The Sphinx of India

In one of the temples of southern India, I happened to observe what otherwise most of us in India have been overlooking all the time. The human headed, lion bodied structure which we commonly find in a lot of Indian temples, especially in the South.

What we overlook here is, this is same as the Sphinx of Egypt . The Egyptians called it Sheshep-ankh, Greeks called it Sphinx, ancient Indian texts call it Purusha Mruga ( Purusha=Human, Mruga=Beast in Sanskrit).

If there is one Sphinx in Egypt, there are thousands of them in India! The ancient/modern Indian temples are full of such structures/carvings. The Purusha Mruga is mentioned in Mahabharata , as well as in the Atharva Veda!

Did a bit of searching on the internet and found that Sri Raja Deekshitar have done a wonderful research on this subject – The Sphinx of India

The Sphinx of India is a continuous ancient art/historic tradition which (unlike the ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek Sphinx) exists even today right from the vedic ages.

Sphinx of Egypt
The Sphinx of Egypt

Sphinx of India
A Sphinx in an ancient Indian temple

Purusha Mruga (Sphinx) at an ancient hindu temple.jpg
Purusha Mruga on a temple wall

Modern day Sphinx at India.jpg
Modern day Sphinx in Indian temples

This again raises an interesting question. What was the relation between the ancient Egyptian and the ancient Indian vedic civilizations? Is Sphinx a mere co-incidence?

Some of the similarities between Egyptian and Vedic/Indian cultures.

  • In the vedic culture, the Sun God is meditated upon three times a day (at dawn, noon and dusk) by chanting the Gayatri Mantra.
    Even the ancient Egyptians meditated their Sun God, Ammon-Ra three times a day similarly!
  • There was a priestly order in Egyptian culture similar to the ancient Indian vedic culture.
  • Like most of the vedic priests, the ancient Egyptian Priests were strictly vegetarians, who didnt even eat egg. Only in the later stages did they start eating meat.
  • A form of God which was half male and half female existed in ancient Egypt, where Osiris was the Male Human aspect of God and Isis was his female counterpart.
    A similar concept exists in the ancient Indian culture in the form of Ardhanareeshwara (Ardha=half, Nari=female, Eshwara=male)

Read these interesting articles for more information about the relations between ancient India and ancient Egypt.

  • Shyam Sundar

    Even we can consider SHARABA AVATHAR of shiva as equivalent to spinx as it is described as human face with lion’s body & wings of garuda. He took this form to control/ defeat UGRA NARASIMHA after he killed hiranya kashipu & NARASIMHA’S anger didn’t comedown.So shiva took the form of more powerfull form to suppress NARASIMHA.

  • Sachin Knk

    I observed this similarity when i was in high school, when i tried to explain to my friends every one laughed at me. One more observation by me is, similar to Jaya and Vijaya in Vaikunta dwara you can see 2 armed men at the door steps of egyptian Monuments. even if you observe keenly you can also similarities in the way the sculptures are made, especially eyes.

    • Anonymous

      Cool Sachin, that is a very interesting observation! Thanks a lot for sharing with us

  • Emilia

    Thank you very much, it made me smarter.

  • john turner

    thankyou for posting this.

    • Gurudev

      You are welcome John :)

  • Gurudev

    Thanks suchin and unnikuttan

  • suchin

    Going by the connections from Egypt to South East, it sounds like purusha mruga originated in its concept in Egypt and then to South East via India. We all seem to have high esteem for the Purusha Mruga. Commonly all the regions present the mruga as a gaurdian of whatever. Very interesting and at the same time opens up many possible links to mythologies our regions share. Thanks for the post Guru.

  • unnikuttan

    very nice post.

  • Gurudev

    Purushmriga was a devotee of lord shiva. Please refer the link provided by Komila.

    Thanks a ton Komila :)

  • Komila Vashist

    Hi Guru,

    A very good post.
    Shreeram : I have not much idea about purush mruga, but May be this can help you:

  • shreeram

    Is “”Purushamriga”" a human with character of an animal(unorganized,uncleaned body,cruel,i mean not all of them but carnivorous animals) or an animal with the character of a human(compassionate,organized).. Do you have any idea?