Uxmal is an ancient Mayan city and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of the Mayan culture. The etymology of ‘Uxmal’ is disputed. One view is that the name is derived from Oxmal, meaning “three times built” in reference to the number of times it has been rebuilt. But then that cannot be its original name. Another possible source of the name is ‘Uchmal’ which means “what is to come, the future.” By tradition, this was supposed to be an ‘invisible city’ built in one night by the magic of the dwarf king.

There are examples of cities having being built by ‘celestial architects’ such as Vishwakarma and Maya from celestial material in the Vedic tradition too. The ancient city of Indraprastha as described in the Mahabharata was built by an ‘asura’ called Maya.

Indian scriptures say that Asuras and Nagas were tribes spread across the world in various continents far and wide and some scholars believe that the Maya civilization in Meso-America was an extension of the Asura-Naga culture.

In the ‘Encyclopaedia of Religions’ edited by James George Roche Forlong it is stated that on one of the facades above the doors of the ‘House of the Monks’ at the temple of Uxmal “…. were niches with seated figures very much like the Buddha... At the base of one of these niches are remarkable groups of tigers placed back to back as also at Palenque- to form the throne of the Gods just as in Burmese or Siamese representations of the ‘lion throne’ of Buddha. Over the ‘House of the Governor’, as at Palenque, elephants’ trunks also appear, as well as other sites in Yukatan….”.

In his article ‘The Buddhist Discovery of America-1000 years before Columbus’, Prof John Fryer of the University of California published in American Harper’s magazine in July 1901 researched the journey of ancient Buddhist monks from China, India and Cabul to the Americas. Though Fryer was tracking the journey of Buddhist monks he found evidence of Vedic tradition at Uxmal as also traces of Buddhism. Here are two photos with their original captions that appeared with the article in Harper’s Magazine in the July 1901 issue:

Aztec representation of Ganesha – 

The Elephant God

This is an Aztec imitation of  Rahu swallowing the Sun
which according to the Vedic tradition causes an eclipse.
Found at Temple of  Uxmal, Mexico

Prof John Fryer observed, “When we come to look for visible traces of Buddhism among the antiquities of Mexico, we are soon amply rewarded…. “. Fryer refers to the details of one visit by a Buddhist monk, Hui Shen, who is said to have travelled to the land of Fusang  from his native Cophene or Kabul around the year 495 AD, which at that time was the centre of Buddhist learning. He returned alone to China, which was another centre of Buddhism, where he waited for many years before he was granted audience with the Emperor so he could relate his experiences and the work done by the Buddhist monks in the distant land of Fusang.

Hui Shen is the name recorded in Chinese annals but Hui Shen is a Chinese transliteration of the monk’s name since he was a native of Cabul and not China. Prof V.G. Nair in his article ‘Buddhist Mission Visits America Before Columbus’ says,“The facts that Hui Shen and his party came from Kabul and that he spoke imperfect Chinese suggest that he might have been either an Indian monk or a native of Kabul which formed part of India in those days. Kabul, which was also known as Cophen Kiplin, Kandahar or Balk was in Gandhara now merged in Afghanistan and was a centre of Buddhist activities”.

Buddhist monks from Kabul traveled often to China as Buddhism was patronized by various dynasties of ancient China. The most well known of them is Sanghdeva who travelled from Kabul to China in 4th century AD and translated Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. Hui Shen’s actual name has never been decoded.

Hui Shen had himself followed the route taken earlier by five bhikshus or monks who had traveled to Fusang in the year 458 AD. Prof Fryer was of the view that Fusang that appears in the Chinese records refers to the Americas. More about that in the next post.

Mayan City of Palenque in Mexico  was inhabited since
at least 300 BC.
An artifact from Uxmal
Dated to 300-900 AD

Suggested Readings:

1. The Buddhist Discovery of the Americas.
2. Buddhist Mission Visits America before Columbus


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