Egypt Moblog #7 – Temple of Hathepshut, Colossi of Memnon + Mummification Museum

Yesterday after the Valley of Kings, we visited the Temple of Hathepshut.

It is dated to 1400 BC and the facade is remarkably well preserved. It has 2 chapels on either side – one for goddess Hathor, the cow goddess and the other for Anubis, the jackal god. .

Hathepshut was a queen who ruled for 30 years and prevented Tutmoses III from the throne. Later Tutmoses gained the throne, married Hathepshut’s daughter and erased Hathepshut’s name from everywhere. But Hathepshut cleverly engraved her name with the offerings to gods and so a few of these weren’t erased! She also created a legend that she was the daughter of Amun Ra (the main god – Sun) and also dressed herself as a man – all this to rule as a pharoah.

Then we saw the Colossi of Memnon – Memnon being the name Greeks gave. These huge statues in seated posture are of Amenhotep III from the 18th dynasty. The statues are in real bad shape having suffered a lot of damage from vandals, tomb robbers and also the earthquake of 26 BC.
These statues could possibly have served as the inspiration for Rameses II’s colossi in the Abu Simbel which we covered earlier.

We came back to the boat, took some rest and went back into the town of Luxor to see the mummification museum.

The museum has the various instruments used and the whole process has been explained here. There is also a well preserved mummy of a high priest and a few animal mummies like baboons, crocodiles etc.

The Egyptians through a trial and error process cracked the mummification process around 2600 BC.

First they cut the body on the left flank and extract the lungs, intestines, stomach and liver. These were then placed in the 4
canopic jars usually made of alabaster – protected by 4 sons of Horus – liver jar by Imesti (human head), Qebehsenuef, falcon head forintestines, Duamutef, jackal head for stomach and Hapy, baboon head for the lungs.

They left the kidney behind because it was not accessible easily and of course they needed to leave the heart behind for the final judgement, which we covered earlier. The most interesting thing, for all their advanced stuff, is that they didn’t consider the brain to be anything important! They used a sharp instrument inserted through the nose and whisked the brain into a liquid and extracted it out.

It is not clear how they drained the blood or did they not?

Then they put saw dust and into the internal cavities. Then they covered the body and the organs in Natron salt for 40 days. Then the body was washed with oils, spices and resins and then the body was wrapped in linen placing more salts and saw dust. They also placed amulets in each layer with appropriate recitations of holy texts by the priests.

After this the mummy was placed in decorated coffins which was then placed into a decorated sarcophagus with the canopic jars.

They also placed small statues of the deceased called Ushabtis into a wooden box. These Ushabtis are there to take the place of the diseased during various encounters in after life.

They also placed mummified animals, treasures, replicas of furniture, dresses, sandals etc to be used during the journey in the after life.

Once the process was complete, when the mummy is ready for the funeral procession, they do a ceremony called “Opening of the mouth” which they beleived breathed senses back into the body for the journey in after life.

The museum also had several instruments for cutting the body, removing the brain etc.

On the whole a fascinating trip into the mummification process.

Today we visited the Temple of Karnak – the most important site in all of Egypt and the Luxor temple.

More to come ….


Comments

  1. Quote

    Sukumar,

    The travalogue series has been simply superb. I have been reading all the posts and am so amazed. I know for sure I would never visit these places in my life, but am so happy to get an insight into these wonder places through your personal experiences.

    Are these temples all in Luxor? The Egyptians surely have myths and stories as varied as our Hindu stories and symbols and gods. Are these temples well preserved? Do lot of tourists visit these places? What is the kind of food you get in the place? How do people dress there? How are the roads? Phew, a lot of questions.

  2. Quote

    Very interesting. It is really sad that Hathepshut had to dress up like a man in order to rule.

    Why did they mummify animals, crocodiles and Baboons? Were they pets of the deceased person?

    Even in our religion, the soul is supposed to reside in the heart. In a way it makes sense. when the heart stops you are dead, but when you are brain dead you are still technically alive.

  3. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 25, 2007, 1:25 am:

    Thanks Saraswathi.

    1. All these temples are distributed throughout Egypt. I have been given the names of the places also in my posts.

    2. Some temples are very well preserved and some aren’t. You can see some information on this aspect in my posts as well.

    3. As a Vegetarian it has been pretty easy to find food. If you like Lebanes e like we do you will like it here – Baba Ghanouj, Tahini, Moutabal, Sambousek, Labne, Ful Madammus, Falafel are available here. Egyptian flat bread is nice as well.

    4. People are very friendly. Roads and traffic are very much like India. It feels as if we are in a North Indian city in Rajasthan or the National Capital Region.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 25, 2007, 1:32 am:

    Archana,
    Hathepshut was a warrior queen and she ruled for close to 30 years and built several monuments. Nothing to feel sad about.

    The animals mummified were gods typically. For instance, crocodile is the god Sobek. Every god in Egyptian mythology has an animal form and a bird form. It is not clear if they had pets. But our guide said that Rameses III had Lions as pets.

    As for the heart, you’re right. The Egyptians built massive pyramids as early as 2700 BC. And any which way you look they had great technology. So for them to realize that the brain is the seat of intelligence is surprising. In India, most of the work is philosophy and also Aryan civilization post dates Egyptian by nearly 1800 to 2000 years.

  5. Quote

    Where the ancient Egyptians Vegetarians? (if they had animal gods, it suggests a respect for life?)

  6. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 25, 2007, 2:04 am:

    No they were not vegetarians. Even we have animal gods but we were not vegetarian? Even the Brahmins ate meat until the advent of Mahavira and Buddha.

  7. Quote

    Thanks for the details Sukumar. It was really interesting to know all the general details about the city of Egypt.

    What is the predominant religion in Egypt? Are there any Hindu temples there in the city? Was just curious to know.

  8. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 25, 2007, 2:28 am:

    Saraswathi,
    The modern day Egypt is dominated by Arabic culture – it is 90percent islamic. 10percent is coptic christians. The main language is Arabic. Many people speak English as well. There are not many Indians here. I doubt if there will be a Hindu temple here.

  9. Quote

    Do the eat the animals they worship, like the cow, the crocodile etc?

  10. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 25, 2007, 9:32 am:

    That’s a very interesting question from an anthropological perspective.

    Ancient Egyptians ate the cow but it was also Hathor goddess. Crocodile meat doesn’t taste nice (per the guide here) so they didn’t eat that. They didn’t eat Baboons also. Not clear if they ate the Ibis (god of wisdom Thoth).

    In India also, we worshipped animals and ate them – Horse (Hayagriva and Ashwamedha Yagna), Cows – it is not clear when we stopped eating cows – many Hindu communities eat the cow even till date (example Kerala).

    In Egypt, they mummified the pets also, for instance the cats. Cat was also a god (Bastet). It appears from some mummies they had killed them specifically to bury them with the king.

    So anthropologically speaking, not killing/eating your pets must be relatively modern (some chinese and korean communities still eat dogs and cats).

    In India, Vishnu has taken fish avatar, turtle and boar avatars but we definitely eat all of them.

    Do you know when we stopped eating the cow in India? Or do you believe we never ate the cow (Kerala notwithstanding)?

  11. Quote

    Oh great to know so many things about Egypt. I had thougt that Christianity is a predominant religion there.

    Do the Egyptians have any epics/books like we have Mahabharata and Ramayana? Are these ancient gods and goddess depicted in these temples still worshipped in Egypt?

  12. Quote

    And ya what form of government is there in Egypt? Are the descendants of the kings/queens who’s statues are there in the temples still alive?

    Do these descendants still hold the title of the king?(I mean are they treated as royalty?).

  13. Quote

    I don’t know Sukumar. While I know meat eating was in practice I have my doubts about the cow. During Mahabharat period (if it was ever in practice). At that point in time they were definitely considered sacred.

    If you see there are yagnas where they sacrifice goats and horses, but have you heard of one where they sacrifice a cow?

    While you are talking about avatars, cow had a different status altogether. it was not an avatar, it was by itself considered sacred. Earth was depicted as cow, Kamadenu is cow, Dharma was given a form of cow. There is a strong condemnation of Cow eating in manu, whereas it does not condemn meat eating.Even Lalitha devi is called Gomatha.

  14. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 26, 2007, 12:19 pm:

    Saraswathi,
    They have some epics – one of them is the epic of Horus which I wrote a little bit about. Horus kills his uncle and avenges the death of his father Ossyris. Their main book is called the Book of the Dead. They carved chapters from this book in the tombs, coffins etc for the after life. Egyptians invented paper – the word paper itself coming from papyrus – they made paper from papyrus using a process. I bought some papyrus here. It is fascinating.

    The ancient religion is not practiced. All of Egypt is now islamic (85 percent and christian (15percent).

    The Egyptians are a mixed race now due to layer upon layer of different peoples who ruled over Egypt. It is much like asking are the Aryans in India still around – yes they are but completely mixed up.

    Egypt has a presidential form of government with Hosni Mubarak serving as its current president.

  15. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 26, 2007, 12:37 pm:

    Thanks Archana. The problem for us is going to be dates. The starting point of Aryan Vedic civilization is approximately between 1800 to 1500 BC. So it is possible that we had more modern views on animals by then. Al though, I would need some more data on when exactly we stopped eating the cow because as I said cow is still eaten in Kerala to this day.

    By contrast, the recorded Egyptian civilization started in 3200 BC and some records are dating back to 4000 BC. So it is possible that some Egyptian views are archaic compared to the Vedic culture which came much later.

    In Ancient Egypt, it was common in the royal folks for brothers and sisters and even father/daughter to marry. This practice we don’t have. But we do allow cousins to marry till this date which could be considered unacceptable by modern day standards.

    So I’m not sure we can apply our current day standards to Ancient Egypt.

  16. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said December 1, 2007, 5:30 am:

    Sukumar,

    Regarding Beefs, i feel, its not a practice among us. Even in Kerala, the beef was taken mainly by christians and Muslims. Only few Hindu communities, eat beef.

    Now, since its under the domination of Communists, christians & muslims, the practice has been followed by the Hindus too.

    We used to eat meat and chicken regularly. Often, when there is good catch of Rabbit, mouse & rats, that would also form the diet πŸ™‚ . (Normally, in those times, the villagers used to go on for hunting during dry seasons, with the help of Hunting dogs.. Plus, during cultivation, we used to catch Rats and mouse, to prevent damaging to crops..)

    Cats are also form the diet, although not often. I havent eaten any such so far. Few years before, i had a pet cat, which i fed so enourmous with Rice mixed with Ghee πŸ™‚ , that it became most lazy and dull, sleeping all the time. It was so fatty, that some of the sugarcane cutters, caught it for their diet ..

    There is a sharp weapon, that is fitted to a long straight bamboo stick, mainly used for hunting snakes, rats, & mouse. Still we have it in our home. Some times the labourers used it for hunting cats too.

    On seeing who is spearheading the propogation of Beef eating concept, it was mostly the communists to derail Hinduism. (because, since marx went against Religion).

    In our community, even now, if my grandma heard that i eat beef, she would drive away from the home ( πŸ™‚ ) ..

    There are lot other info.. during the month of “Purattasi”, we abstain from Non-Veg. On those days, there would be separate utensils for cooking meat, and that would be kept only outside the kitchen after thorough wash.

    During the times of pilgrimage (mostly to Palani), the house would washed and no NV is allowed.

    In general, whenever there is any Subha Function, Non Veg is strictly avoided 1 days prior.

    So, Cow, which was reverred even during Ramayana period, could not have been a part of diet.

    However, there are some few references, that some communities had eaten dead cow.

    http://www.fullbooks.com/The-Travels-of-Marco-Polo-Volume-29.html

    In the above link, it was mentioned There are some people called GAVI in south india (pandian empire) who eat beaf but only when the cow is dead by natural causes

  17. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said December 1, 2007, 5:41 am:

    General psychology of humans is that they tend to exhibit gratitude to those things which are essential part of their survival. In that aspect, cow has been considered as a wealth, and hence reverred.

    Some important points on how cow is part of the mans life style.

    1. Cow dung is used as manure, and also used to lay the floor in the villages. Scientifically, its proved to protect from Sun radiations

    2. Cow’s Urine, is believed to be good antiseptic. Today, an organic product called “Panchakavya” is prepared, which acts as a growth catalyst. My relative told, that the lemon trees, applied with panchakavya once, yielded him lemons continuously for two years.

    3. On those days, people in our area used to rear country cows and Oxes. Except during later periods of pregnancy, a normal cow is used for ploughing, and also for milking. (My grandfather was doing this till he left agri during 1960’s)

    4. Ox were used as primary modes of transportation. Bullock cart were famous till few decades back.

    5. Manaparai Bull, Kaangayem Bull are noteworthy native breeds that are suited to indian climatic conditions.

    So, when it become part of life, till its life time, there is hardly a chance that it could be killed for flesh.

  18. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 1, 2007, 5:56 am:

    Senthil,
    We all know that cow is an integral part of our lives and is worshipped, same was the case for Egyptians also. The point is, whether that meant not eating cows? I think the answer is yes to that as well, but the question of when that decision was made is the point we are discussing. There are some Hindu communities that still eat beef, so it is possible that we ate beef in ancient times also, but the practice stopped somewhere in between. The possibility that we never ate beef and only after the advent of christians and muslims is also possible. Personally, i find it difficult to believe that cows were not eaten in ancient times, but i need some evidence to prove that. i don’t have that evidence right now.

  19. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said December 1, 2007, 6:55 am:

    Valid points sukumar. And i feel, that was one of the peculiarities of Hinduism.. It has no roots or beginnings.

    But, what i feel, is that we cannot generalise any particular aspect in Hinduism to the whole religion. Because, Hinduism as a religion is coined by Britishers. Actually, it was conglomerate of numerous set of diverse cultures. Even the vedas, the front end of Hinduism cannot be attributed to the whole religion. There is no reference of the word Hinduism or Hindu in any of our literature. That’s why, even the present right wing party, which aims at uniting Hindus could not do so.

    The main identity of a Hindu is his caste, and not Hinduism. The main reason is because, each caste (we should say community) is charecterised by its own culture. And any person’s daily life revolves around that culture, and hence the identity Hindu doesnt click for so long in our country. Even in major family festivals, the community rituals is followed.

    From the above point, we could say, hinduism is a group of small religions. Among them, jainism, saivism, vaishnavism, are some major internal religions.

    In such case, there may be few communities which could have eaten beef.

    There is one more angle to it.

    Most of the spirituality lies with worshippers of Kaali, and Shiva. Like, Meditation, Blackmagic (Billi sunyam), etc are characteristics of shaivites, and associated cultures. Whereas, the worshippers of vishnu were largely scientific, and characterized by wars, and avadharams. Only Bhakthi & Power of God is upholded here.

    There are possibilities, that Brahmins, who might have come from North or west could have assimilated in to the native culture of india, and a fusion could have origined. Since they were highly intellectual, their scientific knowledge could have fused with the spiritual knowledge of ours, which might have led them to renounce Beef.

    (Many facts led me to this theory.. 1. the colour, & complexion of present day Brahmins resembles the west. 2. The recent findings of ancient Vishnu Idols in Russia.. 3. Black Magics like Billi Sunyam, are mostly practised in the southern states. It is still prevalent in Kolli hills, which is near my place)

  20. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 1, 2007, 8:12 am:

    That is interesting. I don’t accept that Hinduism is not a religion. That is a very western view based on the one book, one god abrahamic monotheistic religions. After my Egypt visit, i am even more convinced that, Hinduism is a complex pantheistic religion with the complexity added by layer upon layer of newer more advanced philisophical thoughts as well as sometimes retrogressive thoughts as well. Egypt’s pharaonic religion was also like this. Lots of contradictions, same god representing good and evil, the gods were merged together etc. India’s religious history runs from approx 1500 BC to the present day and given 3500 years any system becomes complex and that is true of Hinduism also.

    Now I don’t know why you equate Shaivism with black magic? I don’t agree with that. I suspect that Shiva himself is the original Dravidian tribal god which was incorporated into the later Vedic religion which is what passes as Hinduism now. I am sure you know about Appar, Sundarar and Manickavasagar without whose contributions, Hinduism would be dead and gone in Tamilnadu. They lived approx in the 10th century AD.

    Aryans (which includes Brahmins as well) came originally to India from Afghanistan. Within India, over the years Brahmins were imported from the North to do the priestly duties owing to their knowledge of the Vedas.

    I don’t understand how the presence of Vishnu idols in Russia proves anything? Unless you are saying these idols are from before 1500BC which is the approximate date of the arrival of the Aryans into the Indus Valley.

    I also don’t agree that Jainism is a sect of Hinduism. Both Jainism and Buddhism specifically attacked the Vedic religion and are to be seen as separate from Hinduism. later, Buddha’s and Mahavira’s ideas were incorporated into Hinduism – sacrifices were stopped for the most part, vegetarianism became mainstream atleast for the brahmins etc.

  21. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said December 2, 2007, 9:21 am:

    Thanks sukumar.. Most of references to meditations, yoga, and other related things attribute to shaivism.. while vaishnavism is more of bhakthi towards god..

    I did not equate shaivism with black magic.. rather, many of the concepts like meditation, seems to refined version of black magic. Black magic was somewhat like rural version & rough version of meditation.

    I met a person, who has knowledge about blackmagic. He said, that to get the power, we need to meditate for 21 days.. no pleasures in those 21 days.. should strictly follow some rituals.. It needs the art of linking sub-conscious mind to our intentions, and concetrate all our thoughts on our objective.

    Black magic is famous for its mis-use and abuse. Most of the times, black magic is used for destroying the rivals & enemies and the same used for breaking such billi sunyams.. (still its used in far rural areas of tamil nadu and kerala..)..

    The highlight is that, many of the estate owners, utilise such black magicians, for various purposes.

    That’s why i said, that the advanced level of meditation could have evolved from such low level things, which might have been starting point . (to my knowledge, this type of things exist in south predominantly and to some extent in eastern and bengal side).

    I dont know about the rest of the world.. (I heard of incidents like witch craft in the western mythology…) .. so mostly such things would be a tribal affair..

  22. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said December 2, 2007, 9:26 am:

    I have heard of appar, sundarara and manickavasagar.. And particularly during ramanujar period, many of the non-brahmin people were also accorded “poonool”.. and now we can see lot of person performing vedic pujas, but their appearnance resemble the south indian people.

    I quoted vishnu idol, to represent that there might be lot of cultural linkage b/w russia and india… this is unknown so far right.. Even now the excavasions has been suppressed for some known reasons πŸ™‚

  23. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said December 2, 2007, 9:41 am:

    Most of the rituals in tamil nadu were semi-tribal nature.. That doesnt conform to vedic rituals.. In our community, the rituals were entirely different from the brahminic one.. There is separate epic for our community, and that god is mostly reverred.. Gula deivams are mostly goddess kaali.. (which resembles bengali culture)..

    You might have seen in films like “Arul varuthal”, ie.. some person suddenly become extraordinary and speak on behalf of the god.. Those were very common on those days in the rural areas, but outrightly rejected by the intellectuals.. But having seen many such things directly, its hard to believe, that these types of “AruL’ were psychological things..

    Everyyear, a spiritual fold drama would be conducted for the Gods “Ponnar & sankar”.. That event will culminate, only when some one gets “Arul”..

    Although, these type of things are hated most by the urban people, there is entirely a separate dimension to these, which provides ample subject for research and understanding ..

    So, i could not comprehend, how Hinduism could be called a religion.. the meaning of religion doesnt fit to Hinduism, which is what i feel.

  24. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 3, 2007, 10:11 am:

    Thanks for the detailed comments Senthil. I am still not convinced that Blackmagic is connected. But i don’t have much awareness on the subject.

    As for Ramanujar making many non-brahmins as brahmins, that did happen from what i know.

    I don’t understand why Russia would suppress an excavation. I will look into that some more.

    I don’t believe in this Arul Varudhal concept. Don’t be offended, i think it is BS.

    Lastly, hinduism is not a religion based on whose definition of religion? Can you define religion? Hinduism is a complex religion that defies the typical notions of religion, but it is a religion all the same.

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