The Idol of Somath refers to the Hindu god of Shiva, a major powerful deity. Somnath (also known as Patan-Somnath or Somnath-Patan) was an ancient city in the southwestern state of Gujarat in India. The city was known for its temple of Shiva in the form of Somanatha, "Lord of the Moon". The temple was destroyed during an invasion by Mahmud of Ghazna, a Turkic Muslim, in 1024-25 A.D. The city, rebuilt in 1169, was demolished again by Muslim invaders in the late thirteenth century.
Carlyle refers to the Idol of Somnath in "Hudson's Statue" during his discussion with Jefferson Brick on the "patented anomalies" in English society. The anomaly is of social status being bought with wealth, without regard to how the fortune is acquired, or of the nature of these men. But, Carlyle notes, these figures are temporary ones, their destruction is apparent and the idols will "tumble and the hugest of them with the heaviest fall". The destruction of Somnath and the temples represents the consequences of those men who acquire their status with only money.
The Idol of Somnath, like these anomalous men, are worthless, but it sits like a god, bedecked with diamonds and wealth, to be worshipped and revered by the population. Religion destroys these idols and strips them of its importance. In the name of Allah, the faithful Muslims, with its battle-ax, shatter the idols of Somnath, and pilfer the wealth and jewels of the city, leaving behind only the broken potsherds of the idols. In the same respect, these men who bought their status are stripped of their wealth, "yielding from its belly half a wagon-load of gold coins," these men will also be worthless, being man-mounds of shattered pieces of pottery.
One can also compare the destruction of the Idol of Somnath with the contemporary idols of England. If such statues are stripped of the wealthy prominence and precious metals, what is left of these men for the people of England to emulate? For example, if Hudson is stripped of his money and glory, then only the image of a swindler remains. The vices of these revered and anomalous men are so covered with fortune and unearned prestige, it takes the destruction of the idol itself before their true natures are revealed, just like the Idol of Somnath. After these clay figures are stripped of its jewels, it is nothing but pieces of shattered pottery.
Last modified 23 October 2002