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Similarities between Vedic, Aztec and Mayan Culture

By: U. Mahesh Prabhu
Aug-04-2010
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(Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK))
 


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In 1940 a little known Buddhist Bhikshu (monk) - Chaman Lal - authored & published a book entitled "Hindu America" with the intent of "revealing" the forgotten story of the ancient Americas, especially India"s "immortal links" with the Aztec and Mayan civilizations of Mexico and the Ayar-Inca rulers of the Ayar Empire.

The book, though coupled with several circumstantial evidences and supporting theories, failed to make its point owing to several misrepresentations. But the very idea of Vedic, aka Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro, civilization having links with their American counterparts, namely Mayan & Aztec, was never completely ruled out. This was because of several resemblances found between the two civilizations in their customs and traditions though geographically miles apart. Here are few compelling similarities:

Panchisi & Patolli

Who has not heard about the game of dice - Panchisi (Pagade in Kannada)? Approximately 130 years ago Sir Edward B. Taylor[1] had point out that the ancient Mexican game of Patolli (see image) was similar in details to the game of Panchisi played in India and the whole region of Southern Asia. Later on Stewart Culin[2] proved that even the "cosmic meaning" of the Mexican game with it"s relation to the four quarters of the world and to the calendars ascribed to them was essentially the same.

Afterwards even Dr. Kroeber[3][i], leading anthropologist from California, observed that "the mathematical probability of two games invented separately agreeing by chance in so many specific features, is very low. The close correspondence between rules of two games indicates a real connection."

The Lotus Motif

Lotus is one of the most sacred symbols in India even today. Hinduism is essentially embodied in the lotus. One of the most frequent motifs of early Indian art is the lotus plant. Interestingly, the same kind of lotus motif occurs in America at Chichen Itza (Mexico) as a border in the reliefs of the lower room of the Temple of the Tigers. Dr. Robert Heine-Geldern had long pointed out that "the water lily panels at Chichen Itza closely resemble those of southeastern Asia." Further they state that "It is certainly remarkable that in India as well as in Middle America, the rhizome, a part of the plant not normally visible because it is submerged and deeply buried in mud should have been the basic element of a whole motif and, moreover, be stylized in the same unrealistic manner as undulating creeper."[4] They were also of the opinion that such a combination of highly specific details cannot be accidental.

In a paper published in American Antiquity, January, 1953, Gordon Ekholm of the American Museum of Natural History, pointed out the close similarity of the lotus motif used in Buddhist (essentially derived from Vedic) and Mayan carvings. He states "Perhaps among the most significant parallels between Hindu-Buddhist and late classic and post-classic Maya art are those we can classify under the heading of lotus panels. For the Maya we will refer to carvings occurring at Chichen Itza and Palenque. The lotus motifs at these two sites are remarkably similar although the more elaborate and more Asiatic-like panels are at Chichen."

Charak Puja & Volador Ritual

Charak Puja, a very enchanting folk festival of the Southern Belt of Bangladesh and West Bengal, is also known as Nil Puja. The Hindus, even to this day, celebrate it on the last day of Chaitra believing that the festival will carry prosperity by eliminating sorrow and sufferings of the previous year. In this festival a human Charak is made ready and is tied with a hook on his back and then he is moved around with a bar with a long rope. Though it"s risky they arrange. Interestingly the Mexican ritual of Volador practiced in Mexico and Peru is very similar to Charak Puja. "The people take part in this ceremony asking the gods for fertility and bountiful crops."[5]

Parasol as a Symbol of Royalty: The use of Parasol (Chattra in Sanskrit) is an age old sign of royalty and rank in India, Burma, China and Japan. The Maya Aztec and Incas also used it as a sign of royalty[6]. Frescos of Chak Multum in Yucatan show two types of parasols both of which correspond to types still in use in Southeast Asia.[7][ii]

Thrones and Palanquin: Chaman Lal in his book strongly asserts that "The use of throne and of fans mounted standard like on long poles as insignia of rank and royalty in the countries of Central and South America bears the strong imprint of India." According to him ". the last Ayar ruler of Peru was carried in his palanquin on the day the Spaniards invaded Peru. His turban with plume and his Mudra (hand symbol) of the hand are unmistakable proofs of his Hindu origin. His four Ranis performed Sati after he was murdered by the Spaniards."

Use of Zero: After Vedic people the Mayas of Yucatan were the first people to use a zero sign and represent number values by position of basic symbols. The similarity between the Mayan and Vedic Indian zero is undisputedly striking. Though the logical principle are the same the expressions of the principle are quiet dissimilar. While Vedic system of notation was decimal, like the European, the Mayan was Vigesimal (i.e. relating to or based on the number twenty).

Use Elephant in Sculpture: The American writer and explorer, John L Stephens, who, accompanied by Catherwood, an accomplished artist, visited the ruins of Maya civilization in Central America in the middle of the last 20th, detected the elephant on a sculptured pillar at Copan, which he referred to as an "idol". "The front view", he wrote, "seems a portrait, probably of some deified king or hero. The two ornaments at the top appear like the trunk of an elephant, an animal unknown in that country." [8] A reproduction of one of the ornaments in question should leave no doubts as to the identity of animal depicted by ancient American sculptor. It is not only an elephant, but an Indian elephant, a species found in India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Borneo and Sumatra. The African elephant has larger ears, a less elevated head and a bulging forehead without the indentation at the root of the trunk which is a characteristic of the Indian species. The African elephant has in the past been less made use by man than the Indian, and has consequently not figured prominently in African religious life. In India the elephant was tamed since Vedic period.


U. Mahesh Prabhu

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References & Notes:

[1] Sir Edward B. Taylor, Anthropology: an introduction to the study of man and civilization, London: Macmillan 1881 - similarities between Hindu Panchisi and Mexican Patolli
[2] Stewart Culin, Chess and Playing-Cards (Report, United States National Museum for 1896, pp. 665-942, 1898), p. 855
[3] Charles John Erasmus, Patolli, Pachisi, and the Limitation of Possibilities, South-Western Journal of Anthropology Vol. 6, 1950. Pp 369
[4] Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 151. Can be accessed online at: http://www.archive.org/stream/bulletin1511953smit/bulletin1511953smit_djvu.txt
[5] Sergioy Rosa, The ritual of the "Volador" (flyer) at Guachimonton @ http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/8f66c/
[6] Jean Leonard Gilder & Joseph Benson Gilder, The Critic Vol. 11, Good Literature Pub. Co. 1884-1906 pp. 256
[7] Shyam Singh Shashi, The World of Nomads, Lotus Press Publisher 2009, pp. 213.
[8] J. L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucata, London edition, 1842, Vol. I, p. 156.




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