Mayan gods played a significant role in the life and culture of this ancient Mesoamerican civilization. Many interpretations about the religion of the Mayans are derived from archaeological sites where temples, pyramids, and tombs were excavated. An important historical text called the Chilam Balam also revealed details on the gods and goddesses of the Maya. As with other ancient civilizations, gods fulfilled certain roles, and were appealed to in prayer, and certain religious ceremonies and traditions were intended to keep the gods happy. For example, human sacrifices were often performed as an offering to the gods.
The Mayan sun god was particularly important to these ancient people. Depending on agriculture for survival, farmers often traveled to the cities to find out when the best time to plant or harvest would be. Private appeals to the Mayan sun god would be made as well. Each of the gods could have a few different names, but the main name for the Mayan sun god was Kinich Ahau. He was the patron god of the city Itzamal, and folklore suggests that he visited the city each day at noon, when he descended from the heavens and consumed offerings that had been prepared for him.
The religion of the Mayans was a central part of life, and the priest had a responsibility of interpreting the calendars and advising people about their rituals and offerings to the relevant gods. One of the most important gods was the maize god. God of the corn was a central religious figure because the life cycle of this food was seen to have greater symbolism. A worship of the life cycle of corn is just one example of how units of time were very important to the Mayans. Detailed calendars and astrology are other examples, and these have come to the attention of the public in modern times, for a prophecy that supposedly predicts the end of the world via a cataclysmic event on December 21, 2012.
Names of Mayan gods during the classic period are largely unknown. However, what the gods represented has been interpreted through symbols. Some of the gods that were worshipped by ancient Mayans include the god of wine, the god of war, the god of thunder, and the god of the earth. The Mayans also worshipped some strange gods including the god of death. Many of the gods were directly connected with survival, such as god of fishing, god of rain, and god of the hunt. It is clear that prayer and worship extended beyond religion to pleas for survival.
The religion of the Mayans was a prominent feature of their civilization. The best-known buildings that have survived and became protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites are associated with religion. Temples, pyramids, and tombs all carry religious significance. Travelers visit Chichen Itza in Mexico, Tikal in Guatemala, and other archaeological sites around the Yucatan to discover more about the culture and religion of these ancient people. From art to architecture, the significance of religion and the Mayan gods to everyday people is on display at these temples and pyramids.