Mayan Temples

 

Introduction

During my freshman year of college, I took a trip to the Mayan ruins.

I did this all on my own. It was my decision to go. I made all the arrangements. I went by myself. No friends, no family, no tour group - my arrangements only. In fact, no one knew I went except for a few of my family.

An interesting event after the trip - the day I came back I had dinner out and I ran into some college friends. I mentioned what I'd done. They were surprised I did this all by myself.

I took this trip over spring break, or as it used to be called, Easter break. This is significant because the area I stayed was very Catholic, and so I saw their celebrations.

The temples are great. The astronomical accuracy is amazing, and the carved pictures are interesting. I will talk about these temples in detail.

The land is open - just pure jungle. I've got some wonderful shots of the temples, of the jungle, and more. Some of my best shots I had to work for - walking through the jungle in the night, or walking long distances, as well as climbing those temples. I am very proud of those photos. I will describe those in detail as well.


Temples

Temples - general

There are many Mayan pyramids and Mayan cities. Among the ones I chose to see where these main two sites: Chichen Itza and Uxmal.

The whole territory had become overgrown by the jungle. After a few hundred years, these areas were covered up and lost. Explorers found them, and hacked their way through.

The territory is beautiful, for it is still just jungle all around. I hope it stays that way. The only area cut from the brush are the areas of the Mayan temples. In fact, I saw many Mayan items that were still buried under rocks and jungle brush.

The pyramids are magnificent. You can climb the steps, but boy are they steep!! I had no trouble climbing them, I was in great shape. But the steps are very steep - from a distance the sides look smooth. I have a few pictures showing how steep they were.

Yet, there was not a single temple I visited that I did not climb. I climbed every one to the very top, and took lots of pictures.


Most pyramids have a temple on top. Another interesting thing is how they built temple over temple. They'd build one temple. Then they'd build another one over that. Years later, they'd build even another one over that. When you take a look at these temples (you have to climb to the top to see it), you can see the building over building, and the multiple entrances.

 

Astronomical accuracy

The Mayans were very interested in astronomy, and their accuracy is amazing.

The main pyramid of Chichen Itza has steps which represent the 365 days of the calendar year.

I have a picture of this pyramid. I don't remember exactly how this worked, but I do remember that the total steps added to 360, then there was a 5 day religious celebration each year, for a total of 365 days. I was impressed that they had this accuracy.

Many of the buildings of the Mayan temples have snakes on them. The undulating nature of the snake matches the undulating nature of the sun through the seasons. I don't exactly understand the undulating nature of the sun, but other astronomers and weather people could tell you more about that. In any case, that is what the snakes carved on the walls represent.

One pyramid at Chichen Itza has an observatory. It is not all that tall, but it it was designed for observing the sky. The top has doors facing exactly North, South, East, and West. (The lower part of the building was designed to line up nicely with the rest of the courtyard).

This observatory was special to me. The actual design of this observatory is interesting. There is an inside circle building, with 4 doors. Then there is a circular hallway. Covering all that is an outer circular building with another four doors.

The inner doors are the ones that actually face North, South, East, and West. The outer doors face North East, South East, North West, and South West. All doors are exactly accurate with those eight directions.

Because of the accuracy, I wanted to see for myself. So before sunrise, in the dark, I left my hotel and walked through the back of the jungle to the Chichen Itza site. Quite exciting!
I got to the site before sunrise, and took a bunch of pictures. If the one door indeed faced east, then it would face the sun in the morning. I took a bunch of pictures at sunrise to show this is true.

Those who know me know that I have always been an early riser, 5am is not uncommon for me on a regular basis. Some German tourists thought of the same thing, and I saw them there as I was taking my pictures.

These pictures from the Mayan ruins at sunrise are some of my all time favorite pictures. I also took lots of pictures of the temples while I was there. At sunrise, no one was there, so it was empty. It was truly magical. I've got some great photos - and to do this, I had to walk through the thick brush near the Mayan temples before sunrise! That's an adventure! But it was worth it.


Carvings

All the Mayan structures have amazing carvings. From the smallest wall or platform to largest building and tallest pyramids - everything has carvings.

Three things strike you: the carvings are detailed; any one wall has a lot of carvings; and many carvings are in very difficult places.

The Mayan religion has a lot of animals. Hence you will see snakes, birds, and jaguars.
You'll also see a lot of lattice work - in stone. Even things that were not carvings of beings were geometrically pleasing, and very decorative.

There is so much to look at. Every structure has so much to see. It is like the Sistine Chapel - just lots of stuff. You just have to look at it all for hours there is so much in those carvings.

One interesting carving you see is a series of birds or elephants. They have large eyes, huge beaked nose, and they share ears. I've got pictures of these.

Now, there is speculation here. These creatures look a lot like elephants - those curved noses could really be a trunk. Although some noses are broken, and some are just beaked, a few, and I have pictures, show a distinctive curve, looking just like an elephant's trunk. The curve is unmistakable. Hmm.

But there are no elephants in South or Central America. Hmm. However, there are elephants in Africa. Hmm. The Pyramids of Egypt are in Africa, and there are pyramids here, and the ones in Egypt were built many years earlier. Hmm... Could people from Africa have come here? Or people from here have gone to Africa and back? Hmm. Interesting speculations.

Some of these carvings are in the most difficult places. I had to do some acrobatics just to take pictures of some of these things. I don't know how they carved them up there, (or put them up there carved), either way, I don't know how they did it.

 

A few final interesting things

They have a neat game, where they have a court, they throw this ball high up into this tiny hole way up on the wall. The courtyards are clear, a nice square. The drawings on the walls are nice, and there is a place for the king to have the best seat up above.

If you see the animation movie El Dorado (I think that's the movie I'm thinking of), they do a pretty good job of showing this game. The movie came out years after I visited the Mayan area. I did find much of it a good representation of what I saw.

I really like the gateways. These look so magical, like a portal from Star Trek.

These are at the edge of some Mayan cities - they are far out in the brush and you have to walk out to find them. They show you the direction to the next Mayan city. Each site has at least one, usually two, of these gateways (one for each direction).

They are made of stone, in a classic Mayan arch. They stand alone. They stand alone, far away from all other buildings. They are also not attached to anything - it is like a door that is missing it's building.

Because of this whole arrangement, it feels like a very magical portal, as if when you stepped through it, something other worldly would happen to you. Very interesting.

In all, going to the Mayan Temples was a very interesting journey.


Merida

The Mayan temples are in Mexico and Guatemala. I stayed in a town called Merida, which is close to many Mayan temples. I really enjoyed the people there.

The people were all very friendly. Even today, after traveling much more, I would say that this was one of the best, most friendly places. It was obvious I was a tourist - not in any negative way, just my skin color compared to theirs and that I didn't speak their language. Yet they didn't mind.

The city was very clean, and the people well dressed. Of course being over Good Friday and Easter may have added to the dress. Whatever reason, it was pleasant.

They had an interesting park, with chairs linked together yet faced each other. I watched as people sat in these chairs and talked. I thought what a wonderful idea! Instead of a bench, have chairs that face each other so you could sit and talk!

I even saw a person sit by himself, and another come by. It was like this was a defined place to talk - you knew you could talk to anyone who sat in that chair, whether you knew them or not.

I particularly remember Good Friday. I spent Good Friday in the town of Merida. The whole town was out that evening, celebrating.

I saw people talking, I saw families, everyone was enjoying themselves. Everyone was very friendly.

I remember a xylophone player in the park. I listened to him for a long time. Actually, you couldn't help hear him, his sounds carried through the night. Yet, I listened to him particularly, and I watched him from time to time.

I can still remember the rhythm of his main song. Oh yes, I can still remember it. I'm not good at anything related to songs, and I'm not so good at trying to put it in print, but I do still remember it.

I wrote a poem that night. I called it "Buenos Noches Merida", which means Good Night Merida. I used the music of the xylophone player. My words match the rhythm. Even the rhythm change in the poem is from the rhythm change in his song. I used the feeling of his song, the feeling of the night, and what I saw that night. The particulars are particulars that I saw that night.

"Buenos Noches Merida"

Friday night appears, everyone is in good cheer,
We don’t care whence you came, all people smile the same,
Strangers talk as if they’ve been friends for years.

A father chases his child, whose laughter wins our smile,
“Oh such joy it is, I love playing with my kids,
Now I know that all my work is worth-while.”

(rhythm change)
Merida clean and white
Monuments recall their heritage,
City parks for siesta fun.

Locals sincerely friendly,
Kindness free from motive,
Talk with strangers in common tongue.

(original rhythm)
Holding hands in the dark, strolling throughout the park,
Lost in a world of two, their eyes reveal love renewed,
Couples share the magic within their hearts.

Everyone meets his friends, hoping laughter wont end,
I’ll play my xylophone, until everyone else goes home,
Evenings in Merida that is where my life I spend.