In 1888 Helena.P. Blavatsky stated in her book ‘The Secret Doctrine, “…the name of America may one day be found more closely related to Meru the sacred mount in the centre of the seven continents according to the Hindu tradition, than Americus Vespucius.” In the same book Blavatsky quotes Dr. Alexander Wilder (1823-1909), an American physician and Neoplatonist who in his writings had commented earlier, “It is most plausible that the state of Central America where we find the name Americ signifying (like the Hindu Meru we may add) great mountain, gave the continent its name.”
Their contention is not far fetched considering that the legend of Mt. Meru was not unknown in the Mezo-American and Mayan tradition of South America. In fact if we research Mayan culture we find that the legend of Mt. Meru is deeply seeped and entrenched in its culture and tradition. If one analyzes place names and deity names of Mayan and Aztec culture through the Sanskrit lens a whole new world of information emerges that establishes that the American links to the name Meru of the Vedic culture are far more deeply entwined than most people will be comfortable to accept.
First a look at the naming of America in popular literature. In popular literature, only two sources of the name America have generally been put forth. One states that America was named after the Christian name of Italian explorer Americus Vespucci (1454- 1512) who’s name goes by many variations, one such being Amerrigo Vespucius which was mentioned by Blavatsky. The second source of the etymology of America emerges from the name of the Amerrique mountain chain. The Amerrique chain runs like a spine across the Mayan territories of Central America, beginning at the north west and culminating at the south east end at Mosquito Coast.
The name of explorer Americus Vespucius as the source of the name America is widely popular but many doubts have been raised about its authenticity by serious scholars. For example, French geologist Jules Marcao (1824-1898), in his paper ‘The Naming of America’ had put forth the view that Americus Vespucius’s name in the oldest records is mentioned as Alberigo Vespucci and not Americus Vespucius. Marcao also states that his name-change to Americus from Alberigo happened only subsequent to his return to Europe from the Americas- after he had interacted with the native tribes who introduced him to the name Amerrique implying that the name Amerrique already existed much before the arrival of the European invaders into Mayan territories. Also places in Central and Latin America which were named after Spanish invaders, were conventionally done so in the family or surnames of the explorers, rather than their Christian names. Why then would the tradition be broken for one particular explorer. Though Vespucci had worked to make the name America known in Europe after he returned from his voyages the authenticity of Vespucci’s exploration records was found to be questionable because he had amalgamated the myths and legends of South America with a distortion of his own name.
As mentioned above Jules Marcou had put forth the view that the name America was brought back to Europe from the New World where the name had originated; and that Vespucci had changed his name from Alberico to Amerigo to reflect the name of his discovery.
In the late 1970s, in an essay written by Guyanan novelist and educator Jan Carew (1920-2012), titled ‘The Caribbean Writer and Exile’, Carew had stated, “Alberigo Vespucci, and I deliberately use his authentic Christian name …….. was undoubtedly a Florentine dilettante .… an extraordinarily clever one. Why would he otherwise have changed his Christian name after his voyages to the Americas?”
Jan Carew had cited Marcou in support of his argument. In an article published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, and later in his work published in the ‘Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution’ dated 1890, Marcou had mentioned that, “…in the archives of Toledo, a letter from Vespucci to the Cardinal dated December 9, 1508, is signed Amerrigo with the double ‘r’ as in the Indian Amerrique … and between 1508 and 1512, the year in which Vespucci died, at least two other signatures with the Christian name Amerrigo were recorded.” The argument was that Alberigo Vespucci had gradually changed his own name to fit in with the name of this newly founded territory around the Amerrique chain in Central America. About Christopher Columbus’s travels to the Americas, Carew stated that they were largely fictions “characterized, with few exceptions, by romantic evasions of truth and voluminous omissions.”
Carew summed up his view by making the statement that, “robbing peoples and countries of their indigenous names was one of the cruel games that colonizers played with the colonized…. To rob people or countries of their names is to set in motion a psychic disturbance which can in turn create a permanent crisis of identity. As if to underline this fact, the theft of an important place-name from the heartland of the Americas and the claim that it was a dilettante’s Christian name robs the original name of its elemental meaning.”
There is yet another reason for finding a simplistic explanation to the naming of America problematic for it completely ignores the fact that the Americas, especially South America, had a long history and a rich culture and it is this indigenous culture which must first be examined to look for the roots of the name America.
Second, a vast expanse of information about this indigenous south American culture emerges and is explained if the Rig Vedic links to this information is studied, which is why Blavatsky and Wilder had made the connection between Mt. Meru and the Ammerique mountains. The Christian missioners of Europe neither had the knowledge nor the inclination to study the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, let alone analyze links with the Rig Vedic civilization. In fact, their intention was the opposite. Their mission was to establish a Christian state in the New World. Their endeavor included eradication of the very traces of the ancient civilization of the Americas (which unfortunately they vastly succeeded in doing) rather than study its depth, and propagate information about its greatness and its links to other civilizations.
Apart from the legend of Mt. Meru itself, two other links to the Rig Vedic tradition emerge if one were to analyze the legends of Mayan and Aztac cultures. The first link refers to the gold fields of Amerrique mountains. To elaborate the above point, one may once again mention American-French geologist Jules Marcou (1824-1898) who in his paper, ‘The Naming of America’ had introduced to the world the name of Ramas, a native Indian tribe which belonged to the gold rich Nicaraguan district of Amerrique. According to Marcou, Amerrique had been visited by both Columbus and Vespucci in their quest for the riches of this region, greatly facilitated by the members of the Ramas tribe who lived in this region. Rama is the name of the Hindu god King, the protagonist of the Hindu epic, Ramayana which also carries the descriptions of Mt. Meru.
This point is further established in the writings of Jonathan Cohen in his research paper ‘The naming of America: Fragments we have Shored against Ourselves’ which was published in 2014. Cohen says that for both the explorers, Columbus and Vespucci, the words Amerrique and gold had become synonymous. The object of Columbus’s travel and later explorers to the Ammerique region was finding the gold mines at the foot of this mountain range, especially at Veragua, Carambaru and Cariai and the native Americans had led Christopher Columbus and later explorers to the gold mines on the River Mico in Veragua. Columbus had stated in his narration, “It is the custom in this territory of Veragua to bury the chief men with all the gold they possess.”, thus establishing his interest in the gold rich land of Ammerique.
That brings us to Blavatsky’s contention that the name America and its source word Amerrique may have more to do with Mt. Meru than anything else. In the Rig Veda the heavenly summit of Mt. Meru is described as filled with gold. At times it is described as a mountain of gold. The Sanskrit word ‘marut’ (मरुत् ) meaning ‘gold’ is itself intertwined with the name of the Rig Vedic golden mountain ‘Meru’. It is therefore not surprising that the gold filled mountains of Hondurus bear the name Amerrique. One may therefore even attribute the etymology of the word Amerrique to the word Meru and marut. As Marcou has remarked, “.. it is possible that the name Amerrique was then spoken of as a tribe of Indians, and a country rich in gold, for it is the only gold area of that part of the coast of Hondurus.”
Carew, on the other hand, inadvertently took a different route to the Sanskritic link to the name Amerrique. To define the elemental meaning of Amerique, Carew had quoted Marcou’s correspondence with Augustus Le Plongeon, an anthropologist, who had studied the Mayan culture in Yucatan. Le Plongeon in his correspondence with Marcou had stated, “The name America or Amerrique in the Mayan language means, a country of perpetually strong wind, or the Land of the Wind, and sometimes the suffix ‘-ique’ and ‘-ika’ can mean not only wind or air but also a spirit that breathes, life itself.”
Interestingly Vedic scriptures add collateral to Carew’s interpretation. First, there is ‘Maarutta’ (मारुत), the Rig Vedic ‘god of Wind’. His name derives from the Sanskrit word for ‘breath’ and ‘wind’ which again is ‘marutta’ (मारुत), thus establishing the connect to the Mayan meaning of the name Amerrique. It also establishes a connect between Sanskrit and Mayan languages. Thirdly, it indicates that an exchange or interaction existed between the Mayans and the Hindus which was strong enough for scriptural texts and legends to have travelled into the Mayan land. It also indicates that the Mayans were familiar not only with the Hindu concept of Mt. Meru but also with Rig Vedic God of Wind.
There is a lot more evidence still available to provide proof of a Vedic Indic link with the Mayans in spite of the intentional destruction of, and distortion brought in, to the Mayan culture by the Spanish invaders. Surprisingly, in spite of the destruction of evidence by the invaders and erosion brought on by time, what we have today is still potent enough to establish the Rig Vedic-Mayan connection. Here is a look at the remnants of that evidence.
Martin Myrick states in his book ‘The Book of the Last Trumpet Vol 3’, “In the Mayan Bible, the Popul Voh, the story of the creation of mankind by gods, centres around the World Mountain, Paxil. In the beginning, the Mayan Gods raised up the earth as a mountain which lay below the Cosmic Waters, drawing comparison to the rising of Mt. Meru by Hindu Gods & Mt. Mashu by Sumerian gods.” The second syllable of ‘paxil’ that is ‘xil’ maybe decoded with the Sanskrit ‘shila’ which means ‘stone’ or ‘rock’ or ‘mountain’ and appears in many Meso-American names such as Yaxcillan. For more about the Sanskrit connect to the name Yaxcillan click here.
In popular texts Meru is a mountain of gold that stands in the centre of the universe. It is so high that it reaches the heavens and the pole star shines directly above it. In the Hindu tradition, the name Mt. Meru is no ordinary mountain. Quite often Meru represents the middle-point of the axis or spine of the earth, one end of the axis is known as Sumeru, the other end as Kumeru. In Sanskrit, ‘meru’ also has the meaning ‘spine’.
From this scriptural root of the name of Meru we can also easily see how the Rig Veda made its way around the world. Traces of the name Meru are seen in all ancient cultures of the world. Here is a listing:
Sumer, the ancient Central Asian civilization is named after the Meru mountain. In Greece, are located the To-Maros mountains. In his book ‘India in Greece’ author E. Pococke argued that Tomaros is a corruption of the name Sumeru. On the Tomaros are situated the people of Cassiopaei. The Cassiopaei, he said, are the Cashyapa or Kashyapa tribe of Kashmir who had migrated from y-Elumyo-tis or the land of the river Yelum or Jhelum. Mt. Tomaros lies in the southwestern Ioannina region of the Pindus mountain range of Greece. Pococke traces the name ‘Pindus’ to the ‘Pandava’ clan of the great Sanskrit epic of ancient India, the Mahabharata.
Meroe is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile in Sudan extending into present day Ethiopia. This city was the capital of the Kingdom of Cush from 530 BC to AD 350. Pococke made the connection of Meroe with Meru and stated, “Meroe was indebted for its civilisation to India.” Tanzania too has a mountain by the name of Mt. Meru, the second highest peak after Mt. Kiliminjaro.
According to the mythology of the Greeks, Bacchus was born from the thigh of ‘Jupiter’. In Greek the word for thigh is ‘meros’ and hence Pocoke stated that from this arose the confusion that Bacchus was born from the ‘meros’ or thigh of Jupiter. Pococke clarified that Bacchus’s legend appeared from the Hindu legend of Mt. Sumeru. The ‘s’ often changes to ‘t’ in Greek, hence the Sanskrit ‘Sumeru’ that corrupted into ‘Sumeros’ ultimately changed to Tomaros’.
An even older form of this name can be found in the ancient name for Egypt, Mera or To-mera or Tomaras, loosely translated to mean “of the Pyramid” or ‘Land of Meru’.
In Assyria, Mt. Hermon was known as ‘Sinieru’ which again is a corruption of Sumeru. In Turkmenistan was located the ancient city of Merv. Merv was a major oasis-city located on the historical Silk Route, near today’s city of Mary in Turkmenistan. In ancient Persian texts (that is Avestan texts), Merv is mentioned as Mouru , which is a distortion of the Sanskrit Meru the original name of the first city built on this site. The remnants of the most ancient sacred site of Merv still exist at ‘Gonur Tepe’.
When early British settlers, started arriving in Gympie, the site of the ancient Gympie pyramid in Australia in 1858, they recorded the name of Gympie as ‘Meru’ndai’. This name was in usage with the aboriginal Australian ‘elders’ who were known as the ‘ngtja guru’.
It is therefore not surprising that Meru like temples exist in Chichen Itza, Palenque, and Tikal in Guatemala and in other parts of Central and South America.
Other scriptural links between the Mayan civilization and the Rig Vedic civilization also exist. The Mayans had a concept of a double headed turtle-god who had appeared at the dawn of creation and was known as the great Divine Lord. It was from the cracked shell of the double-headed turtle that the Mayan Maize God emerged. The maize God who is the source of fertility is also the central World Tree, an axial symbol equivalent to Mt. Meru.
In the Hindu mythology, Mt. Mandara, a spur of Mt. Meru was torn out at the time of the churning of the oceans, and was used as a churning stick. It was steadied at the bottom of the ocean by Lord Vishnu on his back in his incarnation as a tortoise or turtle called Kurma. In the Meso-American tradition it is the World Tree that rests on the back of the turtle. For more on Vedic-Indic links to Mayan sites of Yaxha, Uxmal in Mexico and Ketumala in Belize click here, here and here.
When the first Spanish chroniclers arrived with the conquistador Pizaro, the Inca explained that Tiahuanaco had been constructed by a race of giants called Huaris before Chamak-pacha, the “period of darkness,” and was already in ruins before their civilization began. They said these giants had been created by Viracocha, also known as Kukulkan to the Maya and Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs, and Amaru to the Peruvians, a god who came from the heavens. Once again the name Amaru is a distorted form of Meru. For the Sanskrit-Indic links to the name Viracocha click here.