Gujarat, the fifth largest state of India, is a haven and a classic example of religious diversity in India. This state is where the first Jyotirlinga in India, the Somnath temple, is situated and this is the very land where Lord Krishna himself used to rule his subjects and bless the world with his presence. Let us look at the different pilgrimage sites one can visit when in Gujarat because what’s the use of visiting a place in India if you do not go to the temples and religious places there. So, let us know about the 7 most sought after pilgrimage sites in Gujarat:
Somnath Temple, Somnath
Somnath temple is the very first Jyotirlinga in the series of jyotirlingas and is the most revered and important of all. This is the place where Lord Shiva manifested himself for the first time. Somnath temple is situated at the banks of Triveni Sangam meaning the confluence of three rivers- Saraswati, Hiranya, and Kapila. This temple according to the Puranas was first built in the Satyuga by the Moon-god who built it in gold, then built by Ravana in Treta Yuga who built it in silver, and lastly by Lord Krishna himself who built it of Sandalwood in the Dwapar Yuga. Since then this temple is looted by numerous Muslim invaders and lastly built again from the ruins in Independent India.
Like others, this temple is also connecting to an interesting story which the Puranas use to explain the phenomenon of different phases of the moon. It is said that Daksha Prajapati marries off his 27 daughters to the Moon God who favored Rohini the most among all. Daksha Prajapati was not quite impressed and warned him to treat all his daughters alike but the Moon God did not do so. He then cursed the Moon God that he would lose his luster. The Moon God prayed to Lord Shiva to get his luster back and then Lord Shiva manifested himself here to relieve the Moon God from Prajapati’s curse.
Dwarkadhish Temple, Dwarka
The very famous Dwarkadhish temple in the city which Lord Krishna himself ruled is a pilgrimage site that is close to the hearts of the devotees. The Dwarkadhish temple is built on the banks of the sacred Gomti River and is surrounded by the vast Arabian Sea. The city Dwarka was built by Lord Vishwakarma on the order of Lord Krishna and Lord Krishna transported all the living beings from Mathura to Dwarka in one single night on the threat of Jarasandh over the security of the city. It is also believed that Lord Krishna reclaimed 96 square kilometers of land from the sea to build this city. It is said that the grandson of Sri Krishna, Vajranabha, built this temple over the residential location of Lord Krishna known as “Hari Griha.” It is said that visiting the Dwarkadhish Temple will alone grant Moksha or eternal salvation to the devotees. This temple is especially flooded with devotees during the festival of Janmashtami in which people celebrate the birth of the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna. The Dwarkadhish temple has two gates known as the Swarg Dwar or the gate to heaven and the Moksha Dwar or the gate to salvation.
Bhadreshwar Jain Temple, Mandvi
Bhadreshwar temple is one of the oldest Jain temples in India and most revered by the Jain devotees. The foundations stone is said to be laid by a Jain layman Devchandra around 45 years after the death of Lord Mahavir but there is no evidence as such to support the claim. This temple has been destroyed several times because of earthquakes in 1819, 1844, 1875, and 2001 and has been rebuilt time and again. This temple is also famous because the original Parshawanath idol is contained in it from 500 BC. Also known as Vasai Jain Temple, Bhadreshwar temple has a beautifully decorated main central temple, around 53 shrines and 52 minor shrines around it. The central image in Vasai Jain temple is of Lord Ajitnath who is the second Tirthankar and is accompanied by Lord Parshawnath on the right and Lord Santinath on the left.
Harshal Mata Temple, Porbandar
Harshal Mata Temple also known as the Harshiddhi Mata temple is located in the Gandhvi village in Porbandar top of the Koylo Dungar Hilla overlooking the beautiful view of the Arabian Sea. Harshiddhi Mata is considered to be one of the incarnations of Devi Amba whom the Yadav community worships as their Kuldevi. The story goes on that Lord Krishna prayed to Devi Amba before the war with King Jarasandh and defeated him. To offer his gratitude he worshipped the goddess again after his return and thanked her for her blessings. Lord Krishna himself built this temple. However, no Puja is performed in the original temple but the temple built in the market was built by a Jain Merchant Jagdu Shah. It is believed that the vessels traveling in the sea would be burnt or wrecked if the gaze of the goddess fell on it and the similar happened with Jagdu Shah whose ship got wrecked but he was saved. He prayed to the Goddess and requested her to move down the hill and promised he would build a temple for her. The Goddess demanded sacrifice to do so and he sacrificed buffaloes and his entire family along with himself. The Goddess was impressed by his devotion and agreed to descend the hill. The goddess also granted Moksha to the Jain merchant.
Nishkalank Mahadev Temple, Bhavnagar
Nishkalank Mahadev temple is another fascinating Hindu pilgrimage site located at Koliyak Beach in Bhavnagar. This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is considered to be built by the Pandavas after the Kurukshetra war. There are five Shivalingas situated in the temple with a Nandi bull facing each of the lingas. This temple gets completely submerged during high tides and reveals itself during low tides. According to the legend, Pandavas started to feel guilty about destroying their own Kul or family in the war and Lord Krishna gave them a black flag and a black cow. Lord Krishna said that when both of them turned white, the Pandavas would be free of all their sins and will be needed to pray to Lord Shiva for salvation after that. The Pandavas traveled all the places the cow took them but neither of them turned white. The cow then took them to the Koliyak beach where both the flag and the cow turned white as said by Lord Krishna and the Pandavas then built the temple to pray to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva got impressed because of their devotion and blessed each of the Pandavas brothers with one Shivalinga in the temple.
The people also celebrate the famous festival Bhadarvi in the month of Shravan on the new moon night.
Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, Gandhinagar
The Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar Gujarat is not only famous among the Hindus but is visited by a lot of tourists from across the world because of its outstanding features. Built-in Vedic style architecture with pink sandstones, this temple took 13 long years to reach completion. Akshardham temple is a tribute to Swami Narayan and his teachings and the temple preaches the BAPS philosophy which suggests that each soul which attains Moksha moves to Akshardham. This is a unique temple built with gigantic proportions and with around 7000 metric tons of sandstone. The temple is divided into two floors, the first floor is known as the Vibhuti Mandapam and the second one is known as the Prasad Mandapam. The first floor is decorated with lotus-shaped displays with interpretations of the religious symbol of Swaminarayan and the basement of the temple contains various holy and historical relics which are memorials from Swaminarayan’s life. The Swami Narayan Akshardham temple has 200 idols and the moral belief of the temple is that each soul is potentially holy and by helping others the soul moves a step towards these idols.
The Jain temples of Palitana:
Palitana is home to 863 beautifully carved Jain temples built by the Jain devotees from the 11th century onwards which makes them around 900 years old. These temples are an important Jain pilgrimage site as this is the place where Lord Adinath who was the very first Tirthankar achieved enlightenment. Every member of the Jain community is expected to this place at least once in their lifetime because of its relevance. These temples are built on the Shatrunjaya hill and are among a series of hills important to Jains like Mount Abu, Mount Girnar, and Chandragiri. Among all the temples the one dedicated to Tirthankar Sri Adishwar is the most important. It takes approximately a flight of 3490 steps to reach these temples which generally takes 2 hours. Being a Jain pilgrimage site, Mahavir Jayanti is the most important temple celebrated in Palitana and religious ceremonies are performed at the Shatrunjaya hill.
Many other pilgrimage sites are also prominent sites that attract loads of devotees and tourists who often get fascinated by the architectural beauty of the places. All of the places in Gujarat are well connected to different parts of the country by road, rail, and air so they are easily accessible. Most of the places are also protected by the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve the beauty of heritage sites.
There are other such interesting articles in Travel Articles too, perhaps you would want to read them. Happy Reading!