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Indo-Egypt Ties & Shared Origin: Commonalities Bind World’s Oldest Civilisations

While driving through this region, many Kurds I met identified common words in Kurdish & Hindi, writes Akhil Bakshi.

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Egypt is one of the six new countries invited to be a full member of BRICS. Indians, possibly related to Egyptians in antiquity, may like to rejoice at their inclusion.

This article suggests Egyptians and Indians have a shared origin, and the two communities, settling on the Nile and Indus, developed independently and continued trade contacts for over 4600 years across the Land of Punt, somewhere Southeast of Egypt, along the Red Sea coast – perhaps, present-day Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.

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The World’s Oldest Civilisations Had a Connection

Queen Hatshepsut, ruler of Egypt from ca 1479 BC to 1458 BC, had falsely claimed that the expedition to the Land of Punt undertaken during her reign was the first ever. Records show that the voyage to Punt had been an ancient tradition with the Egyptians.

During the 4th dynasty, a son of Khufu (2609-2584 BC), of Cheops fame, had sailed to Punt. Other voyages were mentioned during the reign of Sahu-Ra in the early 5th dynasty when Egyptians began trading with the Land of Punt. Another expedition has been mentioned during the reign of Pepi II of the 6th dynasty. The caravan leader, Harkhufhad wrote to the then 9-year-old pharaoh describing a dancing dwarf he was bringing back to Egypt from Punt.

During the reigns of Mentu-Hotep II and Mentu-Hotep III of the 11th dynasty, as well as Sesostris I and Amenemhat II of the 12th dynasty, successful expeditions were dispatched to the Land of Punt. Sesostris III, also of the 12th dynasty, had dug a canal joining the Nile and the Red Sea for ships to sail directly to Punt, implying a considerable volume of trade. Hatshepsut, as an 18th dynasty ruler, came much later. Regular maritime communications and trading existed between Egypt and Punt for more than 1,100 years before Hatshepsut’s expedition.

Among the Egyptian objects and motifs indicating some contact between India and Egypt during the Indus Valley period, in the third millennium BC, is the cord pattern occurring in a copper tablet in the Indus Valley and on three Egyptian seals.
While driving through this region, many Kurds I met identified common words in Kurdish & Hindi, writes Akhil Bakshi.

Temple of Ramses, Egypt

Credit: Author 

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When the Great Pyramid of Cheops was being built around 2600 BC, workers were fed Asian spices to give them extra strength. Other spices found on the Indian Malabar Coast – such as cassia, cinnamon, anise, marjoram, and cumin were used by Egyptians for embalming. Mummies were wrapped in Indian muslin.

Heinrich Karl Brugsch, the German Egyptologist, thought that India, 8000 years ago, sent a colony of emigrants who carried their Arts and high civilisation into Egypt. The Egyptians themselves attributed an eastern origin to their culture, stating that they had come from the East by sea, from the sacred land of “Punt”, the original home of their gods.

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An Illustrious Shared Cultural History

Writing in the March 1881 edition of The Theosophist, Col Henry Olcott insisted that Egyptians migrated from India before historic memory, and crossed that bridge of nations, the Isthmus of Suez, to find a new fatherland on the banks of the Nile. HR Hall, in his book, The Ancient History of the Near East, opines that the “non-Semitic and non-Aryan people who came from the east to civilise the west were of Indian origin, particularly when we see to what point the Sumerians looked like Indians in appearance.”

As early as about 3000 BC, Indians supplied the Chaldean city of Ur on the Euphrates with teakwood. The Assyrians also, like the Egyptians, got their muslin from India. A seal of about 2000 BC bearing cuneiform inscriptions and images of Chaldean deities has been unearthed in Central India.

Lamenting the racist historiography of the 19th century Indologists and their successors and their neglect of India's interaction with Africa, Subhash Kak, in his book The Sun King and Dashratha, says that after catastrophic earthquakes dried up the Sarasvati River around 1900 BC, many groups of Indic people started moving West. Kassites, a somewhat shadowy aristocracy with Indic names and worshiping Surya, the Sun God, were present in Western Iran about 1800 BC.

They captured power in Babylon in 1600 BC, ruling for over 500 years. The Mitanni, who worshiped Vedic gods, ruled northern Mesopotamia (including Syria, which is derived from ‘Surya’, meaning ‘sun’) for about 300 years, starting in 1600 BC, out of their capital of Vasukhani.

In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, Indic deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya are invoked. The principal Mitannian festival was the celebration of teshuva (solstice) – as it was in India. The Vedic presence via the Mitanni in Egypt and the Near East occurred several centuries before the exodus of the Jews. The Mittanians were connected by marriage across several generations to the Egyptian 18th dynasty This presence is sure to have left its mark in various customs, traditions, and beliefs. It may be that this encounter explains uncanny similarities in mythology and ritual, such as circumambulation around a rock or the use of a rosary of 108 beads.

The amazing similarities between the ancient idea of the Egyptian maat and the Vedic rita – the divine order of nature or creation – are fascinating. Veneration of the forces of nature, faith in magical chants, deep-rooted mysticism, and an emphasis on symbolic expression are common to both cultures.
While driving through this region, many Kurds I met identified common words in Kurdish & Hindi, writes Akhil Bakshi.

Khartoum, Sudan

Credit: Author

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Do More Similarities Between Indians and Egyptians Indicate Common Origins?

The Egyptian Book of Dead and the Hindu Garuda Purana are alike, and both are recited at the time of death. The lotus flower symbolises fertility and regeneration in both Egypt and India.

The rivers Ganga and the Nile, that have brought sustenance to the land and nourished the two civilisations for over five millennia, are personified and worshipped in these two riverine and agricultural societies. Egyptians portrayed many of their gods in the form of animals – as the Hindus did.

The most famous of these sacred animals was Apis, a sacred bull of Memphis, the servant of God Ptolah – just like the Nandi bull is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The Hindi word for cow means "ray of illumination," and in Egyptian lore, a cow is sometimes depicted as the source of light in the sky. Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, has his match in the Egyptian Cynocephalus. At the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, near the Sudanese border, the guide pointed out to me the image of a monkey over the gigantic sculptures of Ramses the Great, the greatest and most powerful of Egyptian pharaoh. “Perhaps our Ramses is your Ram. And Cynocephalus, the monkey, your Hanuman,” quipped the guide.

Though there are striking similarities between the North Indians and Egyptians, I do not think that Egyptian roots are in India. Rather the common ancestors of both people could be the Hittites that inhabited the north-central Anatolia region of modern Turkey. Hittite is considered the parent language of Sanskrit and Greek.
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What My Travels Revealed..

While driving through this region, many Kurds I met identified common words in Kurdish and Hindi languages. A portion of the Hittite population moved East to colonise India while another group migrated Westwards, settling in the Nile Valley.

After parting ways, their common religion, culture, and customs developed separately, but trade contacts continued over land and sea. An ancient sailboat, doing five knots, could cover the distance from the East African port of Axum to the west coast of India in 8-10 days.
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The expeditions to the Land of Punt were a regular feature undertaken by Egyptian and Indian cousins. At the same time, Indians also had close contact with Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti, conceivably the Land of Punt, and influenced these countries culturally.

(Akhil Bakshi is a Fellow of the Explorers Club, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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