Monday, May 18, 2009

Shiva as Somnath

The temple of Somnath, a Hindu pilgrimage site, is situated in Gujarat and is considered one of the twelve foremost temples of Lord Shiva on the planet. The mythological story behind the emergence of this Jyotirlinga, which symbolizes Shiva as a column of light, revolves around the moon (personified as a god) and the nakshatras (constellations). According to the Shiva Purana, Moon married Daksha Prajapati’s twenty seven daughters (the 27 constellations), but he could not treat his wives equally and loved Rohini* more than her sisters. Consequently, his other wives felt distressed and lodged a complaint with their father. Daksha discussed this matter with Moon and asked him to respect all his wives. But when his request was rejected, Daksha became furious and cursed the moon with an incurable disease.

With the moon falling ill, all the gods panicked and reached Lord Brahma’s abode for help. Brahma advised Moon to go to the Prabhas region and worship Shiva with the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. Moon followed the recommendation and after six months of continual remembrance, Shiva appeared before him. When Moon requested him to cure his illness, Shiva said, “From now on, your rays will diminish over a fortnight, but then they will intensify again over the next fortnight.” To grace the moon god and the area where he had worshipped Shiva, the Lord of all gods decided to stay there as Somnath, the “Lord of the moon.”

*Rohini falls in the sign of Taurus in Vedic astrology.

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