To the Sanskrit and Hindi speaking world, many of the ancient site names in South America, and those of its rivers and mountains sound very familiar. And so do many other words from the Native American Quenchua language.

One of the most famous structures of the Incan Valley is the ancient Macchu Pichu. Though its name is usually translated as the ‘Old Mountain’, here is a look at what the name means in Sanskrit.

The word ‘Mancha’ (मंच) in Sanskrit means a ‘raised platform’, ‘stage’, or ‘something high up’. ‘Maachu’ may be a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Mancha’. And ‘Pacchas’ (पच्छस्) in Sanskrit means ‘step after step’. ‘Mancha Pacchas’ therefore means ‘Platforms & Steps’. That aptly describes Maachu Picchu.

The steps of Machu Picchu and the River Urubamba
‘Pacchas’ means ‘step by step’ in Sanskrit &
‘Mancha’ means ‘Platform’
Photo Courtesy Hakan Svensson (Xauxa)

The Urubamba River flows below. The name ‘Urubamba’ is also derived from Sanskrit where the word ‘Urvi’ (उर्वी) has many meanings including ‘soil, earth, heaven & earth, wide region, river and earth’. ‘Amba’ (अम्बा) of course means ‘Mother’ in Sanskrit.

‘Mother of the Earth’ or ‘Mother River’ is an appropriate translation of the Sanskrit name ‘Uruvamba’. Given the fact that in the Incan tradition the Urubamba River is regarded as a sacred river, Mother River sure is an apt name.

‘Macchu Pichu’ is located high up on a mountain, hidden behind rows of mountain chains. Giant walls and terraces, and rows of ramps and platforms are structured in the rock escarpments. It is therefore also possible that ‘Picchu’ is a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Piccha’ (पिच्छ) which means ‘crest’ or that which is located at the top.

There is another possibility. A new theory proposed by the Italian archaeo-astronomer Giulio Magli suggests that the journey to Macchu Pichu from Cusco town was a pilgrimage for the ancients, with Macchu Pichu as the culmination of the pilgrimage. In that sense, another Sanskrit word comes into play.

The word is ‘Pascha’ (पश्चा) which means ‘later’, behind’, ‘after’, or ‘last’. In any case, the location of Macchu Pichu was such that it was completely invisible from below as it lays atop a mountain range which is hidden by rows of peaks. Could ‘Macchu Pichu’ be a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Mancha Pascha’ – ‘The Last Platform’! But it is the ‘Step by Step to the Platform’ meaning of Machu Picchu that describes the site most aptly. 

Machu Picchu.
Is the name a distortion of Sanskrit ‘Mancha Piccha’?

Right behind Maachu Picchu is another observatory by the name Hu-ayana Piccha. In Sanskrit ‘ayana’ (अयन) means ‘Solstice’. And ‘hayana’ (हायन) means ‘that which repeats every year’ or ‘year’ or ‘a ray of light’, referring to the two solstices every year. Hu-ayana Piccha is therefore a place from where the yearly ‘solstices’ were observed.

Well known Indian architect, Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati*, in his research has demonstrated that the residential layouts around Maachu Pichu are identical to those at Harappan Civilization Indus Valley sites. His research has shown that the layout of the Maachu Picchu structures, locations for doors, windows, proportions of width to length, roof styles, degree of slopes for roofs, column sizes, wall thicknesses, etc. all conform completely to the principles and guidelines as prescribed in the Vaastu Shastra** of India.

*  About Dr. Ganapati Sthapati
** About Vaastu Shastra


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