- Maya is often called Danava which means descendant of Danu, one of Kasyapa‘s 13 wives and a daughter of Dakhsa Prajapati.
- However in the Uttarakanda of Ramayana, Maya is also described as Diti’s son (a Daitya and as the king of the Daityas). Diti is a different wife of Kasyapa. Some modern people speak as if Daityas, Danavas, Asuras and Rakshasas are the same, but they are different jathis, though they all fought the Devas at some point or the other. The manavas and brahmanas were and are pro-Devas. So in that sense, they may have lumped all the ‘enemies’ together.
- Maya is also said to be the son of Vipracitti and Simhika and a brother of Rahu. Simhika is said to be a chaya grahi rakshasi or a rakshasi who catches shadows. She tried to prevent Hanuman from reaching Sri Lanka. This is all the more interesting since Rahu is a chaya graha or a shadow graha. As the author of Surya Siddhantam, Maya described how eclipses were caused.. and it had nothing to do with anyone swallowing the sun!!
- Maya was the (foster) father of Mandodari, the wife of Ravana. Mandodari’s mother’s name was Hema and she was an Apsarasa. So Mandodari was a Danava on her father’s side and an apsarasa on her mother’s side.
- Maya’s grandson (Mandodari’s son) Meghanada, defeated Indra and was called Indrajit.
- Maya’s sons Dundhubi and Mayavi were killed by the Vanara, Vali.
- Maya’s son-in-law Ravana was defeated by Vali.
- The Danavas and Rakshasas were often in conflict and it was always the Vanaras who won.
Engineering Achievements :
- The city of Lankapuri in Sri Lanka was built by Maya, an architect and king of the Danavas. However, Uttarakanda of Ramayana says that Lankapuri was built by Viswakarma.
- Maya built a palace of illusions called the Maya Sabha at Indraprastha. It was full of ‘magical’ ponds and lakes as well as natural ponds and lakes. When Duryodhana, the cousin of the Pandavas came to visit, he fell in to a real pond, thinking that it was an artificial one. Maya built this palace for the Pandavas, because Arjuna spared his life in the Khandava Dahanam.
- Maya Danava also built Tripura, three cities of gold, silver and iron. This was later destroyed by Siva. (Bhagavatham Canto 7.) Valmiki called this Tripura Gopuram. There is an astronomical story (significance) overlayed with this story.
Astronomical Achievements :
- Maya is the author of Surya Siddhantam, which he learnt directly from an Amsa of Surya Deva. In this he gives a detailed technical description of a working hydraulic powered geocentric solar system model, that can be used for astronomical predictions. He asks his students to keep it a secret to retain a competitive advantage.
- Since his model required the flow of water to power the movement of his model planets, he assumed a pravaha or flow of something in the sky to keep the celestial bodies moving.
- Since Maya assumed a geocentric model,which we know today to be inaccurate, I surmise that his teacher may have been as brilliant as the Sun but was not the Sun himself.
- Maya built Tripura for Tarakasura, who gave the three cities to his sons, Tarakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali. (Tarakasura was killed by Siva’s son Skanda or Karthikeya).
- Maya built the Maya Sabha at Indraprastha at the instance of Sri Krishna for the Pandavas.
Note: Maya Sabha was a palace of illusions, and Maaya means illusion in Sanskrit. Given Maya’s scientific and engineering abilities, I am beginning to think that the Maya Sabha was not ‘magic’ but full of hydro-mechanical illusions.
I often wonder whether Maya Danava was the ancestor of the Mayas of South America? They too, were great builders. In our stories, Maya ran away to ‘Patala’. Their culture has similarities with ours.
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