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"Inti Raymi", the Sun celebration

"There use to be a time when the sun lived at Cusco, and this place still exists … "

The day when the sun was the most far away from Cusco is also the day when it comes back with the soil fertility. This day is the most important of the year, and people needed to be ready for the new year of the Inca's world: the Inti Raymi.

At the time of the Inca, the present Plaza de Armas in Cusco was called "Aucaypata Square" and was much larger than it is now (its size was reduced by the Spanish). This magnificent square was used as a stage for the great sun celebration: the "Inti Raymi".

On June 24th, the winter solstice, the Inca, his priests and main vassals stood in the middle of the square, surrounded by swarms of Inca people who waited for the sunrise. Once the sun there, the Inca offered two golden tumblers.

Immediately after, all the people meet at the Qoricancha, where the priests gave their offering to the sun. Next, they went back to the square for the sacrifice ceremony. During this ceremony, a lama was sacrificed. The ceremony designated the end of the predictions of the priests to the Inca. Then, the Inca indicated the end of the year and the beginning of the new year, and a general popular feast started and lasted for several days.

Inti Raymi
Inti Raymi

Present ceremony

Nowadays, the inhabitants of the four "Suyos" organize this ceremony. It starts in front of the Qoricancha where the Inca invokes the sun. The whole procession then goes to the Sacsayhuaman esplanade (new ceremony center chosen because of the reduced size of the present Plaza de Armas) where a sacrifice is carried out, with the Inca carried on his throne.

We distinguish the following steps:

  1. The Qoricancha temple. The Inca invites the people to take part to the celebrations.
  2. Plaza de Armas. The ceremony of the meeting between the times is organized.
  3. The Sacsaywaman fortress, as a main stage where the following scenes unfold:
    1. Suyos meeting.
    2. Chicha ceremony.
    3. Sacred fire ceremony.
    4. The flame ceremony.
    5. Sankhu ceremony (sacred bread).
    6. The Inca message.
    7. Qochorikuy (end of the feast).
Inti Raymi at Sacsayhuaman
Inti Raymi at Sacsayhuaman

Qoricancha temple

The Inca invokes the sun.

Aucaypata

From the four corners of the square, the delegations of the four "Suyos" burst into the place while dancing, with an unusual joy and determination to show their participation to the Inti Raymi celebration. They take possession of the inside of the square and show their artistic skills. The pututeros arrive and announce the proximity of the Inca, in front of the Suyos remaining still and waiting in silence. The panacas hymns confirm the presence of the Inca in the Square. He goes to each Suyo to review them, while receiving their salutations and respects. Subsequently, the Inca goes to the new atrium to give the message of the reaffirmation and integration to Tawantisuyo. He concludes while inviting everyone to head for the sun house, located on the apu Sacsayhuaman. All participants, spectators included, accompany the Inca.

Sacsayhuaman

From the superior part of the site, four groups can be distinguished. The ulular starts the ceremony. After this group comes the Tawantisuyo banners carried by the Inca army warriors. From the end of the first surrounding walls, after laying their offerings at the foot of the ceremonial walls, the delegations of the four Suyos are called together at the esplanade. Then, the "acllas" come in, presided by the "coya", and they head to the first surrounding walls. The Inca appears in the superior area of the rocky block, preceded by the panacas hymns. He goes down to the first surrounding walls, goes through its porch and then, climbs up to a promontory of the second surrounding walls from where he presides over the ceremony.

The mocha rite or the rite of the sun kiss

A large silence appears to signify that they all religiously wait for the sun appearance, as everyone behaves, as it is not daylight yet. The father sun finally arrives and bathes the Inca with the first sunbeams.

The chicha rite

The Inca takes in his hands a golden glass full of sacred chicha, and offers it to his father, the sun, as a sample of filial love. He pours the content into a channel that leads the liquid to Qoricancha. The Inca then takes a silver glass. He fills it also with chicha , offers it to the sun and drinks it. Then, he invites the "Willac Uma" and his suit to share the same glass with him.

The "Suyos'" report

The representatives of the Chinchaysuyo and the Qollasuyo successively deliver their messages and dance in the honour of the sun.

Inti Raymi Celebration
Inti Raymi Celebration

The flame sacrifice

The ritual goes on: a lama is chosen and is taken to the sacrifices table. The "tarpuntay" priest opens its entrails and extracts the heart and the lungs, to have the omens and the forecast for the Tawantisuyo's life and its leaders read in them.

The sankhu ritual

The priests present to the "Willac Uma" baskets full of "sankhu" reprensented by little corn breads. The supreme priest blesses the sankhu with blood from the sacrificed lama. He asks to serve to the Inca a portion of this sacred food. He also eats some of it, as well as all the members of the suite and the participants in the scene. The fast started three days earlier for the preparation of the Inti Raymi celebration is broken.

The "Willac Uma", assisted by his priests, executes the ritual. He uses a golden concave mirror called "chimpana". When oriented toward the sun, it concentrates its rays on the ritual container (or "nina kausacheq") previously filled in with cotton. The expected wonder happens, the new sacred fire lights up and happiness explodes. Fahter sun gave the signal, which renews his confidence and protection to his favored sun and to his people. This fire is entrusted to the "acllas willcaninas", so they can feed it and preserve it until the following year. The fire is also symbolically distributed to the delegations of the four Suyos, to have them return with this valued present in their origin regions.

In a joy and cheerfulness atmosphere, the Inca delivers his final message, while calling his people for carrying on practicing – under the protection of the father the sun – the Tawantisuyo culture values, whose principle is the responsible reciprocity or "ayni".

Qochoruruy

To conclude his message, the Inca asks his people to begin the feast. A popular exaltation manifestation develops: the surrounding walls are flooded with music from the Tawantisuyo people.

If you want to make a reservation for a circuit that includes this ceremony, click here.

Pictures : © Promperu

Author : Rodolfo Galvez, Traduction Gwénola Herbette

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