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The history of that terrible catastrophe, recounted in various ways in the sacred books of the different nations among which vestiges of the presence of the Mayas are to be found, continues to be the appalling tradition of a great portion of mankind.
QUEEN MOO AND THE EGYPTIAN SPHINX.
We infer the spirit of the nation in great measure from the language, which is a sort of monument to which each forcible individual in a course of many hundred years has contributed a stone.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Essays, XX., "Nominalist and Realist.")
IN ages long lost in the abyss of time, when Aryan colonists had not yet established their first settlements on the banks of the river Saraswati in the Punjab, and the primitive Egyptian settlers in the valley of the Nile did not fancy, even in their most hopeful day-dreams, that their descendants would become the great people whose civilization was to be the cradle of that of Europe, there existed on the Western Continent a nation—the Maya-that had attained to a high degree of culture in arts and sciences.
Valmiki, in his beautiful epic the "Ramayana," which is said to have served as model to Homer's "Iliad," tells us that the Mayas were mighty navigators, whose ships travelled from the western to the eastern ocean, from the southern to the northern seas, in ages so remote that "the sun had not yet risen above the horizon; "1 that, being likewise great warriors, they conquered the southern parts of the Hindostanee 'Valmiki, Ramayana, Hippolyte Fauché's translation, vol. i., p. 353.
peninsula, and established themselves there; that, being also learned architects, they built great cities and palaces.1 These Mayas became known in after times under the names of Danavas, and are regarded by modern historians as aborigines of the country, or Nâgás as we shall see later on. Of these J. Talboys Wheeler in his "History of India" says: "The traditions of the Nâgás are obscure in the extreme; they point, however, to the existence of an ancient Nágá empire in the Dekkan, having its capital in the modern town of Nagpore, and it may be conjectured that, prior to the Aryan invasion, the Nagá rajas exercised an imperial power over the greatest part of the Punjab and Hindostan. The Nágás, or serpent worshippers, who lived in crowded cities and were famous for their beautiful women and exhaustless treasures, were doubt
1 Valmiki, Ramayana, vol. ii., p. 26. "In olden times there was a prince of the Danavas, a learned magician endowed with great power; his name was Maya. It was he who, by magic art, constructed this golden grotto. He was the vicvakarma (“architect of the gods ") of the principal Danavas, and this superb palace of solid gold is the work of his hands."
Maya is mentioned in the Mahabharata as one of the six individuals who were allowed to escape with their life at the burning of the forest of Khandava, whose inhabitants were all destroyed.
We read in John Campbell Oman's work, The Great Indian Epics (p. 118): Now, Maya was the chief architect of the Danavas, and in gratitude for his preservation built a wonderful sabha, or hall, for the Pandavas, the most beautiful structure of its kind in the whole world."
" Danava =
Tan-ha-ba: Tan, "midst; " ha, "water;" ba, a compositive particle used to form reflexive desinences; "they who live in the midst of the water "-navigators.
This Maya etymon accords perfectly with what Professor John Campbell Oman in his work The Great Indian Epics, "Mahabharata” (p. 133), says with regard to the dwelling-place of the Danavas:
"Arjuna carried war against a tribe of the Danavas, the Nivata-Kavachas, who were very powerful, numbering thirty millions, whose principal city was Hiranyapura. They dwelt in the womb of the ocean." (The name Hiranyapura means in Maya “dragged in the middle of the water jar.”)
J. Talboys Wheeler, History of India, vol. iii., pp. 56-57.