Lebanon – Baalbek & blue river

After settling down in Beiurt, one day  I made program to visit Baalbeck, one of the most wonderful ruins in the world.  Some  other families agreed to join us and we hired a bus to go to Baalbeck.

 

Baalbek, ancient temple complex is around 90 Kms from Beirut, Lebanon. These ruins are considered by many, to be the most enigmatic and holiest of holy places that existed during the ancient times. The Romans conquered the site much later; and the Phoenicians constructed this grand temple dedicated to Baal at a later stage. But before all this there already was what could be dubbed as the ‘largest ever stone block construction’ of the world.

 

Baalbek temple

During the Roman periods, this area began to be known as ‘Heliopolis’, which means ‘City of the Sun’. The central deity of this shrine then became the sun god Jupiter. Earlier Roman texts would have placed importance on Zeus as being the whole and soul of the Greek pantheon; but Jupiter was (arguably) given the pedestal later. Jupiter replaced, at Baalbek, the ancient Phoenician God Baal.

A historian's sketch of original temple complex of Baalbek

(Photo credit : Wikimedia commons)

Mainstream archaeological community has a number of theories that it states with relation to this ancient Lebanon site. The history of this site is said to date back to approximately 5000 years. A number of excavations that have been carried out have uncovered what might be traces of settlements from the Middle Bronze Age. These further seem to have been built atop human settlements dating back to the Early Bronze Age.

 

propylaea of Roman Baalbek

 

Some scholars also claim that this site may have found mention in Biblical passages as well. In I Kings IX: 17 – 19, it says that King Solomon built Gezer and Beth-Horon, and Baalath and Tadmor. All of these were in the wilderness. According to some scholars, Baalath could be equated to the ancient Baal temple that stood here in Lebanon.

 

Baal temple

Then there were ruins of God of Fire, Moon and Mars.  Underneath these temples were dungeons where animals and humans were kept for sacrificing to the gods.  Humans were mainly those who were conquered during war and were treated as slaves.

 

A part of the grand courtyard

 

Ruins of temple of Jupitor

The biggest mystery of the ancient world, perhaps, is that of the massive foundation of stones that lie beneath the Roman temple of Jupiter.  The courtyard of this temple is situated atop a platform, which is dubbed as the ‘Grand Terrace’. This consists of a rather huge outer wall, which is filled with massive stones.

The sacrificial courtyard

The finely crafted blocks also seem to come across as being precisely positioned, which has for decades now, baffled experts. Each block will be somewhere around 30 odd feet in length and around 14 feet in height. They are known to weigh around 450 tons each.

On the west side lie even larger stones which are called the Trilithon. They are almost 1000 tons in weight, each; and are around 65 x 14 feet in measure.

Main entrance of Baalbek temple

What baffles scholars till today is how the quarrying was and transportation of such massive stone blocks carried out at that time, when it may even not be possible today, in spite of our technological advancement.  Baffling, but true!

temple of bachhus

So there was Baal Temple, there was Jupiter, Fire, Moon, Mars and other temples which were there before Romans and before pheonician re-built them ! I was thinking was it some distorted form of Shakta tradition of Sanatan Dharam,  which was followed here, because in Shakta tradition, Fire and other planets were worshipped and sacrifices of animals or even humans were present then.

Our guide was a Syrian and he explained so beautifully in perfect English, all the aspects of Baalbeck, quite patiently and in details.

 

Shan with guide and bus driver

 

After quenching our thirst with the history of this magnificent place, we started gathering near the bus.  Shan had not come yet and there was some argument near the gate of the bus.  I went down to see and was astonished to see that Shan had purchased an Arabic head gear and was wearing it.  The driver of the bus was not letting him in telling him in Arabic – go away this is private bus not for commuters and my son was telling him in English – that he is not Lebanese but Indian.  Finally when I reached and told the driver that he is my son, the arguments turned into laughter.

 

Wllah ee kya baat hai

 

Masha-Allaha we left Baalbeck and went towards the “Blue River”.    This small rivers starts from the glaciers nearby and cuts through lebanon near the Israel border where UNIFIL, the Indian Army personnel are posted under the United Nations flag. We met many Indian army personnel who greeted us with surprise.  We were so happy to see that our Indian soldiers had earned a lot of respect among locals due to their strenuous volunteer efforts to provide medical help, artificial limbs and other social activities among the local village folks. We saluted our soldiers and proceeded towards the Blue River.

During the war of 2006 Israel had captured Lebanon upto this river.   I was not sure why this name Blue River has been given to this river, but on seeing the river all my doubts were cleared.   So clean, and bluish water, I had never seen in my life.

 

Blue River - Lebanon

 

The summer heat had started scorching and some of us lost no time in jumping into the river, full clothes on.. to kill the heat

beating heat in blue river

Due to a friend at UNIFIL I was able to visit the border and could see Israeli soldiers and houses on the other side of the fence.  I was escorted there on the condition of not snapping any photo of the place so I dont have any photo of that wonderful sight.

We also visited a small village near Sheba farms.  The village is divided between Syria, Lebanon and Israel.  Those who remained on the Israeli side can not visit their relatives on Syria and Lebanon side, because Israeli nationals are treated as enemies by both the countries.   The richer ones can go to Jordan or Egypt and meet each other.

But for those who are not so rich to afford to go to Jordan or Egypt, they have erected high wooden platform on both the sides.  People from both sides stand on the platform and talk to each other by shouting loudly.  When I was there, a girl on the Israeli side was showing her latest child to her father on Syrian side.  Both were shouting loudly… and the old father on this side was watching the child with binoculars, with tears dropping from his eyes.  O God…what we humans do to this earth and to ourselves.

Voila… after this long hectic day we finally returned to Beirut and we were welcomed by the news that a powerful bomb had exploded in our absence killing many people including two Indians.

 

Heaven on Fire… this term is right for Lebanon !!!

 

Next part I will show you around Harissa church,… the christian side of Lebanon.

 

 

33 Comments

  • Dear SS jee,

    Again Majaa aa gayaa . Superb post with beautiful pics ………….
    Some thing I have never seen…………..
    Great and Wonderful description on temple.
    For me the history of Baalbek Temple was something heavy and difficult to grasp frankly…………….
    As mentioned ,There are similarities in procedures which they followed and Our Sanatana Dharma.
    Actually I feel every religion teach us and give us a path to reach the AlMighty. On that paths, names and procedures are different. Almighty Supreme Soul is one for every one.

    Well also i liked blue river also.

    Also did you click our Indian jawaan”s pics there or that was not allowed like in border?????

    • SilentSoul says:

      tks vishalbhai… i too dont have interest in deep historical facts, but when our guide was telling about worship of Sun, Jupitor, Saturn etc. it came to my mind that it must be a part of Sanatan Dharma, more than the pagans

      no I didnt… i kept my camera in car while visiting them, because the area is very sensitive and i didnt want to trouble our great jawans

  • All photos are so beautiful, these photos are telling complete story.

  • ?????………????????……………??????…………….
    ???? ?? ?????? ??????? ?? ?? ??? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ????? ??????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??? ???? ? ???? ???? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?? ???? ???? ????? ?? ????? ????? ? ??? ?????? ??????

  • Aapki aur Manu Prakash ki baat maine rakh li .
    Photo maine change kar liya………….

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    This post is getting better and better, SS jee. Your photographs and detailed descriptions are marvellous.. The ruins of the Baalbek Temple reminded me of the temple of Athena at Acropolis, Athens, Greece. The Graeco-Roman heritage is evident. I wonder what the temple actually looked like before it was rebuilt.

    I found your insights about the influence of India on the religion of the ancient Phoenicians very interesting. It is a historical fact that the wisdom of our ancestors spread far and wide spread as far away as China and South East Asia. So it is very likely that West Asia too was heavily influenced by us before all traces got obliterated by subsequent civilisations.

    The blue river looks beautiful. I wonder why we cannot take care of our rivers and other natural treasures with the same care most countries in the world do. We are blessed with so many riches that we have become callous. Sad.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks Narayan bhai. I am also surprised we treat our rivers like goddess and then make them dirty. Outside at least they dont claim such, but keep them clean.

      tks for yr detailed comments, which help me in making my next post better. Like with yr insight post… i could go to wikimedia and got this beautiful picture of Baalbeck, which otherwise would have been missing from my post.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Short & Sweet Post.

    Very informative post equally supported by beautiful pictures , especially blue river.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Semwalji, tks I am seeing yr comments after long time. A senior here, your comments are awaited and are welcomed and bring joy.

      Is it not time that you write your next post now ??

  • subodhkyadav says:

    Silent Soul Sir … great story with a very good narration.. though the history part was a bouncer to me … daughter and her father shouting to each other standing on the wooden platform across a international border , a heart wrenching site it would have been … I can feel the pain here while reading , I can only say it will be tough on the people who are going through these situations … Inhumane I can say….

    • SilentSoul says:

      Yadav ji tks… yes when I actually saw that scene, i was in tears and asked God, why we humans are so cruel to each other.

      My international ghumakkari has changed all my perspectives in life and has always given me new lessons to learn

      tks for your support

      • D.L.Narayan says:

        The Sheba village incident was really heartrending….I felt that it should have been included in your highly popular Kuchh Khatti Kuch Meethi serial.

        • SilentSoul says:

          yes Narayanji, i thought like that… but it was necessary here to change mood from history to humanity. I have many equally good incidents for my Videshi Khatti Mithi…

  • Amit Kumar says:

    The people from middle east has indeed seen worst that could be possible. I can’t imagine how it feels to live in such a condition. Many of them are still hoping for a nation or a place that could be their own. I think it is no less painful than being orphan or probably more. Silent soul sir, you are indeed lucky to witness all this. It was a great narration with heart touching moments.

  • Amit Kumar says:

    The people from middle east has indeed seen worst that could be possible. I can’t imagine how it feels to live in such a condition. Many of them are still hoping for a nation or a place that could be their own. I think it is no less painful than being orphan or probably more. Silent soul sir, you are indeed lucky to witness all this. It was a great narration with heart touching moments. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    • SilentSoul says:

      tks Amit… yes the life in that area is hell but they themselves are responsible to turn this heaven into hell. Lebanon is so beautiful !!

      waiting for your storm of posts… :)

  • Kavita Bhalse says:

    Silent Soul ji,
    Aapka likhne ka anzaad nirala hai……………….
    man karta hai ki bas padhte jao padhte jao aur kab post katm ho jati hai pata hi nahi chalta.
    Photos bhi kaafi achche the.

    Dhanyawaad.

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Once again you have written very vice & well written post sporting with excellent pictures.

    Today earlier, I didn’t here & read about Baalbek temple & blue river after reading.

    Thanks for good informative post.

  • Lakshman says:

    ss ji
    you are master in every field.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    SS Ji,
    It was great to know about Baalbek and the blue river. Lebanan seems to be really worth visiting. Thanks for this beautiful post.

    Thanks.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Dear SS – And as you noted last time, I would start saying , ‘this is not a FOG’ for you stories where they are not. :-)

    This one is a FOG (First on Ghumakkar). I have forgotten all the history details which I read just 10 minutes back or so. May be they took help of some mammoth animals or through a water channel or Aladin for transportation. The son and father come has come out well.

    The border incident is sad to read and painful.

  • SilentSoul says:

    Tks Nandan – dont say it is not FOG on no-fog posts, dont know how this came up. I just informed that most of my posts were FOGs (kaali math, Dhari devi, khati mithi, iceland, lebanon )

    Yes I think it must be Alladin, otherwise i cant even imagine how they did it.

    “The son and father come has come out well ” – I didn’t understand what it meant

    Tks for yr comments even after such tiring journey.

    • Nandan Jha says:

      Sure thing. I look fwd to read more of FOG and non-FOG in coming times.

      Since both of us agree, it must be Aladin from now.

      The photo having you and Shaan. Typo. I meant ‘photo has come out well’.

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