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dainik bhaskar | May 18, 2012, 15:42PM IST
The pyramids of Giza are guarded by a giant stone statue called a sphinx with a body of a lion and a human head possibly that of King Khafre. Some people believe the Sphinx has magical powers – in English a mysterious person is often compared to a sphinx. The nose of the statue is broken; how did that happen? No one really knows.
The king was believed to be a god on earth and he had absolute powers. He was considered so sacred that people never said his name out loud! The Egyptian word for palace is “per aa” and the Greeks turned that into Pharoah – the popular title of Egyptian kings. Many remarkable pharaohs like Amenhotep I, Akhenaten and Ramesses II and queens like Hatshepsut and Nefertiti won wars, conquered other kingdoms and built new cities.
In 2600 BC, a third dynasty king named Djoser decided that when he died he wanted to be buried in a pyramid to ensure that he would never be forgotten. The Step Pyramid, which is the oldest stone monument in the world, still stands at Saqqara. The pyramids at Giza were built by three kings, Khufu, his son Khafre and grandson Menkaure. Khufu’s pyramid is the tallest. The embalmed bodies of the kings, the mummies, were kept in a burial chamber inside along with many treasures – gold and jewellery, clothes, carvings, paintings, furniture and even small boats and wooden figures of servants. Egyptians believed that after death, a person lived with the gods and needed what all they used on earth.
Egyptians believed a person has three souls, called the ka, ba and akh and that these would survive into the next world. So bodies had to be preserved for these souls to live in. So the system of embalming bodies began. The internal organs were taken out and preserved in jars and the body covered in a salt called natron to dry it. Then it was stuffed with cloth soaked in oils and resins, sewn up and then wrapped in layers of linen bandages covered in more oils, resins and perfumes. The whole process was like a religious ritual. At the end the gold mask was placed over the face of the king.