Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Karnak and Luxor

A visit to Egypt can be a humbling experience. Big is really "massive" in Egypt, like the pyramids of Gizeh and the temples of Karnak and Luxor with their huge columns and obelisks. Napoleon's scholars calculated that the limestone blocks in the three pyramids of Gizeh were sufficient to build a wall one foot wide and 10 feet high around the whole of France!
The expertise of the ancient Egyptians in the field of architecture, engineering, astronomy, art, sculpture, writing are all there for us to wonder. What we should realise though, is that these were the achievements of a bronze-age culture. Cutting limestone and hard granite into huge blocks for building and carving sculptures in the round without the use of iron tools is an extremely difficult feat. The beautifully carved hieroglyphics, painted with the most vibrant colours is in itself a work of art. Even more remarkable was the living standards of the kings and ruling classes. Elaborately carved and designed chairs, tables, cots, thrones, chests in cedar and other wood, metal craft, woodwork, pottery, jewellery making, all kinds of crafts were highly evolved at a time when most people of the world still lived in neolithic villages.
Western scholars have been judgmental when they dismissed the civilisations of the east as the cult of the dead and have argued that this obsessive concentration on death rituals was the reason for these cultures remaining stagnant and their ultimate eclipse. However, it is to be noted that western cultures have developed only in the last few centuries, while the great Egyptian civilisation flourished for several thousand years with near continuity in religious beliefs and practices, lifestyle and concepts of kingship.GEETA VASUDEVAN The Hindu Magazine Sunday, Mar 07, 2004 About Us

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