Chankillo is a 2,300-year-old stone Solar observatory located north of Lima, in the Casma-Sechin River basin in Peru. It is the oldest known observatory in the Americas. Its 13 stone-pillars track the sun’s progress across the sky. Researchers agree that the last pillar on either end of the stone-pillar-line point to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice.

The etymology of the name Chanquillo is unknown. It has no meaning in the ancient Quechua language, nor in Spanish. In Ayamara Kala is stone, and may refer to the stone observatory. But since some affinity has been found between Ayamara and Sanskrit, one may look for explanation using Sanskrit as a tool.

The Sanskrit Explanation

If we look at the word ‘Chankillo’ through the Sanskrit lens we find that Chan may be a distortion of ‘Shan’ (शाण) means ‘stone’ and killo may be explained by ‘kala’ (काल) means ‘time’. Shan-kala’ therefore means ‘stone that measure time’, in other words an ‘observatory’. However, there is no support from the Indian scriptures such as the Vedas or Puranas for this explanation. However, there is one more explanation.

June (Winter) Solistice at the stone-observatory
at Chankillo, Peru. In Sanskrit  ‘Chan’
(शाण) means ‘stone’ and

‘Kala'(काल) means ‘time’.
Photo courtesy:

The Puranic Decode:

In the Puranic scriptures of India, Patala Loka refers to the realms that lay under the earth. In reality they refer to the parts that lie half way around the world, on the other side of the earth from India, which is South America. 

The Puranas state that Patala loka was the home of the Yakshas and Nagas. The Yakshas were a celestial race, mostly benevolent but sometimes evil, that guarded the treasures of the Yaksha king, Kubera. In the Puranas, Patala Loka is described as more beautiful than the heavens, with magnificent palaces adorned with jewels. The Mayan sites of Yaxchilan and Yax Mutal perhaps derive their names from the name Yakshas. According to the Puranas, it was the demon Maya, also called Mayasura, the illusionist, who built these sites at Patal Loka. In the Mesoamerican tradition too, the word Maya after which the Mayan civilization is named, is translated as ‘magic’.

The Nagas, according to the Puranas, were a human like non-human serpent race. Because of the association of serpents with water, in the Puranas the serpents of the Patala loka were often named after ‘shanka-s’ (शङ्ख) or conches and sea-shells. Names include Shankha, Mahashankha, Shankhachuda, Shankhapala etc. 

These Puranic Patala Loka serpent names are important in the context of Chankillo because, the word Shankha which routinely appears in the names of these serpent gods, is a cognate of the prefix in the name Chankillo. The ancient Mesoamerican tribes worshipped their serpent gods, and though in their names Kukulkan (many feathered serpent) of the Yucatan, Ququmatz of the Kiche Mayan and Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs, one does not see any affinity with the name Chankillo, it may be accepted that their Puranic names such as Shanka, MahaShanka etc. may have survived in the prefix of the Mesoamerican name ‘Chankillo’.

Chankillo appears like the back of a reptile. In the Sanskrit texts of India, South America was the home of the Nagas (human like but non-human serpent tribes) and the Yakshas (celestial guards) who built magnificent cities and palaces here. One of the Serpent kings was Maha-Shankha. Perhaps his name survives in the name of Chankillo.

Second, the shape of the Chanquilla structure too conjures the shape of a serpent’s back, complete with its vertebrae reflected in the 13 towers that line its back. In some Puranas Mahashanka appears as a crocodile. However, it in the Skanda Purana it is stated that Mahashanka is a serpent that revolves along with the sun in the month of Margasira, which is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, also called agrahayana (अग्रहयण्) in Sanskrit, or the month of the equinox. The name of the month is Margasira and the name of the corresponding asterism is Mrighsira (मृगशीर्ष) or ‘deer’s head’ which is the Orion. It is the month when the sun enters Saggitarius, and as mentioned above is known as ‘agrahayana’. Which brings us to the Huayana Piccha site of Peru.

For the etymology of the name Huayana, apart from ‘agrahayana’ mentioned above, one may also look at the the local Quechua language and Mayan culture of Peru. One finds that the equinoxes and the two solstices are days of celebration in Peru, just as they are in India. The Festival of the Sun celebrated on  winter solstice day is known as ‘Inti-Raymi’. In Sanskrit winter solstice is known as ‘yami-ayana’ (याम्यायन) and summer Solstice is known as ‘uttar-ayana (उत्तरायण).*

Inti-raymi may well be the distortion of the Sanskrit ‘uttar-ayana’ or ‘yamy-ayana’. Or a mix of both. ‘Ayana’ (
अयन) in Sanskrit means ‘points of the solstices and equinoxes’, and it also means ‘precession’, ‘half year’, and ‘circulation or rotation’. Then again, in Sanskrit ‘hayana’ (हायन) means ‘returning every year or ‘lasting a year’! That says it all.

‘Piccha’ may be distorted ‘pacha’ which is Quechua for ‘cosmos’ and fits better than the Sanskrit ‘pacchas’ (पच्छस्) which means ‘step by step’ referring to the steps or the climb leading to the site of ‘Huayana Piccha’. In some Sanskrit derived languages of India the word ‘paccha’ means ‘top’ or ‘roof’.

‘Huayana Picchu’ Observatory of Peru.
In Sanskrit ‘ayana‘ means ‘Solstice’,
‘Hayana’ means ‘that which repeats every year’ and
‘Pacchas’ means ‘step by step’ referring to a climb.

*Sir William Jones, in his Asiatic Researches, however linked the words ‘Inti-Raymi’ and the ‘Rama-Sitva’ festival directly to the Hindu God Rama. His quote on the subject is well known. 

Suggested Links:

  1. Yaxachilan – The Sanskrit Connection
  2. Macchu Pichu – The Sanskrit Connection
  3. Nagas – The Snake Worshippers Were Revered in 26 Countries (
  4. Remarkable Secret Tombs of Maya Snake Kings Reveal Fascinating Story | Ancient Origins (
  5. Mysterious Maya Snake Kings And Their Powerful Kingdom In The Jungle Reveal More Ancient Secrets | Ancient Pages


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