Egypt Moblog #6 – Temple of Khnum and the Valley of the Kings at Luxor

Yesterday afternoon we visited the Temple of Khnum. Khnum is one of the creator gods who shaped his creations of mankind using a potter’s wheel. He’s also represented by a ram head (ram head is also one of the 3 symbols of Ra, the sun god). This is a temple from the Greco-Roman period as well and was begun by Ptolemy VI in 180 BC. As in other temples of this period, these were built over the ruins of older Egyptian temples.

The key feature of this temple as pointed out by our guide is the presence of Zodiac signs in the inner side of the roof of the
hypostyle hall which has 24 columns. I did take a picture of this but because of poor lighting, couldn’t get a good shot.

We then set sail to Luxor and reached here in the morning today. We left at 7am to go to the Valley of the Kings. Valley of the kings has 64 tombs many of them carved into the face of a mountain. All the tombs are from the new kingdom.

We visited the tombs of Tutmoses IV (the oldest one in this complex), Rameses III, Rameses IX and Tutankhamun. In Tutankhamun’s tomb, we could see the mummy with the face unmasked (this unmasking was done recently and it was covered by all the newspapers). Something to be said about seeing a human face from 1300 BC (3300 years old!) It was
utterly fascinating to see the face. Discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of the major accomplishments of famed Egyptologist Howard Carter.

All the tombs have a basic structure with variations – there is a long narrow corridor wth small chambers on either side – the walls are covered with reliefs and at the end of the hall, there is a main room where the sarcophagus is kept. Inside the sarcophagus is the mummy kept inside a 3 layered coffin. The chambers contain the grave goods – replicas of furniture, treasures, gold etc.

In the next sections, I will cover the Egyptian philosphies about after life.

As we covered before, the after life is a very important part of the circle of life.

When you die and enter after life, you sail in a boat with your sarcophagus on board on another river Nile in after life. In Greek mythology there is a similar concept with river Styx and the boat being driven by Charon, the god of the underworld.

You encounter lots of problems and you need to over come them. One of the problems is the 3 headed snake. To overcome this, the dead takes the form of snake as well and based on your good deeds the 3 headed snake is overcome. This is similar to the 3 headed dog Kerberos that guards the underworld in Greek mythology.

As you reach the doors of paradise, you see 12 guards (one for each hour of the after life – stemming from 12 hours of darkness). At this point, the Goddess of justice Maat weighs the heart against a feather on a scale. If the heart is heavier then it is a sinner’s heart and it is sent to hell. If it is lighter, then it is sent to heaven. If it is equal, then 14 judges ask one question each, if you got more than 7 correct, you goto heaven or else you goto hell. As you all know, this concept of final judgement is there in almost all religions.

The reliefs in the tomb depict all these stories with the pharoah of the tomb in occupying center stage in them. Anubis the god of mummification is a prominent god as well as the major gods Horus, Isis, Ossyris, Hathor etc. Like elsewhere, the reliefs are colored with bright colors and most of the tombs we visited have the colors well preserved. Unfortunately no pictures allowed.

There are also reliefs that show what happens to bad people – they are either depicted upside down or without their heads.

There was a question about slaves. I used to think that as well and that information comes from the Bible (old testament) where Moses and the Jewish slaves were put to work by Rameses. Interestingly, Egyptologists are yet to find a single evidence of the Egyptians discussing about Moses and the slaves. For a culture, that has written up so much in all these tombs and temples, the fact that no evidence of Moses and the slaves was found points to the possbility that the Biblical account may not be accurate.

On the contrary, our guide told us that all these workers were paid salaries and there is also evidence to show that there was even a strike by these workers one time for increase in salaries! Possibly the world’s first worker strike.

Later we went to Queen Hathepshut’s temple, Colossi of Memnon and the Mummification museum all of which I will cover in my next post.

More to come…


  1. Quote

    Another great post Sukumar. Tutankhamun’s tomb sounded really eerie!!!

    Crossing a river after death is also there in our philosophy. All people who have lived a life of rightiouness cross the Niraja Nadi were all their karma’s are supposed to be washed off and they can go to Brahma loka.

    I loved the story of weighing the heart on scales. Such a beautiful metaphor. I liked the tie breaking questions too.

    The series has been great. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling very bad that your vacation is ending 🙂

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 24, 2007, 1:40 am:

    Thanks Archana. From what I know, we travelled through a dark tunnel in our after life. The tunnel is lit if you die during the Uttarayana punya kalam. This is why Bhishma in Mahabharata waits for the Uttarayana punya kalam to start before he dies. Like everything in Hinduism I’m sure many many layers were added over time. We found similar things happening in Egypt also.

    BTW, I have 3 more days to go on my vacation including today and excluding departure day, so please don’t say it is ending yet.

  3. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 24, 2007, 2:07 am:

    BTW Archana, forgot to mention, Dakshinayana and Uttarayana punyakalams mark the movement of the Sun from one foci to the other of the solar system.

  4. Quote

    Good to know that. I thought you will be in office by Monday.

    According to our scriptures, when the soul departs during Utharayanam, it takes the shukla paksha path towards Brahmaloka. Niraja Nadi lies on the path to Brahma loka. It is believed that the last remenants of karma are dropped when the soul crosses Viraja Nadi (Sorry, i got the name wrong in my previous comment). This path of liberation is also called Krama Mukthi.

    I remember this because it appears in Brahma Sutra and there is a rather elaborate and pointless discussion on whether the Karma is dropped during Viraja crossing or when the soul leaves the body. One of the reasons I stopped studying Brahma Sutra 🙂

  5. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 24, 2007, 12:08 pm:

    Ineteresting Archana. I need to look up this Viraja Nadhi stuff. From an anthropological perspective, all major civilizations were riverine, so it is not surprising that rivers play a role in after life also. Need to also understand the approximate date of the Brahma Sutra.

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    Thanks Sukumar. But dating the Brahma Sutra would not help. It is an analysis of all conflicting statements in the Vedas and an attempt at resolving it. I will try to find out the Veda from which this quote is taken.

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