Abu Simbel and its Twin Temple
The gem of Nubian Monuments
Egypt; no doubt has the richest collection archaeological monuments, the first and the foremost being the colossal Pyramids other objects go without adequate attention; this twin temple of Ramesses the Pharaoh Emperor and Nefertari is one such. The twin rock temple is also famous for historical relocation from its former position between two rock cliffs and the river (under threat of submergence); to the present site which involved tremendous efforts, technology and resources, a relocation of such a massive structure was so far unheard of in history.
It is a part of the Nubian Monuments a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The Great Temple Belong to Pharaoh Ramesses 2 and the other one located about 100 meters away from the Great Temple is that of Hathor (an Egyptian Goddess) and Nefertari.
Ramesses the indefatigable
The story behind the construction of such a marvelous rock temple runs like this; Ramesses-2 was the most powerful emperor (1279 -1213 BC) of all the Pharaohs. The neighboring King Hittites of Muwatalli thought of containing Ramesses which resulted in the Kadesh war, one of the bloodiest in the history of the world. It is said that about 5000 chariots were mobilized by Ramesses –a record never broken by anybody so far. Hittites was defeated and fame of Ramesses rose like wild fire. This twin temple was built as a memorial of Kadesh War, as well as to impress and intimidate the other kings of that area.
The Egyptian mythology has it that the ‘Sun God Ra’ was engaged in a bitter war with the God of Darkness; and the baboons strongly stood by Sun God Ra thereby enabling his victory over darkness. This has striking similarity to Indian myths where also monkeys lent helping hands to Lord Ram (please see the similarity in names ‘Ra’ and ‘Ram’) in building bridge across the strait and defeating the Demon Ravana; in his efforts to save Sita (his wife); kidnapped by Demon.
As in most of the Egyptian temples this one also has a triangular shape with a wider entrance and narrower sanctuary. This temple has some extra features like side chambers consisting of rooms and halls all made of carving rock. There is a hypostyle hall (18 * 17 meters) which is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars in two rows, with images of deified Ramesses (human beings raised to the status of deities) interacting with Osiris the god of the netherworld. This has been believed to be done to impress the viewers that Ramesses had contacts with Demons and Gods.
Four colossal statues of Ramesses with double crowns stand there to amaze the spectators all carved in the rock that was standing on the original site. Next to the structure of Colossi (giant statue at least double the size of human size) are comparatively smaller statues of Nefertari (foremost wife of Ramesses) the queen mother (Mut Tuy), his first two sons, and first six of his daughters all these are having heights less than that of the knee of the statue of Ramesses.
King Ramesses on the warfront riding chariot and shooting arrows at the fleeing enemies is perhaps the most popular motif.
A marriage of convenience
Both sides of the entrance are crowned with bas-relief (3-d images sculpted on wall or pillars), on the left side the king is pictured as worshiping a falcon-headed god (Ra Harkhti) standing in a niche on the wall. This Ra Harkhti god has on one hand a hieroglyph (hieroglyph is figures representing words in ancient scripts) user on his right hand and Goddess Ma’at (goddess of truth). Another beautiful motif is that pictures the marriage between Ramesses with the daughter of king Hattusili (It is said that this marriage was arranged on convenience to end territorial dispute existed between the two nations!)
The smaller temple
Egyptian Goddess Hathor
Wearing the hieroglyph for 'west' on her head, Hathor is identified as the mistress of the west, the land of the deceased.
This temple is dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Hathor (a goddess representing heavenly cow, it is also considered as personification of the Milky Way, worshipping cow exists in Indian culture also). The main significance of this temple is that here the king is wearing a whit crown flanked by Nefertari his consort whose statue is as large as that of the king, both about 10 meters in height. Generally in ancient Egyptian architecture the statue of the king is far larger than any other statues.
Rediscovery or Robbery
Took away all he could but made a village boy famous!
The existence of these wonderful temples was first brought to the attention of the world by Mr. J L Burckhardt a Swiss orientalist in 1813. Mr. Burckhardt being at the fag end of the visit he brought it in to the notice of an Italian explorer by name Giovanni Belzoni.
What Mr. Belzoni saw was only the facade (frieze) of the temples and all other structures covered by the desert sand. He later came with all tools and entered in to the temple removing sand, that man went away with all that could take but gave a name to the site ‘Abu Simbel’ after the name of a boy who first led them to the site.
The construction of the
The cutting of the existing temple in to blocks and transporting them to the new sites about 65 meters above the existing site and about 200 meters from the river, then assembling them on the side of an artificial mountain specially made for this purpose all were quite unique a work. It was a challenge to archaeologists, engineers and every one involved in the mega project. UNESCO was there with a fund raising spree, about 40 million dollars were spent and the work has been done joining the blocks almost seamlessly.
Approaching near to the Grecian style
In Burckhardt who was an Egyptologist could find only the facade of the temple other parts being covered by desert sand. Yet he was astonished by his discovery and remarked; in his own words “It was the most expressive, youthful, countenance approaching nearer to the Grecian model of beauty than that of any ancient Egyptian figure I have seen”