I had also mentioned in my previous article that the ancestral homeland of the ancient Egyptians, which they referred to as “Punt” (also called “Pwenet”) may be India. Punt was referred to as “Ta netjer” meaning the “Land of the Gods” or the “Land of Gods and Ancestors”. Most scholars agree that Punt was located to the south and east of Egypt, and could be reached leading off the Red Sea, in a south-east direction. India too can be reached from Egypt by sailing in a south-east direction by following the ancient maritime trade routes, popularly known as the Silk Route, which led from Egypt to the flourishing ports on the coasts of India. This long journey across the Indian Ocean may have been quite daunting for the ancient Egyptians, since the journey to the land of Punt was considered as “long and hazardous”. It was attempted quite infrequently, but when it did take place, it was executed on a grand scale, involving thousands of people and multiple ships.
The first mention of Punt comes to us from the Palermo Stone of the Old Kingdom, during the reign of King Sahure at around 2500 BC. This expedition returned with huge quantities of myrrh, which is a resin used for making incense that the Egyptians used for their temple rituals, along with precious wood, and electrum (an alloy of silver and gold). Further expeditions took place in subsequent dynasties, in which thousands of men were involved. The most detailed description of the expedition to Punt has been preserved in the reliefs in Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri in Thebes. Hatsheptsut’s expedition had been headed by her Chancellor Senmut, accompanied by a fleet of five ships. They received a warm welcome from the rulers of Punt, King Parahu and Queen Ati, and subsequently returned with ships laden with heaps of myrrh resin, fresh myrrh trees, ebony and pure ivory, gold, cinnamon wood, khesyt wood, incense, cosmetics, along with apes, monkeys, dogs, skins of the southern panther (which the priests of the Egyptian temples wore), and with natives and their children.
All the products of Punt, as depicted in the Hatshepsut illustrations can be found in abundant quantities in India. In fact, the primary export of Punt to Egypt i.e. myrrh for producing incense, was used extensively in India for all religious purposes. Of particular interest in this regard is the relief of the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros atHatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, which is found only in the north-eastern part of India! In addition, the rulers of Punt during Hatshepsut’s expedition were called King Parahu and Queen Ati –these are clearly Indian names.
More evidence linking pre-dynastic Egypt with ancient India comes to us from the study of cranial features. In 1924-25, an expedition of the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, led by Sir Flinders Petrie, excavated 59 skulls at Badari, the site of the pre-dynastic Badarian culture in Upper Egypt, which flourished from around 5000 BC. These skulls were studied by Miss Stoessiger at University College, London, who concluded that: "Badarian skulls differ very little from other less ancient pre-dynastic skulls; they are just a bit more prognathous. Next to these, they most resemble primitive Indian skulls: Dravidians and Veddas. They also present a few affinities with Negroes, due no doubt to a very ancient admixture of Negro blood." In 1972, another study by Berry and Berry cluster Egyptians closer to each other than any other group, but find some similarities with Asian Indians. A craniofacial study by C. Loring Brace et al. (1993) concluded that: "The Predynastic of Upper Egypt and the Late Dynastic of Lower Egypt are more closely related to each other than to any other population. As a whole, they show ties with the European Neolithic, North Africa, modern Europe, and, more remotely, India, but not at all with sub-Saharan Africa, eastern Asia, Oceania, or the New World.”
Fig 6: The Silk Road (both overland and water routes). Source: Wikipedia
Punt was also considered as a “personal pleasure garden” of the god Amun, whom we have already identified with Krishna (or Jagannath). The Boulaq Papyrus from the XVIII Dynasty (1552-1295 BC) describes Amun as the “Sovereign of Punt...Whose fragrance the Gods love When He comes from the land of Punt.”Queen Hatshepsut was an ardent devote of Amun and had actively developed the Opet festival into a grand ceremony. The expedition of Hatshepsut to the land of Punt was done primarily with the objective of acquiring incense and a number of exotic goods for her “divine father Amun”, and was conducted with the blessing of the god Amun:
“Said by Amen, the Lord of the Thrones of the Two Land: 'Come, come in peace my daughter, the graceful, who art in my heart, King Maatkare [i.e. Hatshepsut]...I will give thee Punt, the whole of it...I will lead your soldiers by land and by water, on mysterious shores, which join the harbours of incense...They will take incense as much as they like. They will load their ships to the satisfaction of their hearts with trees of green [i.e. fresh] incense, and all the good things of the land.'
Queen Hatshepsut had also returned with many species of trees from her expedition to Punt, specifically myrrh trees. On the walls of her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri she mentions that she had complied with the wish of the god Amun-Re, her father, to have a grove of myrrh trees “for ointment for the divine limbs”. She says: "I have hearkened to my father...commanding me to establish for him a Punt in his house, to plant the trees of God's Land beside his temple, in his garden." The clear association between Amun and Punt indicates that Punt can be no other than India.
A very interesting discovery was made in 2003, by a team of British and Egyptian conservators under the aegis of the British Museum, working on the tomb of Elkab's 17th dynasty (c.1600-1550 BC) governor Sobeknakht. They “stumbled upon an inscription believed to be the first evidence of a huge attack from the south on Elkab and Egypt by the Kingdom of Kush and its allies from the land of Punt, during the 17th dynasty” . This is during the same time that the pharaohs Kamose and Ahmose were in exile in Kush, preparing to launch an attack on the Hyskos. If Punt is India, then the “allies from the land of Punt” must be a reference to the Kussites who had migrated to Kush around this time from the banks of the Indus, as discussed earlier.
The migration of the Kussites from the Indus Valley to the Nile, sometime around 1700 – 1600 BC, or even earlier, as a result of the cataclysmic events in the Indus Valley, represents a forgotten, and often ignored, episode of human history which explains some remarkable similarities between the ancient civilizations of India, Egypt, the Middle East and West Asia. Of course, there were close economic ties between these nations, for many thousands of years prior to this event. However, the transfer of an entire pantheon of deities, along with associated rites and customs, was possible only because of an extensive process of migration spanning over many centuries. The hypothesis appears to be well-supported by evidences from various sources, and will hopefully be investigated by historians in further detail.
Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom, Miriam Lichtheim, p105-106, University of California Press, 1976
The Bhagavad Gita 18.57 – 18.58, translated by Eknath Easwaran, Penguin Books
Ibid 7.6 – 7.7
Ibid 10.14 – 10.15
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol XVI, p 309
An Analysis of Ancient Mythology, Jacob Bryant, Vol III, p 217
An Analysis of Ancient Mythology, Jacob Bryant, Vol III, p 218
Journal of the Discovery of The Source of the Nile, Lieutenant John Hanning Speke, 1863
Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Philostratus, Book 3, from livius.org
History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume 1, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1999, p 370
History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume 1, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1999, p 372
An Analysis of Ancient Mythology, Jacob Bryant, Vol III, p 192
The Land of Eden Located, David J. Gibson, 1964, Chapter four
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol XVI, p 308
India in Greece, Edward Pococke, 1856, p. 42
Martin Gray, Sacred Earth, Sterling Publishing, 2007, p 112
Emile Massourlard, "Prehistoire et Protohistoire d'Egypt" 1949, p. 394
Brace et al., 'Clines and clusters versus "race"', 1993
The Life and Monuments of the Queen in T.M. Davis (ed.), the tomb of Hatshopsitu, E. Naville, London: 1906, pp.28-29
Immanuel Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos I: From the Exodus to King Akhnaton, p 140
Elkab's hidden treasure, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 31 July - 6 August 2003, Issue No. 649, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/649/he1.htm
About the Author: Bibhu Dev Misra is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management and has been working as an Information Technology consultant for more than 12 years, for various organizations across the world. He is also an independent researcher and writer on topics related to ancient civilizations, myths, symbols, religion and spirituality and has travelled to many places of historical, religious and architectural importance. His articles have appeared in various internet websites and magazines. Do visit personal blog: http://bibhudev.blogspot.com
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