Buddhism In Ancient Egypt And Meroitic Sudan

April 07, 2017 1 Comment

Buddhism In Ancient Egypt And Meroitic Sudan

According to the pages of history, there are apparently such beliefs that indicate Buddhism’s existence in the Ancient Egypt and lower Meroitic Empire. An English Egyptologist and archaeologist W. M. Flinders Petrie, claimed to find evidences of Buddhist colony in Memphis. According to his claims, the Buddhists dated back to the Persian period of Egypt, and is his speculations are to be believed, then Buddhists in Egypt existed two hundred years before Ashoka sent Buddhist missionaries to Egypt.

Ashoka – An Indian King Who Worshipped Buddhism

buddha in ancient egypt

The Indian King Ashoka, used to worship Buddhism. It is apparent from the pages of history that he sent out edicts throughout his empire in order to encourage people to adopt Buddhism as a way of life,  written in various languages. King Ashoka built a temple in Sarnath, known as the Lion Capital of Ashoka.

buddha in ancient egypt

In Buddhism, Lions are considered ‘Bodhisattvas’ which means ‘sons of the Buddha’ who have attained a high degree of spiritual development.

The Gymnosophists who lived in Upper Egypt and the Meroitic Empire, were Buddhists according to Philostratus: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, and also it was stated that they migrated twice. Zacharias P. Thundy claims that Ashoka sent missionaries to Egypt to preach Buddhism and that the evidence exist for a community of Indian sages living in Memphis as early as 200 BC, descendants of which were visited by Apollonius of Tyana over 200 years later.

buddha in ancient egypt

Moreover, Ashoka used the ancient script Kharosthi to write his edicts, which the Buddhists also used in their scriptures.

Connections Between Buddhism And Meroites

Blemmyae, a prominent group in the Meroitic Sudan, has its mentions in Pali text Tipitaka. Dr. Derrett mentioned in early Pali text that the Blemmya, an African, is in the first rank Buddhist texts of a very respectable age, which probably explains why many Meroitic symbols agree with Kharosthi. Seemingly, the Buddhists migrated second time to the Meroitic Empire, after their King was murdered, many years after Ashoka sent missionaries to Egypt.

buddha in ancient egypt

According to Flavius Philostratus, the writer of the Vita Apollonii, Gymnosophists of Meroe originally came from India and that the Gymnosophists may have been Kushana philosophers who had formerly ruled India. The Indian Meroites were formerly led by a King Ganges, who had repulsed the Scythians, according to Philostratus the Life of Apollonius of Tyana. This was supported by a Jaina text called the Kalakeharya-Kathanaka that states that Scythians invaded Malwa, the King of Malwa, called Vikramaditya defeated the Scythians, probably which is referred to as the King Ganges in Philostratus the Life of Apollonius of Tyana.

It also leads to the speculations that there were Indianized-Meroites who could have introduced the Tocharian trade language to the Meroites. In addition to all the things, the researchers also found a horde of Kushana coins in modern Ethiopia in 1940, on the floor of a cave at the present monastery-shine at Debra Demo.

Meroitic Lion Headed God

buddha in ancient egypt

The Meroitic God Apedemak, was the lion God of the Meroites, worshiped by many and surrounded by Buddhist influence. At Meroe, Musawwarat es-Sufra, and Naqa, the Meroitic temples for God Apedemak were found, where he was depicted as a three-headed leonine god with four arms, and as a snake coming out of a lotus with a lion head.

The Gymnosophists in India used Tocharian and the Kharosthi script to write their scriptures, which is probably why it was an important means of communication for Meroite population and Tocharian was a major language in the Meroitic Sudan. Tocharian language was written in Kharosthi script that was used to write the Gandhararan Buddist Text. The Kharosthi script appears fully developed in the Ashoka inscriptions of Shahbazgarhi and Mansehra dating back to third century BC, according to Glass.

buddha in ancient egypt

According to the evidences in Glass, Kharosthi writing dates back to the first Brahmi inscriptions of India. The writing used in India by Ashoka to produce the rock edicts demonstrates that Khasrothi was in use long before the introduction of the Meroitic script to Kush.

In a comparison of Meroitic and Kharothi, Aubin discovered that 34 out of 42 signs, or 81 percent, matched. Given the analogy between the signs, Tocharian origin of Meroitic writing has support.

History Of A Language

There were other Indians in Egypt in addition Gymnosophist/Buddhist communities, such as at Quseir al-Qadim, who wrote messages in their own language around the time a switch from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the Meroitic writing system was seen. The presence of Indian traders and settlers in Meroe and Egypt, indicates the possibility that they might have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites.

buddha in ancient egypt

Some facts like the presence of Kushites in Africa and Asia, Ashoka sending Buddhist missionaries to Egypt who wrote their scriptures in Kharosthi and Tocharian, mentions of Blemmya in Buddhist Pali texts, presence of Kushana sages in India who may have migrated to Meroe, presence of a Buddhist colony at Memphis – Egypt, Buddhist iconography at the Naqa Temple of Apedemek and the classical references to Buddhists in Egypt and the Meroitic Empire indicate that Buddhism was practiced in Egypt and Kush.

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1 Response

Nadja M.
Nadja M.

April 13, 2017

Thanks for sharing such an interesting info, I didn’t know Buddha can be linked to ancient Egypt…

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