Monday, 29 February 2016

INDIAN SHIVA, EGYPTIAN SOBEK AND THE OASIS OF SIWA IN EGYPT

Sobek, also called Sevak, was an ancient Egyptian deity. He is associated with the Nile and is represented as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek was the god of fertility, military prowess. He served additionally as a protective deity with the power to avert evil influences or bad luck and was invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile river. Myths and legends associate his name with the forging of the Nile. One of his names was 'Lord of the waters' and his myths bear a considerable closeness to that of the Vedic Lord Shiva.


A stone-relief of Egyptian God Sobek. 
His name is associated with that of the Nile


Another representation of  Egyption god Sobek

The Siwa Oasis is an oasis in Egypt and its settlement is one of the most isolated in Egypt, inhabited by about 20000 people, descendants of the Berber tribe. They have their own unique culture and language.  Siwa is a site of active bubbling hot springs and cold springs. Apart from those there are therapeutic sulfur springs and sand baths. Siwa was known as Sekht-am to the pharaohs. Though it is said that 'sekhtam' translates as 'field of trees', it is is the Sanskrit 'sektR; (सेक्तृ) meaning 'sprinkler' that describes the site the best.

There seems to be some evidence that perhaps this site was named after Sobek, also called Sevak, the Egyptian Shiva. Siwa is today known primarily as the site of an Oracle Temple built in 6th century BC and dedicated to the Egyptian sun god Amun.  

In his book, Egypt, author Mathew Firestone states,that the Temple of Oracle was built probably on top of an earlier temple. He says that in the vicinity of the Amun Ra Temple are many other ancient temples which were once connected to the main Amun Ra Temple. There is the Temple of Unm Ubayd also dedicated to Amun Ra, the Temple of Mesus-Isis with beautiful depictions of cobras, another Temple that has survived as depictions of the yellow crocodile representing Sebak

In his book 'The doctrine of the Deluge; Vindicating the Scriptural Account from the doubts cast upon it' by Leveson Venables V. Harcourt, published 1838, the author finds enough evidence to link Sebak and the Oasis of Siwa with the Indian god Shiva. He says, "In the time of Herodotus, the Oases near Egypt, were called the Island of the Blessed, and it is in no words they appeared such to the travellers, who arrived there hungry and thirsty, and weary, from the vast deserts which encompassed them. But there were other reasons too, for that denomination; on a hill in the oasis stands Siwa, which seems to have been a place sacred to the Indian god of the deluge, Siva, or as he was called in Egypt, Sevak ....".


Lord Shiva with serpents around his neck and arms
Lord Shiva with the River Ganges in his top-knot.

And it is not in Siwa alone that the traces of Vedic civilization and Hinduism are found. Monsieur Chevalier, a French Egyptologist who was appointed the French Governor of Chandennagore (now a part of West Bengal) in 1768, had 'recognized' the idols of Vishnu, Jagarnath and Ganesh in the Temple of Osiris in Abydos in Egypt too. 

The legends of Vishnu and Sri Krishna also seem to be interwoven with that of Amun-Ra. Bibhu Dev Misra of Hare Krishna Society says, "In the typical depiction of Vishnu in Hindu iconography, the sacred river Ganges is always shown emerging from the toe of Vishnu, while in Egypt, we find a very similar imagery associated with Amun." The Nile is said to emerge from the feet of Amun-Ra.  He adds,"Amun was always depicted in funerary art and temple inscriptions with a ‘blue skin colour’ and having two feathers in his headdress.” ... a reminder of Sri Krishna.

Siwa is intriguing. In the background of the temple of Amon-Ra is the Gebel-el-Mawta - a cone shaped mountain, much like the top-knot of Shiva. Gebel-el-Mawta is riddled with tombs from the 26th Dynasty and the Ptolemaic era cut into the side of the rock.

Gebel-el-Mawta at the Siwa Oasis.
Egypt
Kailash. The abode of Shiva

Some names in Egyptian mythology are remarkably close to names in Sanskrit. Each one individually may not mean that they are indeed connected to Sanskrit, but collectively there may be more than just coincidence. 

In the ancient Egyptian language, the Nile was known as Iteru, meaning 'waters'. The 'teru' in the name 'iteru' may be explained by the Sanskrit 'tar' (तर) which is 'crossing a river', tarala (तरल) 'fluid', and 'taran' (तरण) 'to swim'.

Another example of traces of Sanskrit in ancient Egyptian lore is the deity Ptah. Ptah is the creator god par excellence and it was from his thought that the material world took form. 

In his book 'Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction' on pages 305 & 34, Antonio Loprieno states that the name 'Ptah' was vocalized as 'Pitaḥ' in ancient Egyptian (language) which is the equivalent of 'Pita' (पिता) -Sanskrit for 'father', and fits the characteristics of 'Ptah' to the core.



'Ptah' is pronounced as 'Pitah' in ancient Egyptian

And Ptah or Pitah survives today in the name 'Egypt'. Mainstream historians say that the name Egypt is derived from Ancient Greek Aígyptos, via Middle French Egypte and Latin Aegyptus. The Greek forms were borrowed from Late Egyptian 'Hikuptah' meaning 'home of the soul of Ptah'.

Suggested Readings:

1. Sacred Sites of Egypt 
2. Egyptology
3. Siwa
4. Jesus: Last of the Pharaohs



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