Last Updated: July 24, 2018 Sudip Dey
The Shiva temples of Gujarat bring immaculate blend of exquisite stone carvings, adorably colourful interiors, and exclusively bejewelled deities. Brought out with imposing detailing on the walls and ceilings, each of these Shiva Shrines is a culmination of religious art and fascinating legends and continuously provides mystical experience to the devotees. Resplendent memories of distinctive eras, the temples serve as more than mere religious sites and boldly stand to educate travellers about ancient heritage and culture of India. Few of these Shiva temples magnificently blend the features of Jaina style of temple architecture with other ancient forms of temple architecture. Sanctified by the hallowed rivers and enclosed with soul-soothing scenic views, the Shiva temples of Gujarat let the travellers get soaked in serene subtlety.
Let’s talk about the 14 Most Popular Shiva Temples of Gujarat in brief here:
Photo: Renal Bhalakia
Location: 6 km from Veraval, Junagarh District
Witness of significant historical events, decays of dynasties and several destructive attacks, Somnath Temple in Gujarat is one of the twelve jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. More than a simple religious destination, Somnath catches attention of the travelers for its impressive design and serves as the most fascinating element of Gujarat Tourism. The first temple of Somnath was constructed even before the beginning of Common Era and has been destroyed six times by different invaders. Every time the temple was restored by different kings. Present temple was reconstructed in 1951 in typical Chalukya Style of temple architecture. The temple is divided into three sections-dance hall, central hall, and the inner sanctum. The Dhwajdand or the Spire of the temple is 27 feet tall and 1 foot in circumference. The Kalash at the top of the spire weighs 10 tons. The exterior of the temple is carved with impressive designs. The Baana-Stambha or the arrow pillar is another important part of this temple. It is said that the arrow indicates towards Antarctica and if one starts sailing from this point then would end up landing at Antarctica.
Highlights: A museum near Somnath Temple preserves the architectural remains of past temples. There are more than 1638 exhibits from 7th to 15th century. Relics from the period of Vallabhi rulers, Chalukya School of Architecture are the most significant.
P.S: Non-Hindus need to take permission to enter Somnath Temple.
Location: Around 12 km from Dwarka, Jamnagar district
A massive Shiva Temple erected with simple yet classy design, Nageshwar Temple is situated along the Gomti Dwarka route to Beyt-Dwarka. The hallowed seat of one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, this temple is believed to have purifying effect and able to protect devotees from all poisons. The temple premise houses an 85 feet high statue of Lord Shiva seated in profound meditation posture. The sanctum of the temple enshrines a silver plated lingam of Lord Shiva, known as Nageshwar and a statue of Lord Nageshwari stands behind him.
Did you know: In Nageshwar Temple, the Jyotirlinga faces south and Gomugam faces East.
Bavka Shiva Temple
Location: Chandwada Village, around 14km from Dahod
Often compared to the exquisite beauty of Khajuraho Temple, Bhavka Shiva Temple is a 10th century construction in the interiors of Dahod. A small, peaceful and artistically enriched travel destination, this temple has impressive erotic carvings on its walls and pillars. The outer wall and doors of the temple are intricately sculpted with the images of different celestial bodies. The sculptures depicted on the walls are graceful and attract attention for their intense detailing. Though the spire and dome of the temple is collapsed, some of the ancient relics and fragments of the temple are still have been put on display. The temple was first attacked by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni and later looted by several intruders for its statues and relics.
Location: 165km from Bhuj, Kachchh District
Located in the last outpost of Western India’s mainland, Koteshwar Temple is a specimen of ancient Indian architectural grandeur and one of the most famous tourist destinations in Gujarat. The temple is associated with an interesting story of Ramayana where it is said that when Ravana wished to get immortality in return of the penance he did for Shiva, the good lord Shiva gifted him his Amarlinga with one condition that the lingam should reach Lanka without touching earth. Seeing this, the Gods became afraid and they tricked Ravana to let the Atmalingam dropped on earth. Later when Ravana tried to pick the Lingam up, the said Lingam turned to thousands of identical lingams. As a result he could not identify the real one and went back to Lanka with the wrong one. Today’s Koteshwar Temple is located in the same place where the original lingam was left out by Ravana.
Shiva Temple at Polo
Location: 70km from Idar, Sabarkantha District
Sculpted with eye-catching motifs, images and impressive stone carvings, this ancient Shiva Temple at Polo is one of the most holy places in Gujarat. The temple is enclosed with lush greenery of Polo forests and blends unique charm of simplicity with wilderness. Although a major part of this Shiva Temple is damaged, yet the grace and elegance found on each detailing enchant every architecture lover.
Location: Ambaji, Banaskantha District
A specimen of 12th century architectural marvle, Kumbeshwar Mahadev Temple is a white marble shrine constructed by Kumarapala. One of the must see religious tourism places in India; this temple was crafted by the Sompura Community. It is important to note that Sompura Community is known for their wonderful craftsmanship in Jain temples and as a result Kumbeswar Mahadev Temple does bear the traces of Jain influences. A few noteworthy features are such as the miniature shrine atop the sanctum portal. The outer wall of the temple depicts images of Bhairav, Chamunda and Naresh. The temple base has depictions of Kirtimukhas, elephants and instances of day to day events. A certain portion of the temple contains sculptures of Gods as well as erotic couples.
Location: 15km from Dakor, Kheda district
One of the must-explore Hindu temples in Gujarat, Galteshwar is associated with interesting myths and legends. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is found on the banks of River Gati and exhibits stunning sculptural aura. According to myths, the Shivalingam which is worshipped in this temple appeared as a result of deep penance and devotion of Gallav Muni. When the sage got to see the Lingam, he requested Goddess Ganga to flow over it. Ganga agreed to do that and came down in the form of River Galti to bathe Lord Shiva. Today the holy river flows underground and bathes Shivalinga as it did promise to Gallav Muni. The temple was constructed in Malwa Style and bears traces of Chalukya style of temple architecture. The Shikhara part of the temple was destroyed in the past and was never renovated.
Location: Kapadvanj, Kheda district
Located on the eastern bank of River Vatrak, Utkanteshwar Mahadev is a divine destination in Gujarat. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple enshrines a 2000 years old Shiva Lingam. The temple was believed to be an ashram of Sage Jabali who was a devoted soul to Lord Shiva. Unlike other Shiva temples in Gujarat, the lingam of Utkanteshwar is a small ball shaped one which emerges from the wall of a pit. It is said that the offering of milk and water to Lord Shiva go inside the pit and finally get mixed with the water of Vatrak River. Utkanteshwar temple is visited by the devotees for tonsure ceremony.
Location: Siddhpur, Patan district
Perhaps the most beautiful religious tourism site of Gujarat, Rudra Mahalaya temple is located on the banks of River Saraswati. Found today in ruins, the temple exudes stunning architectural splendors and speaks about exuberant style of temple architecture adopted by the craftspersons of ancient India. The foundation stone of this temple was believed to be laid down by King Mularaja in 10th century and completed by King Siddhraja in 12th century. The remains of the temple suggest that the temple had a three-storeyed shikhara, around 1600 pillars, 12 entrances, a central assembly and porches towards north, south and east. The pillars of this temple are considered to be the tallest in Gujarat.
Hatkeshwar Temple and Kirti Torans
Location: Vadnagar, Mehsana district
A 17th century shrine lying just outside the Vadnagar town, Hatkeshwar Temple enshrines the principal deity of the Nagar Brahmins. An auspicious travel destination for Shaivites, this temple exudes excellence of stunning craftsmanship. This awe-inspiring structure faces the east and is enclosed by a high wall. The temple is surmounted by a soaring shikhar and 3 circular domes. The temple exterior is engraved with different scenes from Hindu mythologies. The temple complex of Hatkeshwar also encloses Kirti Toran, tall pair of 12th century columns supporting an arch made of red and yellow sandstone. Etched with impressive detailing, these entrance gates depict some of the exclusive styles of architecture which was otherwise a regular feature in Solanki Period.
Malika Arjun Temple
Location: Chikhli, Navsari district
A small Shiva shrine associated with deep rooted beliefs of the devotees, Malika Arjun Temple is around 500 years old. The temple enshrines a small swayambhu Shivalingam (naturally appeared) around which a lot of tales and believes keep revolving. According to local people, the temple was built by the nomadic Banjaras. It is said that when the landlords of the Banjaras tried to shift the Shivling to other site the Shivling started going deeper inside the earth. The interior of the exhibits images of the ten different incarnations of Lord Vishnu. There are some smaller shrines around the main temple which are dedicated to different other Hindu deities.
Photo: Anand Purohit
Location: Around 9km from Than, Surendranagar district
It is esteemed that the present temple of Tarnetar dates back to 10th century and was destroyed in 1898. The dismantled temple was replaced by the present one. The temple got its name from Triniteshwar (three-eyed Shiva) to whom temple is dedicated to. The actual temple was built during Solanki era by the Pratihara Kings who were devoted souls to Shiva. The temple complex enshrines crystal clear ponds which are considered to be very sacred. Taking a deep in these ponds bless the devotees with utter divinity. Annual Tarnetar Festival is a three day fair that takes place in August-September. Traditional sports like bullock cart races, camel race, horse carts race add thrill to this fair.
Location: Mount Girnar, Junagadh district
Located at the base of Mount Girnar, Bhavnath Mahadev Temple is a holy Shiva Shrine whose exact origin is not yet found out. This is a small temple surrounded by greenery and unsurpassed natural views. The temple is associated with various mythological tales and fulfils the wishes of its visitors. Every year during Mahashivratri a extravagant fair called Bhavnath Mela is celebrated with great pomp and show. People worship Shiva at midnight on the day of Mahashivaratri when a huge group of sadhus (mendicants) arrive in a procession riding elephants and take dip in Murgi Kund, a pond situated in the temple complex.
Location: About 22 km from Talaja, Bhavnagar district
Looks distinctive from other Shiva temples of Gujarat, the shrine of Gopnath is a colourful religious structure situated along the Gulf of Khambhat. It is the place where 15th century poet, Narsinh Mehta performed his penance. There is an interesting story behind the fame of this temple. According to folk tales once the cowherds of the said villages noticed that there cows were bereft of all milk. So being worried with the strange behaviour of their cows, they followed the cows and they could see that their cows are offering all their milk on a Shivling. Seeing this incident, a rich businessman built a bright temple on the said spot.
Most of the aforesaid Shiva temples are associated with deep rooted religious beliefs and a lot of folk tales. But, in this present blog I have pointed out the architectural beauty and their scenic splendour. I am sure many of my readers have been to these temples and must have heard about many folktales associated with Shiva’s appearance in Gujarat. So, in case you are one of those readers who know something fascinating about these temples, feel free to tell us.
Published: 12 Jun, 2015