Dear Poet Friends, the Sphinx remains shrouded in myth, legend, and History. Modern research by archaeologists and Egyptologists have revealed some of its hidden mysteries. My research has resulted in providing you with a short & a balanced view about the Sphinx, keeping in mind the short attention span of my readers. Unfortunately, I am not able to post the Illustrative photographs here which accompanies my Sphinx story. Hope you like this story, thanks, - Raj Nandy, New Delhi.
THE MYSTERY OF THE EGYPTIAN SPHINX
Towering over the Giza plateau facing the rising sun over the
The Sphinx stands defiant for over four millennia, braving the
vagaries of weather and marauding time!
With a lion’s body and a human head the Sphinx remains
shrouded in part myth, part legend, and ancient History.
While the date of its construction, and identity of its face
have intrigued scholars for many centuries.
Today I shall tell you about this monumental and magnificent
Which stands as an iconic symbol of Egyptian architecture!
Man fears Time since he forever remains as it’s bonded
prisoner in captivity.
However, only few hours of freedom are granted to him during
his earthly sojourn, to live and love life with impunity!
But Time fears the Pyramid and the Sphinx, as they stand
defiant with their raised head;
As miniature symbols of eternity which even Time dreads!
MYTHS AND LEGEND ABOUT THE SPHINX
Many controversies and theories abound as to the identity
of its builders during ancient times.
Some say it was built by the people who came from Plato’s
lost ‘Continent of Atlantis’, prior to the Egyptians, way back
Others say it was the ancient Zulus who had inhabited the
wet and rainy Giza region with its great lake.
Around 8000 BC, during the close of the Great Ice Age!
But with changing weather pattern the Giza region later became
a desolate and a deserted area.
Yet no records or hieroglyphs survive, to make things clear.
The name ‘Sphinx’ is said to have been given 2000 years later
by the enterprising Greeks.
Since in Greek Mythology there is a Sphinx, but with a woman’s
face, a lion’s body and with eagle’s wings;
Which guarded the entrance to the ancient Greek City of Thebes.
To the Greeks we owe the ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’ which asked all
passing travelers the following question:
“What is it that has one voice, and walks with four legs in the
morning, with two during the day, and with three in the evening
time?” - about which those travelers had no notion!
The Sphinx devoured all those who had failed to answer, till the
Greek Oedipus confronted the Sphinx and replied,
That the riddle had described the three stages of a Man’s life.
Since he crawled on all four as a child, grew up to walk on two
But during old age used a stick which became his third leg.
Hearing the correct answer the Sphinx is said to have jumped
into an abyss killing itself!
THE SPHINX PROPER
Modern Egyptologists generally agree, that the Sphinx had been
carved out from a single mass of limestone mound, -
Which dominated the Giza plateau before 2540 BC.
Built by Pharaoh Kufu’s son Khafre of the Fourth Dynasty.
Khafre was the builder of the second largest pyramid standing
next to his father’s Great Pyramid of Giza.
While the Sphinx stands on the eastern most boundary of the
Six miles west of Cairo, on the edge of Giza plateau.
It is 240 feet in length and almost 70 feet in height, aligned to
the Pyramid of Khafre behind.
The Sphinx lies on its hunches guarding the vast ‘City of the Dead’.
Where pharaohs mummified bodies lie deep within the pyramids;
To facilitate journey of their soul to gain eternal life and be
To join the Happy Fields of Osiris the Egyptian God of after-life
Great conquerors like Alexander and Napoleon had stood
dwarfed before the mighty Sphinx.
But to Napoleon we remain grateful for our knowledge of
Egyptian civilisation among other things.
For it was his soldiers who had discovered the Rosetta Stone
in Egypt in 1799, with its bilingual inscription.
Written in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Coptic Greek, resulting in
the decipherment of the Ancient Egyptian pictorial inscriptions!
EXCAVATIONS AND RESEARCH WORK
The Sphinx had been buried by the shifting sands of the desert
many a time during past centuries.
While periodic restoration work continues to preserve it for
American archeologist Mark Lehner and his team during the 1970s,
had analysed the bedrock under the mighty Sphinx.
They found natural cracks and fissures, and also narrow passage
ways dug by early treasure seekers!
His team climbed all over the Sphinx like Lilliputians over Gulliver, - while mapping its structure entire.
It was found the Sphinx had been subjected to five major restoration efforts since 1400 BC .
While Mark’s dedicated efforts earned him a Doctorate in Egyptology at the Yale University.
Mark’s research also concluded that the visage of the Sphinx was
once painted in red.
While traces of blue and golden yellow decorated the ‘nemes’, the
Pharaoh’s brightly stripped head dress.
Controversies rage even to this date, as to whose features the
Sphinx’s Negroid face did actually represent.
While the disfigured nose of the Sphinx has given rise to many
Was it the Muslim Arab conquerors, or a fanatical Sufi Turk who had tried to destroyed it as a pagan symbol!
Today I recall that the mighty 1700 years’ old statue of the Bamiyan
Buddha in Central Afghanistan.
Which was destroyed during March 2001 as a pagan statue by the
Mark feels that in all likelihood the Sphinx’s face was that of Khafre, with whose pyramid the Sphinx stands aligned.
While those ancient architects had arranged the location of the three pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx in conformity with solar events, - while choosing their construction site.
A settlement bigger than 10 football fields at this site was excavated,
Where the Sphinx formed an integral part of Pharaoh Khafre’s building complex!
This ‘Lost City’ of Mark Lehner had barracks, workmen’s quarters and kitchenette.
While remnants of diets found suggested workers were perhaps
rendering national service, and were not slaves.
No iron or bronze tools were found, only crude stone hammers and
copper chisels lay buried beneath the ground.
These copper chisels had to be sharpened at the charcoal furnace
frequently, for executing chiseling work with artistry.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GIZA COMPLEX AREA
Mark Lehner and other Egyptologists felt that the pyramids, Sphinx, and the Temples Complex of Khafre was thoughtfully arranged,
For linking solar events and harnessing the power of the Sun God
to resurrect the soul of the Pharaohs after their death!
This transformation not only guaranteed eternal life for their dead king,
But also sustained the universal national order, passing of seasons, the annual flooding of the Nile, and their people’s well being.
During sunset at March or September equinoxes when the sun appears to sink into the shoulder of the Sphinx, -
“At the very same moment the shadows of the Sphinx and the pyramids
both symbol of the king becomes merged silhouettes.
Sphinx representing Khafre as Horus the revered falcon god, offers with
his two paws to his father Khufu incarnated as Ra the sun god, who rises
and sets in that temple,” – as the ancient Egyptian’s thought.
Unfortunately Kafre’s dream was not realised, since the Sphinx Temple remained unfinished as now we get to see,
As the Old Kingdom of Egypt finally broke apart around 2130 BC.
The desert sand began to gradually swallow up the Sphinx, till almost a thousand years later,
Thutmosis IV cleared the area, and introduced cult of Sphinx worship during the New Kingdom Era!
Rest is history, which has been already covered by me.
CONCLUDING THE SPHINX STORY
The ancient Sphinx as Egypt’s iconic art,
Has captured the onlookers mind and heart.
Buried deep within its shifting sand,
Lies many a secret still unknown to man!
The Sphinx still beckons out to me,
Perhaps one day I shall get to see.
Today the Sphinx stares out at a fast food restaurant.
As it now faces a full frontal urban assault!
The rising water level of the Nile, tourism, traffic, and
air pollution, along with many urban constructions;
Make the authorities to worry about its preservation!
The Sphinx beckons out to man from eons past,
What is that secret it wants to share with us?
Perhaps it is about Environmental Degradation;
And the urgent need for Global Preservation!
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