Every year in Yucatán, the god Kukulkán has a date on March 21 to show off his solar splendor and delight visitors with a unique astronomic show at to the archaeological sites of Dzibilchaltún and Chichén Itzá.
Nature offers amazing phenomena. The Maya knew it, and because of it they dedicated part of their lives to studying the stars and building edifices that reflected their knowledge and honored their Gods. One of the buildings that still surprises us with its light and shadow effects, is “El Castillo” at Chichén Itzá, archaeological site that has become a reference point for the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Each March 21 the god Kukulkán manifests itself (represented by a snake adorned with feathers) in the form of solar rays that form triangles and descend step by step from the pyramid down to the bottom, where the stone head of the snake is located, in a show of light and shadows formed by the sun and the position of the pyramid. It’s a blend of perfect astronomy, architecture, and religious symbolism.
This building has a square base 30 meters high and is located in the middle of the archaeological site, making it possible to appreciate this phenomenon that marks the beginning of spring and of the agricultural cycle, both very important moments for the Maya.
Each year thousands of visitors from all over the world come to watch this event that lasts around an hour, and starts at midday. Don’t worry if the sun conditions aren’t perfect, it’s almost always possible to see this effect. On this day there are also purification rituals, songs, thanks, and more. Many attendees wear white so they can become “charged” with new and pure energy. Others just sit and enjoy. What we can tell you is that this is a unique natural phenomenon, that demonstrates the enormous Maya wisdom…an experience that you shouldn’t miss!
Chichén Itzá is located 120 km from Mérida and the site is open at 8 am. Make sure to take sunscreen, comfortable clothes, and appropriate shoes.
Another light show can be seen at the “Templo de las 7 Muñecas” at the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún, located at Km. 16 on the Mérida – Progreso highway north of Mérida. At this site, the dawn phenomenon consists of the sunrise being positioned in the exact center of the building for several minutes, before continuing on its natural route of the day. The site opens at 5 am so that you will be able to witness this spectacular display.
Sun, light, shadows and more await you during the spring equinox in Yucatán.
By Violeta H. Cantarell