Rediscovering the Mayans

In pictures

Rediscovering the Mayans

The Embassy of the Republic of Guatemala announced the setting up of its first office in Delhi with a photo exhibition –  A view at the Mayan civilisation. The famous Mayan civilisation inhabited a large part of the region known as Mesoamerica (in the current territories of Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and five states in southeastern Mexico) over 5,000 years ago. Guatemala, though, formed the heart of the Mayan world.

No wonder the Guatemalan government felt that the Mayan civilisation presented their historical, architectural and cultural wealth in the best way possible. As Rodriquez Danielo, ambassador of the Republic of Guatemala to India, informed Metrolife, “Sound knowledge and respect for each other’s history, culture and traditions forms the basis
of all good neighbourly relations. So we thought why not introduce Delhiites to the Mayan civilisation.”

The Mayan civilisation is counted amongst the greatest in the world along with the Indus valley, Egyptian and Inca civilisations. The Mayans, a federation of several states, are known for having been masters of writing, mathematics, architecture and astronomy. As a result, today they are known for their unique hieroglyphs, pyramids and calendars predicting many future events.

The photography exhibition also showcased the same from ruins of several Mayan cities. There were pictures from Tikal – the major Mayan habitation – dotted with hundreds of structures ranging from temple-pyramids and palaces to thatched-roof huts. Surrounded by thick green tropical forests, these structures in white
limestone looked pristine and beautiful.

Then there were shots from archaeological parks like Zaculeu, El Zotz, Iximche, Mixco Viejo and Quirigua. Iximche is considered a Maya ceremonial centre, El Zotz has recently been in news for the discovery of a pyramid believed to be dedicated to the sun God and Quirigua is known for its carved stelae and sculpted calendars – an important source of study of the Mayan civilization.

Besides there were also shots of Mayan people as they live today – their clothes (a cotton weaving celled Huipil), fire rituals, arts as well as sports – mainly a form of soccer typical to the Mayans.

Though the idea of a photo exhibition on Mayans is praiseworthy, the collection reflected lack of research and even inconsideration towards visitors. The photographs were randomly placed with no descriptions. A short documentary on the same subject running alongside had no English or Hindi subtitles and could in no way inform anyone other than Guatemala nationals.

Those who visited with expectations of knowing about the great civilisation returned a trifle dissatisfied. Probably, the embassy only intended to whip up an appetite for Guatemalan history, and leave research to those who are possibly interested.

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