Sunday, October 12, 2008

Of King Tut, Moses, and the Vedas

Seemingly, every odd fellow with a claim of knowing some history knows Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, or "King Tut", as the "boy king" who died at just 19 years of age. They will even tell you that he was murdered by his own minister Aye. Tutankhamun, ( "Living Image of Amun") was actually born Tutankhaten, meaning "Living Image of Aten". He later changed his name to Tutankhamun after the death of his father.

His dear dad, Mr. Akhenaten, has an even interesting history. In a nutshell, he was a rebel and founded a different religion with a single deity named 'Aten', and changed his capital city. His deity Aten was one jealous God who would not tolerate worship of any other God in his stead. It was arguably, the first attempt at Monotheism, with all its characteristics like hatred, condescension and suppression of the older religious order. Predictably, there was confusion in the kingdom. So when he finally died after twelve years of his rule, his name was forever eliminated from all royal records, his new capital abandoned and temples to his God destroyed and the old order was restored.

Fine! So how is it relevant to us?

Thats because the idea of one single God of Akhenaten stayed on, and when the King and patron died, they had to leave the kingdom of Egypt under threat of persecution. And so, there was an exodus from Egypt. Hmm! sounds familiar? Some historians feel Moses was one of such Atenite religion believers. And then, we have the whole new religion of Judaism. And we know how Christianity and Islam took birth later on, from Judaism.

So, we can trace speculative path of Monotheism starting from Akhenaten of Egypt. Now, the real icing on the cake is this paper from Dr.Subhash Kak. He puts forth a compelling argument that Akhenaten was influenced by, hold your breath, the Rigveda!! Both, his mother, and his wife were from a kingdom called Mitanni, who were vedic worshippers. So the concept one-God, propounded in the Rigveda, was not new to Akhenaten. Dr. Kak points out that some of the hymns to Surya in the Rigveda bear an eeriely close resemblance to not just what Akhenaten wrote in praise of his God Aten, but also to psalm 104 in the Old Testament, thereby helping to even more crystallise the opinion that Akhenaten's Monotheism was a convoluted and over-simplified philosophy based on the Vedic idea of "One-truth", "Ekam Sat".

It is unfortunate that our own philosophy got exported to a foreign place and has now come back as multiple diluted, simplistic, and rigid ideologies that have taken off in tangential direction from their vedic beginnings to haunt us in the forms of proselytism and Jihad. However, this is not the first instance of this kind of illegitimate plagiarism--we already know about Hitler and Swastika.