The early arrival of the spring equinox on March 20, 2020, for the second time in 124 years, gives us reason enough to celebrate the existence of the Maya civilisation, which has for centuries taken the first day of the spring so seriously that even its famous structures were built around it. By Tanvi Jain
Although the world has been celebrating the spring equinox for thousands of years, none could match the levels of the ancient Maya civilisation. Their interest in sun and galaxy, and their immense knowledge of Astronomy can be seen in their pyramids and temples that have been built around the equinox.
One of their famous pyramids — El Castillo at Chichén Itzá, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan — which was built to worship feathered serpent deity Kukulkan, is known for the special effect the equinox has on it. For two days of the year, on the spring and the autumn equinox, the sun shines on the pyramid in such a way that it gives an illusion of a feathered serpent crawling down the pyramid’s northern staircase.
Similarly, Pyramid El Castillo (The Lighthouse) in Tulum, an ancient Mexican city located at Yucatán peninsula, was built in such a way that during the equinox, both the rising as well as the setting sun shines directly through the pyramid’s entrance.
These Maya archaeological sites are often visited by tourists in large numbers, especially to witness the equinox. The Maya civilisation was formed in the historical region of Mesoamerica — stretching across parts of modern-day Mexico and Central America — and had boomed during the first millennium AD. Even after facing much decline in its population, due to the Spanish conquest, today, there are still as many as seven million Maya people mostly living in Central America and southern Mexico.