Egypt : Karnak Temple

Temple of Karnak

Temple of Karnak

Karnak temple is the biggest temple in Egypt owing its monumental size to 1300 years of construction. It was started by XII dynasty's Sesostris I. After that every pharaoh down to the Ptolemic period tried to stamp his authority by outdoing the previous one in his (or her) contribution. Karnak actually encloses three separate temples, the biggest being the temple of Amun, the biggest God of the new kingdom. Since it is humanly impossible to cover every corner of the temple, we had to  Avenue of the ram headed shinxesrestrict ourselves to the following sections - all of which is in the temple of Amun.

The temple used to be connected to its counterpart, the Luxor temple, via an avenue of sphinxes most of which except a few yards outside each temple are destroyed by now. Our approach to the temple was through this avenue of ram headed sphinxes which ended in the first of the six pylons. The first pylon is actually still unfinished and the abandoned mud ramp behind along with some nearby unfinished columns give us an idea of the ancient methods of construction. The most impressive object in the forecourt following the first pylon is one of the surviving columns erected by Taharqa, the Nubian king. The forecourt also contains a triple shrine dedicated to the Thebean triad of Amun, Mut and and a granite colossus of Ramesis II with his favourite wife Nefertari nestled between his feet.

Beyond the second pylon lies the no. 1 highlight of Karnak, its grand hypostyle hall. Started by Seti I and finished by his son Ramesis II, this hall contains 134 gigantic columns, the biggest being 23m tall and 15m in diameter. Ten adults standing with their hands stretched apart around the pillars can barely measure up to their circumference. The hall covers an area of 6000 sqm, more than twice as big as the St Paul's Cathedral in London Hatshepsut's Obelisk. Beyond the hall are obelisks erected by Tuthmosis II and his daughter Hatshepsut. Of them, the obelisk erected by Hatshepsut is most well preserved, thanks to the wall constructed around it by her stepson in order to hide her work from the outside world. Obelisks of Hatshepsut are currently spread out throughout the globe occupying important locations in New York, London, Istanbul and  Rome and part of it is also in the Sydney museum.

Beyond the next pylon are the reliefs showing the conquests of Tuthmosis III, Egypt's greatest conqueror and popularly known as the Alexander of the east. Some of the listed conquered cities still posses their original names! Another interesting part of the temple is the Hatshepsut's wall which still retains most of its original  Hatshepsut's Wallcarvings and colours except for her figure which had been destroyed by her stepson way back in 1500 BC, the first instance of a political vandalism! The best example of the longevity of the ancient Egyptian colours can be seen in the back of the temple inside the Tuthmosis III's victory chamber. The 2000 year old figures of Jesus and Mary drawn by ancient Coptic Christians (which in all probability could be the oldest church art) are fading away revealing the bright colours of the underlying 3500 year old ancient Egyptian paintings! The chamber also houses a statue of the triad which has been conveniently adapted to form a crude cross and the most famous of ancient graffiti, the name of Champoleon - the translator of the hieroglyphics.

The temple of Amun also contains couple of histories most famous reliefs: the treaty of Qadesh signed by Ramesis the great and the Israel stone of Merneptah. The former,  the first ever treaty signed in the history, is the biggest proof that the overwhelming victory claimed by Ramesis was all hocus-pocus and the latter, the first ever mention of the word Israel, is the biggest proof that Merneptah is the biblical pharaoh.

The statue of a scarab next to the drinks stall was our final stop in Karnak. Rounding  the scarab some predetermined number of times could bring a partner, spouse, children or other such dangerous beings into your life!1

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