Indian Practices, Others

Indian practices and the Osiris Festival

A. M. Adhyapak, N. M. Krishnakumar

Corn gods and goddesses 

Egyptians considered Osiris as their corn god. Recall the beautiful words of the author of [1] referring to Osiris: “ The corn-god produced the corn from himself: he gave his own body to feed the people: he died that they might live”. Osiris is also depicted with corn sprouting from his body [1]. There are plenty of sculptures in the state of Karnataka, India where one finds the gods and goddesses having the ear of corn in their hands [40].

Galaganatha Temple 

There is a beautiful temple of Lord Shiva in Galaganatha in Karnataka, India. The priest told us that the Shivalinga is a hollow one with a hole at the top through which he will do Abhishekam, the sacred ablution to the smaller idol inside. This is similar to Fermicus account of placing the image of Osiris carved out of wood inside the hollow of the wood [1].

Ashvattha tree (Ficus religiosa

Ashvattha tree has a very special place in Hindu mythology.

  • The tree is the abode of Lord Vishnu, another name for Ranganatha, who will be compared to Osiris in a later article.
  • In Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna claims that he is ‘Ashvattha among all the trees’. Note that Krishna is considered as Lord Jagannatha of Puri, who is considered as the banyan tree.
  • Ashvattha is symbolic of rebirth and eternal life, [81] which resembles the concept of resurrection and eternal life, which is the desire of every dead person in Egyptian civilization [1]. At Denderah, a tree is depicted growing between the dead and the reviving Osiris, to indicate that the tree was the symbol of divine resurrection [1].
  • Circumambulating this tree will bless one with fertility. This is very similar to Isis, who fluttered as a hawk about the body of Osiris in the tree trunk and conceived Horus [1,5]. Hindus tie cradles to this tree for fertility, these cradles are of Krishna, whom we have compared to Horus. They also place stone images of cobra, at times with Lord Krishna at the foot of this tree for fertility. Lord Krishna corresponds to Horus who represents both snake as well as Lord Murugan.
  • Hindus circumambulate the tree with a linen thread and anoint it with saffron and Kumkumam. This is similar to what Isis did with the Tamarisk tree in Byblus, she wrapped it linen and anointed it [1].

Death rituals

According to [1], the Egyptians believed that every dead person should go through the death ritual followed by Horus, Isis, Nephthys and Anubis so that he can live eternally in the other world.  Therefore they enacted rituals performed on Osiris: with spells and other manipulations they converted the dead man into a mummy and then resurrected the dead body; the mummy of the dead was representative of Osiris, the professional mourners represented his two sisters Isis and Nephthys, the son of the dead represented Horus; he played the most important role in the ceremony of opening the eyes and mouth of the dead in order to impart life. Animals were sacrificed in the ceremony [1].

Every religious person in Egypt desired to be buried near the grave of Osiris after death. However, most could not afford this luxury, their survivors carried the mortal remains to Abydos, to stay there for a while and returned to be buried in their native place [1].

Hindus take the mortal remains of the dead to sacred places such as river Kaveri, Ganga, etc. or Pashupathinath temple in Nepal.

Djed pillar 

According to the records in the monuments at Busiris and Memphis, the great festival of Osiris closed on the thirtieth day of Khoiak on which a pillar known as Tatu, Tat, Tet, Dad, or Ded was erected. This was a vertical column with four or five cross-bars. The pillar might have a grotesque face; a cloth robe might be tied to the lower part; it may have two arms, which hold the emblems of the god, the crook and the scourge or flail [1].

According to the Theban tomb, the king and the others raised the pillar with ropes, accompanied by the music of rattles and sistrums [1].  Hoisting flag in Kodiyettu of Kerala looks almost similar in description to the Djed pillar raising. The flag has a human form with limbs and cross-bars and a head resembling the Djed pillar. The flag post also looks like a variant of Djed pillar; it has crossbars or some prominences at equal intervals; a cloth is tied at a lower level, see Kodiyettu picture in [139].

Osiris is sometimes depicted as a partially personified pillar with human arms or as an anthropoid mummy with a Djed pillar head [5]. Some of the pictures of the Djed pillar resemble the Shiva-Linga. Interestingly, the Djed pillar is also draped similar to the Shiva-Linga in South India, see the picture at [31].

In Egyptian theology the pillar was interpreted as the backbone of Osiris. Or it can be his tree-representation, in view of his coffin trapped inside the Tamarisk tree [1].

Also note that the word ‘Dhwaj’ in Sanskrit means the flag and sounds similar to the Egyptian word ‘Djed’.

Osiris festival and Sacrifice 

A great event in Egypt that was celebrated since antiquity is discussed in [1]. The event involves cutting of the dams and the admission of water into the canals. Near the entrance of the canal, a big dam of earth, broad at the base and narrowing upwards, was constructed, either before or soon after the Nile began to rise. In front of the dam, on the side of the river, a truncated cone of earth called the ‘Arooseh or “bride” was kept. On its top a little maize or millet was sown. This “bride” was washed down by the rising tide a week or a fortnight before the cutting of the dam. According to [1], the old custom was to deck a young virgin in gay apparel and throw her into the river as a sacrifice to obtain a plentiful inundation.

Cutting of the dam happens before sunrise, and a huge crowd assembled to watch it, many spending the preceding night on the banks of the canal or in boats lit with lamps on the river,while fireworks were displayed and guns discharged at frequent intervals (this is an account of recent celebration). Before sunrise a great number of workmen began to cut the dam. Finally, when only a thin ridge of earth was remaining, an officer on a boat would propel against the barrier allowing the water to rush into the canal. The Governor of Cairo flung a purse of gold into the boat as it passed. Formerly the custom was to throw money into the canal. This practice also would seem to have been ancient, as mention in [1] that, at a place called the Veins of the Nile, not far from Philae, the priests used to cast money and offerings of gold into the river at a festival which apparently took place at the rising of the water.

We see similar themes in India. Human sacrifice was practiced in the construction of dams and tanks as stated in the inscriptions. There are plenty of monuments and songs in India that remember such sacrifices of women [41], [42], [43], [44] and [45]. Some examples are as follows: It is believed that a virgin girl was sacrificed to build Kamasamudra tank. The daughter of the headsman stabbed herself to death to save the Punganur sluice. Similar stories exist related to the Krishnarajasagara dam and Tonnur tank. All these places are in the state of Karnataka, India.


[1] J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, A study in Magic and Religion, 3rd Edition, Macmillan and Co. London, 1914

[5] Richard H Wilkinson, The Complete gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003






[44] Jan N. Bremme, The Strange World of Human Sacrifice, Peters Publishers

[45] Rajappa, T.S., Kere Hunnamma Mattu Ittare Lavanigalu. Bangalore: Kannada Adhyayana Samstha (Mysore University), 1974

[81] D V Gundappa, Mankuthimmanakagga, Kavyalaya, India




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One Response to Indian Practices, Others

  1. Narasimha says:

    This sounds interesting

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