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Maya culture


The Maya believed in the existence of a trinity with knowledge of the three universes composed of the Jaguar (material), the Serpent (mind) and the Bird (spirit). According to them, there were thirteen layers of heaven and nine underworlds, each with its presiding god, while the ancient Hindu texts talked about thirteen Lokas (worlds) above the earth and seven Lokas below the earth.

In Hindu philosophy, the existence of the universe is governed by the Trimurti (also called as the Hindu Trinity) of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Sustainer) and Shiva (the Destroyer). The parallels between the Hindu Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva Trinity and the Mexican Ho-Huitzilopochtli-Tláloc Trinity are very impressive too.

Like the Hindu culture, the Maya had a pantheon of gods, many of which have similarities to the Hindu deities.

Friar Diego de Landa, a Franciscan monk who burned all Maya manuscripts (containing priceless information on ancient history, mythology, medicine, astronomy, science, religion, and philosophy) and idols in Yucatán, in his book – Relación de las cosas de Yucatán wrote: “They had a very great number of idols and temples which were magnificent in their own fashion and besides the community temples, the lords, priests and leading men also had oratories and idols in their houses where they made their prayers and offerings in private.” The Maya made idols of not only gods but also of animals and insects. They also believed in immortality of the soul and afterlife. All this sounds very similar to Hindu worship and beliefs. Like the Maya, the Hindus too have numerous gods which are considered as the manifestations of the principal gods. They also worship animals, rocks, trees and rivers which are considered holy and sacred.

Finally, just like the Islamic and Portuguese conquerors built mosques and churches over vandalized and destroyed Hindu temples in India, the Spanish constructed churches over destroyed Maya temples in Mexico.

In continuation to the similarities in Hindu and Maya culture, here are some interesting details…

Kundalini Kultunlilni

Even today there are a number of words in the Maya language which indicate a relation to the Vedic culture. The Maya word “Kultunlilni” refers to the divine power and has obvious similarities to the Sanskrit word Kundalini which also refers to the life energy and the power of consciousness. Kultunlilni is the vital life force empowering all human growth and development. It refers to the power of God within man which is controlled by the breath which is similar in meaning to the Hindu Kundalini.

Traditionally, Kundalini is depicted as a sleeping green snake coiled three and a half times. The snake represents the grip of karma and spiritual ignorance.
Kundalini is the energy that moves up from the base of the spine and out through the crown chakra. Chakras, in the yogic tradition, are the psychic senses or centres. In the Maya language, these chakras are called chaclas, the force centres of the body similar to the chakras of Hinduism. At Muladhara Chakra the energy – the snake – is awakened to rise through the spine and unite with the consciousness – the eagle – in Sahasrara Chakra at the top of the head. There are in all seven chakras on the way up. When all these chakras are fully activated, one experiences an enlightened state. Once Kundalini is awakened, you transcend the duality of the material world and return to a state of oneness to realize your true perfection.

In order to stir Kundalini and begin the sacred ascent, it is important to practice asanas (the physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercise), and meditation. These tools enable you to remerge your consciousness with that of the Divine Creator – the highest aim of Tantra. A person’s unconscious radiation, determines his or her destiny.

Yoga / Yok’hah

The Sanskrit term yoga can be found again in the Maya word “yok’hah” which means higher truth from the combination of yok’ (above, higher) and hah (truth). The origins of yoga are shrouded in antiquity and mystery. Though the principles and practice of yoga were crystallized thousand of years ago, it was only around 200 BC that its fundamentals were collected by Patanjali in his treatise, named Yogasutra. In short, Patanjali surmised that through the practice of yoga, the energy latent within the human body can be positively awakened and released.

Yok’hah Maya or the Maya yoga is a system of knowledge and practices based on profound understanding of subtle energy dynamics and an expansive cosmology.   The ancient Maya used these yogic practices for controlling energy, expanding
awareness, envisioning and influencing natural forces. They were the masters of inter-dimensional realities.  Drawings in Maya codices, on ceramics, sculpted figurines, carved panels and stele depict priests and rulers in poses (k’u – hatha), using hand signs (xock’ab – mudra), chanting vedic hymns (manla – mantra) or doing breathing exercise (k’iik’ – pranayama).  Many works of art show people seated for meditation and in trance postures. Depictions of intertwined serpents (k’ultanlilni – kundalini) and vision serpents indicate that the Maya worked with this energy and attained altered states of consciousness just like the Hindus.

Ayurveda / Maya Medicine

Ayurveda is the ancient science of life and medicine which originated in India. It constitutes ideas about ailments and diseases, their symptoms, diagnosis and cure, and relies heavily on herbal medicines, including extracts of several plants of medicinal values. Ancient Hindu scholars dealt with principles of Ayurveda as far back as 800 BC. The Charaka Samahita, a compendium of Ayurvedic principles and practices has remained like a standard textbook almost for 2000 years and was translated into many languages, including Arabic and Latin. Several advances were also made in the field of medical surgery in areas like plastic surgery, extraction of cataracts, and even dental surgery. In spite of the absence of anaesthesia, complex operations were performed as early as 800 BC.

Maya Medicine, like Ayurveda, was practiced by priests who inherited their position and received extensive education. The ancient Maya were aware that the mind was very important, and they placed great emphasis in their approach to medicine on the connection of the mind and body. They used instruments made of bone, obsidian and leather (for enemas). They sutured wounds with human hair, reduced fractures, and used casts. Obsidian blades were used to perform surgeries thereby promoting more rapid healing with less scar tissue.

The Maya were skilful dental surgeons and made prostheses from jade and turquoise and filled teeth with iron pyrite. Teeth were filed into points, ground into rectangles and drilled with small holes to permit the insertion of small round pieces of jade or polished iron pyrite. Dental decoration was slightly more common amongst women.

Over 1500 different plants were used as herbal prescriptions. Some of them served as anesthetics for performing operations. The medicinal use of cacao, or chocolate, both as a primary remedy and as a vehicle to deliver other herbal medicines, has been well documented. More than 100 plants have been documented, including avocado, almond and zapote trees, and herbs such as chamomile, aloe and lettuce. The Maya pharmacopoeia revealed the inclusion of tissues of chilli in a number of herbal remedies for a variety of ailments of probable microbial origin.

Both these similar sciences of medicine are widely popular in the respective countries till today. Even witchcraft and shamanic practices which existed in earlier times are prevalent in the less modernized parts of both the countries.

This article and a lot many interesting details were part of my epic book titled “Mexico: A grand voyage through the fascinating land with ancient links to India” which I completed in 2010. I set aside these incredible details when I converted the epic book into three e-books Discovering MexicoMexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World and A Guide To Mexican Cuisine which are available for sale on this blog.

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