Commencing on Monday 24th June is the ancient celebration of Inti Raymi, one of the most important ceremonies in the Incan Empire calendar. Meaning ‘festival of the sun’ in Quechua, the first festival was held in 1412 and is a celebration of both the winter solstice and the Inca new year.
In the times of the Incan Dynasty, Inti Raymi was the most important of four ceremonies celebrated in Haukaypata, Cusco’s main square. Traditionally, the Inti Raymi was preceded by three days of purification and fasting, which included participants consuming only water, uncooked corn and chucam.
Then, on the morning of the solstice, the people of Cusco would gather in the square, remove their shoes and face the rising sun. As the sun rose higher in the sky, people would crouch down and blow kisses in a sign of respect, before raising two golden cups filled to the brim with offerings. Traditionally, the cup on the left was presented to the sun, whilst the cup on the right was for the Sapa Inca (the local ruler) and the Kuracas (his company).
Following days of colourful dances and processions, the celebrations culminated in the sacrifice of llamas, and sometimes children, at the Coricancha temple. This was done as an offering to Pachamama, (Mother Earth) a revered goddess in Incan mythology, in order to ensure a good harvest the following year.
The last ancient Inti Raymi took place in 1535, as the ceremony (along with other Incan religious festivals) was banned by following the Spanish colonisation. However the ancient celebration was revived in the 1900s, and has continued to the present day as a theatrical representation of the original event, re-enacting the original ceremony and attracting thousands of Peruvian people from Cusco and the surrounding communities, as well as travellers from all over the world.
With the main celebration taking place at Sacsayhuaman, Cusco’s nearby Inca fortress and one of the most iconic Inca ruins, guests of Inkaterra La Casona will be staying just a short distance away from the live performances, acts and exhibitions that make up the festival. As one of South America’s largest festivals, Inti Raymi is one of the best ways to experience ancient Peruvian culture.
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