The Mayan knowledge of astronomies is unrivalled by any other culture and the traditional calendars till not many years back were brilliant pieces of astronomy. Their enduring ability show through all the ruins in Central America, cities that declined long before Columbus. The traditions and values, however, live through the art and architecture of the modern Maya.
The ancient Mayan world was situated round the Yucatan Peninsula stretching to the rainforests of Mexico in the east and to the west to Belize and all the way up the highlands of Guatemala. The Mayan world also touched the eastern edges of Honduras and El Salvador. With the changes over hundreds of years, today’s Mayan people are numbered at four to six million and speak around 30 different languages divided into different ethnic groups!
Not only the architecture and astronomy, the world today is also deriving a lot of knowledge and medicines from the Mayan herbal medicines. The social organization of the villages has also remained the same through centuries and so has the various cultivation methods like the slash and burn method. Thatched roof houses and people who still grow corn, squash, beans and tomatoes takes you back into history amalgamating the modern and the historical into a journey of discoveries.
Similar to the other factors Mayan root that show through their present day lives, perhaps the most obvious is the religious and spiritual connect. Like every other civilization, spiritual connotations in the buildings and temple complexes have endured. Most of the Mayan cities were sites of ceremonies rather than trade or commerce. For the decentralized network of farmers, these cities were the focal point of spiritual and magical healing and prowess! The weaves to date show the carvings of the sacred symbols on the walls and stones. Each symbol has meaning and the modern Mayan still makes offerings to the same deities.
Palenque, one of the most beautiful and breathtaking Mayan ruins is situated in the Palenque National park in Chiapas. Situated at the base of a hill, the city could be seen for days from the coast and Mayans walking back home could know their direction of travel. Many decorative motifs are one of a kind and even show Chinese influences. The temple of inscriptions is an interesting pyramid which houses the crypt of a powerful priest called Pa Kal discovered in 1952. Untouched for almost a millennium, many objects from the crypt have been taken to various museums for studying them and display. The subterranean passages and the fine structure and carvings are admired by visitors to this powerful ruin everyday.
Dating back to 642, the temple of suns has the best restored roof combs of all Mayan ruins. These were false fronts beautifully carved and decorated and prevalent in all Mayan buildings. Colorfully painted, these roof combs were a symbol of grandeur and still inspire the contemporary art and architectural forms. The Temple of the Jaguar shows a lot of similarities to Cambodian and even Hindu art with the Foliated cross motif and the bas-relief motifs.
The Mayan ruins are spread across such a large area that one cannot write or read them at one go. When visiting you are bound to feel the power, grandeur and mystique through the temples and cities.