temple officer, and a public officer to assist the chief executive officer.[41]

View of the temple during Summer

Although Badrinath is located in North India, the head priest, or Rawal, is traditionally a Nambudiri Brahmin chosen from the South Indian state of Kerala. This tradition is believed to have been initiated by Adi Shankara, who was a South Indian philosopher. The Rawal (chief priest) is requested by the Government of Uttarakhand (Uttar Pradesh government before the formation of Uttarakhand state) to the Kerala Government. The candidate should possess a degree of Acharya in Sanskrit, be a bachelor, well-versed in reciting mantras (sacred texts) and be from the Vaishnava sect of Hinduism. The erstwhile ruler of Garhwal, who is the tutelary head of Badrinath, approves the candidate sent by the Government of Kerala. A Tilak Ceremony is held to instate the Rawal and he is deputed from April to November when the temple remains open. The Rawal is accorded high holiness status by Garhwal Rifles and the state governments of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. He is also held in high esteem by the Royals of Nepal. From April to November, he performs his duties as a temple priest. Thereafter, he either stays in Joshimutt or returns to his native village in Kerala. The duties of the Rawal starts at 4 a.m. every day with the Abhisheka. He should not cross the river until Vamana Dwadasi and must adhere to Brahmacharya. The Rawal is assisted by the Garhwali Dimri Pandits belonging to the Village Dimmer, Nayab Rawals, Dharmadikari, Vedapathi, a group of priests, Pandas Samadhi, Bhandari, Rasoiyas (cook), devotional singer, clerk of devashram, Jal Bhariya (water keeper) and temple guards. Badrinath is one of the few temples in North India that follow the ancient Tantra-Vidhi of Shrauta tradition more common in the south.[36][42][43]

In 2012, the temple administration introduced a token system for visitors to the temple. Tokens indicating the time of visit were provided from three stalls in the taxi stands. Each devotee to visit the presiding deity is allocated 10–20 seconds. Proof of identity is mandatory to enter the temple.[44] The temple is reached from Rishikesh, located 298 km (185 mi) away via Dev Prayag, Rudra Prayag, Karna Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Joshimath, Vishnuprayag and Devadarshini. From Kedarnath, visitors can follow the 243 km (151 mi)-long Rudra Prayag route or the 230 km (140 mi)-long Ukhimath and Gopeshwar route.[5]


  1. ^ abcdefSen Gupta 2002, p. 32
  2. ^ abcBaynes 1878.
  3. ^ abcde'About the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  4. ^Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 174.
  5. ^ abcdefgNair 2007, pp. 67–68
  6. ^ abcTyagi 1991, p. 70
  7. ^ abcdNautiyal 1962, p. 110
  8. ^ abcBhalla 2006, p. 190
  9. ^Sadasivan 2000, p. 211
  10. ^ abcSwami 2004, pp. 100–101
  11. ^ abcGuha 2000, p. 64
  12. ^ abcChisholm 1911.
  13. ^'Uttaranchal declares Badrinath as no construction zone'. Hindustan Times. Badrinath. 9 May 2006. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014. – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  14. ^Bhagavata Purana 3.4.22
  15. ^'Sri Badrinath Perumal temple'. Dinamalar. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  16. ^'Number of pilgrims the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  17. ^Rao 2008, p. 474
  18. ^Eck 2012, pp. 343–344
  19. ^'Kashi Math at Badrinath'. Shree Kashi Math Samasthanam. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  20. ^'Badari Ashtakshari Kshethriya Annadana Sakha Sangham, (BAKASS)'. Chinna Jeeyar Mutt. Archived from the original on 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  21. ^'Udupi Mutt at Badrinath'. Pejavara Adhokshaja Matha, Udupi. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  22. ^'Raghavendra Mutt Branches'. Raghavendra Mutt. Archived from the original on 22 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  23. ^Bansal 2005, p. 35
  24. ^ abChakravarti 1994, p. 140
  25. ^ abcMittal 2004, pp. 482–483
  26. ^Brockman 2011, pp. 94–96
  27. ^'Badrinath temple reopens for Hindu pilgrims'. Hindustan Times. Chamoli. 9 May 2011. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014. – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  28. ^Melton & Baumann 2010, p. 540
  29. ^ abGwynne 2009, Section on Char Dham
  30. ^ ab'Festivals celebrated in the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  31. ^'Uttaranchal declares Badrinath as no construction zone'. Hindustan Times. New Delhi. 8 May 2006. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014. – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  32. ^ ab'Badrinath shrine closed for winter'. TNN. Dehradun: The Times of India. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  33. ^ abBhalla 2006, p. 258
  34. ^'Badrinath shrine closes marking end of Chardham Yatra'. Dehradun: Zeenews. 17 November 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  35. ^ abcLochtefeld 2002, p. 78
  36. ^ abSwami 2004, p. 102
  37. ^Davidson & Gitlitz 2002, p. 48
  38. ^'Administration of the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  39. ^'Committee members of the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  40. ^'Religious setup of the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  41. ^'Power structure of the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  42. ^Outlook Traveller. 'Badrinath'. Traveller.outlookindia.com. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  43. ^'Badrinath Temple'. The Hindu. 18 July 2005. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  44. ^'News about the temple'. Shri Badrinath - Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee. 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.


  • Bansal, Sunita Pant (June 2005). Hindu Gods and Goddesses. SPB Enterprises Pvt Ltd. ISBN978-81-87967-72-9.
  • Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878). 'Badrinath' . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 229.
  • Bhalla, Prem P. (2006). Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs and Traditions: A to Z on the Hindu Way of Life. Pustak Mahal. p. 190. ISBN978-81-223-0902-7.
  • Brockman, Norbert C. (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places. California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. ISBN978-1-59884-655-3.
  • Chakravarti, Mahadev (1994). The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through The Ages (Second Revised ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN81-208-0053-2.
  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). 'Badrinath' . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 190.
  • Davidson, Linda Kay; Gitlitz, David Martin (2002). Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland : an Encyclopedia. 1. ABC-CLIO. ISBN978-1-57607-004-8.
  • Eck, Diana L (2012). India: A Sacred Geography. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN9780385531917.
  • Guha, Ramachandra (2000). The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya. University of California Press. pp. 64–66. ISBN978-0-520-22235-9.
  • Gwynne, Paul (2009). World Religions in Practice: A Comparative Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publication. ISBN978-1-4051-6702-4.
  • Lochtefeld, James G. (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN978-0-8239-3179-8.
  • Melton, J. Gordon; Baumann, Martin (2010). Religions of the World, Second Edition: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. ABC-CLIO. ISBN978-1-59884-204-3.
  • Mittal, Sushil (2004). The Hindu World. New York: Routledge. ISBN0-203-64470-0.
  • Nair, Shantha N. (2007). The Holy Himalayas: An Abode of Hindu Gods : a Journey Through the Mighty Himalayas. New Delhi: Pustak Mahal. ISBN978-81-223-0967-6.
  • Nautiyal, Govind Prasad (1962). Call of Badrinath. Shri Badrinath-Kedarnath Temples Committee.
  • Sadasivan, S.N. (2000). A Social History of India. APH Publishing. ISBN978-81-7648-170-0.
  • Sen Gupta, Subhadra (2002). Badrinath and Kedarnath - The Dhaams in the Himalayas. Rupa & Company. ISBN81-7167-617-0.
  • Swami, Parmeshwaranand (2004). Encyclopaedia of the Śaivism. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. ISBN81-7625-427-4.
  • Tyagi, Nutan (1991). Hill Resorts of U.P. Himalaya,: A Geographical Study. Indus Publishing. ISBN978-81-85182-62-9.

Further reading[edit]

  • Darian, Steven G. (2001). The Ganges in Myth and History - History and Culture Series. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN81-208-1757-5.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Badrinath.

Retrieved from 'https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Badrinath_Temple&oldid=911342022'
(Redirected from Somnath)
Somnath temple
DistrictGir Somnath
DeitySomnath (Shiva)
FestivalsMaha Shivaratri
Governing bodyShree Somnath Trust of Gujarat
Location within Gujarat
Geographic coordinates20°53′16.9″N70°24′5.0″E / 20.888028°N 70.401389°ECoordinates: 20°53′16.9″N70°24′5.0″E / 20.888028°N 70.401389°E
TypeHindu temple architecture
Completed1951 (present structure)

The Somnath temple located in Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva.[1] It is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot of Gujarat. Reconstructed several times in the past after repeated destruction by several Muslim invaders and rulers[2][3][4][5][6] as well as the Portuguese,[7] the present temple was reconstructed in Chaulukya style of Hindu temple architecture and completed in May 1951. The reconstruction was started under the orders of first Home Minister of India ,Vallabhbhai Patel, and completed after his death.[8][9]

  • 3History
  • 4Architecture of the present temple


The temple is considered sacred due to the various legends connected to it. Somnath means 'Lord of the Soma', an epithet of Shiva.

The Somnath temple is known as 'the Shrine Eternal', following a book of K. M. Munshi by this title and his narration of the temple's destruction and reconstruction many times in history.[10]


According to tradition, the Shivalinga in Somnath is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India, where Shiva is believed to have appeared as a fiery column of light. The jyotirlingas are taken as the supreme, undivided reality out of which Shiva partly appears.[11][12]

Each of the 12 jyotirlinga sites take the name of a different manifestation of Shiva.[13] At all these sites, the primary image is a lingam representing the beginning-less and endless stambha (pillar), symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.[13][14][15] In addition to the one at Somnath, the others are at Varanasi, Rameswaram, Dwarka, etc.[16][17]



The site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on account of being a Triveni sangam (the confluence of three rivers: Kapila, Hiran and Sarasvati). Soma, the Moon god, is believed to have lost his lustre due to a curse, and he bathed in the Sarasvati River at this site to regain it. The result is the waxing and waning of the moon, no doubt an allusion to the waxing and waning of the tides at this seashore location. The name of the town Prabhas, meaning lustre, as well as the alternative names Someshvar and Somnath ('The lord of the moon' or 'the moon god') arise from this tradition.[18]

History of the temple[edit]

According to popular tradition documented by J. Gordon Melton, the first Shiva temple at Somnath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple is said to have 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 is said to have destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II is said to have constructed the third temple in 815 CE, a large structure of red sandstone.[19]

However, there is historical record of an attack on Somnath by Al-Junayd. Nagabhata II is known to have visited tirthas in Saurashtra, including Someshvara (the Lord of the Moon), which may or may not be a reference to a Shiva temple because the town itself was known by that name.[20] 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.[21]

Ruined Somnath temple, 1869

In 1024, during the reign of Bhima I, the prominent Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its jyotirlinga despite pleas by Brahmins not to break it.[22] He took away a booty of 20 million dinars.[2][3] Historians expect the damage to the temple by Mahmud to have been minimal because there are no records of pilgrimages to the temple till 1038, for 12 years no pilgrim due to damages [23] However, powerful legends with intricate detail developed in the Turko-Persian literature regarding Mahmud's raid,[24] which 'electrified' the Muslim world according to scholar Meenakshi Jain.[25] They later boasted that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees. The devotees had tried to defend the temple from being vandalised and looted.[4][26]

The temple at the time of Mahmud's attack appears to have been a wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time (kalajirnam). Kumarapala (r. 1143–72) rebuilt it in 'excellent stone and studded it with jewels,' according to an inscription in 1169.[27][28]

The temple was again destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate's army in 1299 CE.[29] During its 1299 invasion of Gujarat, Alauddin Khalji's army, led by Ulugh Khan, defeated the Vaghela king Karna, and sacked the Somnath temple.[30] Legends in the later texts Kanhadade Prabandha (15th century) and Khyat (17th century) 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.[31] However, other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims.[32] These sources include the contemporary and near-contemporary texts including Amir Khusrau's Khazainul-Futuh, Ziauddin Barani's Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi and Jinaprabha Suri's Vividha-tirtha-kalpa. It is possible that the story of Kanhadadeva's rescue of the Somnath idol is a fabrication by the later writers. Alternatively, it is possible that the Khalji army was taking multiple idols to Delhi, and Kanhadadeva's army retrieved one of them.[33]

The 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.[34] As late as the 14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage.[35]

In 1395, the temple was destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate.[36] In 1451, it was desecrated by Mahmud Begada, the Sultan of Gujarat.[37]

In 1546, the Portuguese, based in Goa, attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath and destroyed several temples and mosques.[7]

By 1665, the temple, one of many, was ordered to be destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[38] In 1702, he ordered that if Hindus revived worship there, it should be demolished completely.[39]

'Proclamation of the Gates' incident during the Maratha period[edit]

In 1782–83, MarathaShinde king of Gwalior, Mahadaji Shinde, victoriously brought back three silver gates from Lahore after defeating Mahmud Shah Abdati, to Somnath. After refusal from priests of Gujarat and the then rulerGaekwad to put them back on Somnath temple, these silver gates were placed in the temples of Ujjain. Today they can be seen in two temples of India, Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga and Gopal Mandir of Ujjain.[40][41][42]

The Gates from the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni stored in the Arsenal of Agra Fort – Illustrated London News, 1872

In 1842, Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough issued his Proclamation of the Gates, in which he ordered the British army in Afghanistan to return via Ghazni and bring back to India the sandalwood gates from the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni in Ghazni, Afghanistan. These were believed to have been taken by Mahmud from Somnath. Under Ellenborough's instruction, General William Nott removed the gates in September 1842. A whole sepoy regiment, the 6th Jat Light Infantry, was detailed to carry the gates back to India[43] in triumph. However, on arrival, they were found not to be of Gujarati or Indian design, and not of Sandalwood, but of Deodar wood (native to Ghazni) and therefore not authentic to Somnath.[41][44] They were placed in the arsenal store-room of the Agra Fort where they still lie to the present day.[45][46] There was a debate in the House of Commons in London in 1843 on the question of the gates of the temple and Ellenbourough's role in the affair.[47][48] After much crossfire between the British Government and the opposition, all of the facts as we know them were laid out.

In the 19th century novel The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, the diamond of the title is presumed to have been stolen from the temple at Somnath and, according to the historian Romila Thapar, reflects the interest aroused in Britain by the gates.[49]

Reconstruction during 1950–1951[edit]

Diana Eck Harvard

K. M. Munshi with archaeologists and engineers of the Government of India, Bombay, and Saurashtra, with the ruins of Somnath Temple in the background, July 1950.

Before independence, Veraval was part of the Junagadh State, whose ruler had acceded to Pakistan in 1947. After India refused to accept his decision, the state was made a part of India and Deputy Prime Minister Patel came to Junagadh on 12 November 1947 to direct the stabilization of the state by the Indian Army and at the same time ordered the reconstruction of the Somnath temple.[50]

When Patel, K. M. Munshi and other leaders of the Congress went to Mahatma Gandhi with their proposal to reconstruct the Somnath temple, Gandhi blessed the move, but suggested that the funds for the construction should be collected from the public and the temple should not be funded by the state. He expressed that he was proud to associate himself to the project of renovation of the temple.[51] However, soon both Gandhi and Sardar Patel died and the task of reconstruction of the temple continued under Munshi, who was the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Government of India headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.[51]

The ruins were pulled down in October 1950 and the mosque present at that site was shifted few kilometres away by using construction vehicles.[52] In May 1951, Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Republic of India, invited by K M Munshi, performed the installation ceremony for the temple.[53] The President said in his address, 'It is my view that the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple will be complete on that day when not only a magnificent edifice will arise on this foundation, but the mansion of India's prosperity will be really that prosperity of which the ancient temple of Somnath was a symbol.'.[54] He added: 'The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction.'[54]

Architecture of the present temple[edit]

Diana Eck Encountering God

Bāṇastambha (Arrow Pillar)

The present temple is built in the Chaulukya style of temple architecture or 'Kailash Mahameru Prasad' style[55] and reflects the skill of the Sompura Salats, one of Gujarat's master masons. The temple's śikhara, or main spire, is 15 metres in height, and it has an 8.2-metre tall flag pole at the top.[55]

The temple is situated at such a place that there is no land in a straight line between Somnath seashore until Antarctica, such an inscription in Sanskrit is found on the Bāṇastambha (Sanskrit: बाणस्तम्भ, lit. arrow pillar) erected on the sea-protection wall. The Bāṇastambha mentions that it stands at a point on the Indian landmass that is the first point on land in the north to the South Pole at that particular longitude.[citation needed]


  • Somnath Temple in 1957

  • Somnath Temple in 2012

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  • Somnath Temple at dawn

See also[edit]


  1. ^'Somnath darshan'. Official website of Somnath Temple. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  2. ^ abYagnik & Sheth 2005, pp. 39–40.
  3. ^ abThapar 2004, pp. 36–37.
  4. ^ abCatherine B. Asher, Cynthia Talbot. India before Europe. Sterling Publishers. p. 42.
  5. ^Thapar 2004, pp. 68–69
  6. ^Yagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 47-50.
  7. ^ abYagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 52.
  8. ^Gopal, Ram (1994). Hindu culture during and after Muslim rule: survival and subsequent challenges. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 148. ISBN81-85880-26-3.
  9. ^Jaffrelot, Christophe (1996). The Hindu nationalist movement and Indian politics: 1925 to the 1990s. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 84. ISBN1-85065-170-1.
  10. ^Ranjan Ghosh (30 June 2012). A Lover's Quarrel with the Past: Romance, Representation, Reading. Berghahn Books. pp. 54–. ISBN978-0-85745-485-0.
  11. ^Eck 1999, p. 107
  12. ^See: Gwynne 2008, Section on Char Dham
  13. ^ abLochtefeld 2002, pp. 324–325
  14. ^Harding 1998, pp. 158–158
  15. ^Vivekananda Vol. 4
  16. ^Venugopalam 2003, pp. 92–95.
  17. ^Chaturvedi 2006, pp. 58–72.
  18. ^Thapar 2004, p. 18.
  19. ^Melton, J. Gordon (2014). Faiths Across Time: 5,000 Years of Religious History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 516, 547, 587. ISBN1610690265.
  20. ^Dhaky & Shastri 1974, p. 32 cited in Thapar 2004, p. 23
  21. ^Thapar 2004, pp. 23–24.
  22. ^https://web.archive.org/web/20180922173738/http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/88808/8/chapter-v.pdf
  23. ^Thapar 2004, p. 75.
  24. ^Thapar 2004, Chapter 3.
  25. ^Meenakshi Jain (21 March 2004). 'Review of Romila Thapar's 'Somanatha, The Many Voices of a History''. The Pioneer. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  26. ^Thapar 2004, pp. 68–69: But Mahmud’s legitimacy in the eyes of established Islam also derived from the constant reiteration that he was a Sunni who attacked the heretics, the Ismai‘ilis and Shi‘as in India and Persia. The boast is always that their mosques were closed or destroyed and that invariably 50,000 of them were killed. The figure becomes formulaic, a part of the rhetoric for killing, irrespective of whether they were Hindu kafirs or Muslim heretics.
  27. ^Thapar 2004, p. 79.
  28. ^Yagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 40.
  29. ^Eaton (2000), Temple desecration in pre-modern India Frontline, p. 73, item 16 of the Table, Archived by Columbia University
  30. ^Yagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 47.
  31. ^Ashok Kumar Srivastava (1979). The Chahamanas of Jalor. Sahitya Sansar Prakashan. pp. 39–40. OCLC12737199.
  32. ^Kishori Saran Lal (1950). History of the Khaljis (1290–1320). Allahabad: The Indian Press. p. 85. OCLC685167335.
  33. ^Dasharatha Sharma (1959). Early Chauhān Dynasties. S. Chand / Motilal Banarsidass. p. 162. ISBN9780842606189. OCLC3624414.
  34. ^Temples of India. Prabhat Prakashan. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  35. ^Flood, Finbarr Barry (2009). Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval 'Hindu-Muslim' Encounter. Princeton University Press. p. 43. ISBN9780691125947.
  36. ^Yagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 49.
  37. ^Yagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 50.
  38. ^Satish Chandra, Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals, (Har-Anand, 2009), 278.
  39. ^Yagnik & Sheth 2005, p. 55.
  40. ^Amitabh Mishra (1 January 2007). Heritage Tourism in Central India: Resource Interpretation and Sustainable Development Planning. Kanishka Publishers, Distributors. p. 42. ISBN978-81-7391-918-3.
  41. ^ ab'Mosque and Tomb of the Emperor Sultan Mahmood of Ghuznee'. British Library. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  42. ^101 pilgrimages. Outlook India Pub. 2006. p. 79.
  43. ^'Battle of Kabul 1842'. britishbattles.com. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  44. ^Havell, Ernest Binfield (2003). A Handbook to Agra and the Taj. Asian Educational Services. pp. 62–63. ISBN8120617118. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  45. ^John Clark Marshman (1867). The History of India, from the Earliest Period to the Close of Lord Dalhousie's Administration. Longmans, Green. pp. 230–231.
  46. ^George Smith (1878). The Life of John Wilson, D.D. F.R.S.: For Fifty Years Philanthropist and Scholar in the East. John Murray. pp. 304–310.
  47. ^The United Kingdom House of Commons Debate, 9 March 1943, on The Somnath (Prabhas Patan) Proclamation, Junagadh 1948. 584–602, 620, 630–32, 656, 674.
  48. ^'The Gates of Somnauth, by Thomas Babington Macaulay, a speech in the House of Commons, March 9, 1843'. Columbia University in the City of New York. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  49. ^Thapar 2004, p. 170
  50. ^Hindustan Times, 15 Nov, 1947
  51. ^ abMarie Cruz Gabriel, Rediscovery of India, A silence in the city and other stories, Published by Orient Blackswan, 1996, ISBN81-250-0828-4, ISBN978-81-250-0828-6
  52. ^Mir Jaffar Barkriwala, The Glorious Destruction of Hindoo Temples in Kathiawar and their replacement, Ul Akbari Publications, Bharuch, 1902
  53. ^Peter Van der Veer, Ayodhya and Somnath, eternal shrines, contested histories, 1992
  54. ^ abKanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, Indian constitutional documents, Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1967
  55. ^ ab'Shree Somnath Trust :: Jay Somnath'. Somnath.org. Retrieved 1 November 2014.


  • Chaturvedi, B. K. (2006), Shiv Purana (First ed.), New Delhi: Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd, ISBN81-7182-721-7
  • Eck, Diana L. (1999), Banaras, city of light (First ed.), New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN0-231-11447-8
  • Gwynne, Paul (2009), World Religions in Practice: A Comparative Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell Publication, ISBN978-1-4051-6702-4.
  • Harding, Elizabeth U. (1998). 'God, the Father'. Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 156–157. ISBN978-81-208-1450-9.
  • Lochtefeld, James G. (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, Rosen Publishing Group, p. 122, ISBN0-8239-3179-X
  • Venugopalam, R. (2003), Meditation: Any Time Any Where (First ed.), Delhi: B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd., ISBN81-8056-373-1
  • Vivekananda, Swami. 'The Paris Congress of the History of Religions'. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Vol.4.
  • Thapar, Romila (2004). Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History. Penguin Books India. ISBN1-84467-020-1.
  • Yagnik, Achyut; Sheth, Suchitra (2005), The Shaping of Modern Gujarat: Plurality, Hindutva, and Beyond, Penguin Books India, p. 39, ISBN978-0-14-400038-8
  • Dhaky, M. A.; Shastri, H. P., eds. (1974). The Riddle of the Temple at Somanatha. Bharata Manisha.
  • Henry, Cousens (1931), Somnatha and Other Mediaeval Temples in Kathiawad, India: Archaeological Survey of India, Vol XLV, Imperial Press

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