Ra (Re) was the primary name of the sun god of Ancient Egypt. He was often considered to be the King of the Gods and thus the patron of the pharaoh and one of the central gods of the Egyptian pantheon. He was also described as the creator of everything. Ra was so powerful and popular and his worship was so enduring that some modern commentators have argued that the Egyptian religion was in fact a form of veiled monotheism with Ra as the one god. This seems to be somewhat of an overstatement, but underlines his primary position within religious texts throughout Egyptian history.
It is sometimes proposed that the pyramids represent the rays of light extending from the sun and thus these great monuments connected the king with Ra. The Egyptians also built solar temples in honour of Ra. Unlike the standard type of Egyptian temple, these temples were open to the sunlight and did not feature a statue of the god because he was represented by the sunlight itself. Instead the temple centred on an obelisk and altar. The most significant early solar temple is thought to be the one erected in Heliopolis, sometimes known as “Benu-Phoenix”. Its location was thought to be the spot where Ra first emerged at the beginning of creation, and the city took its name (“Iwn”) from the word for a pillar.
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