On June 24, Cusco will be the main scene again for the Celebration of the Sun or better known as the Inti Raymi Festival. This yearly celebration takes place during the winter solstice. Cusco, being the capital of the Tawantinsuyo, the Inca Empire, is every year the main city where this important date for the Incas is celebrated. The celebration takes place to thank the sun for its blessing and to celebrate the end of the harvest period. The importance of this celebration for the Incas can be compared with the importance of New Year’s Eve in modern days; a time for change and renewal.
As the Inca did not leave behind much written knowledge it took several archeologists and historians (based on the writings of the first Spanish conquistadores) around 1948 to create the first reenactment of this ancient celebration, regarded as the most important in Inca times. Up to today, the Inti Raymi festival is based on their findings and most likely a very good approximation of the original celebration in the same places as during 15th & 16th century.
The celebration starts in the early morning at the Temple of Qoriqancha which used to be the Temple of the Sun, the most important religious constructions known to the Incas. Here the crowds welcome the Inca and his followers and they bless the people before heading in procession to the Cusco Plaza de Armas or Main Square. This square used to be more or less in the same place and was surrounded by Inca Palaces – every Inca had his palace on the Cusco Main Square. For instance, where once one could find the Cathedral nowadays, used to be the Palace of Manco Inca, one of the most important Inca kings. In the main square the Inca king and queen are welcomed by the crowds and a ceremony is held to bless the city and its people. From each corner of the square people from the four corners of the Inca Empire come to salute the Inca king; the four parts of the empire are called Qollasuyu, Kuntisuyu, Antisuyu and Chinchaysuyu and are compared to the four directions of the wind.
From the main square the procession continues to the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. This fortress located just above Cusco used to be the military camp in Cusco and the main point of protection for the city. (It took the Spanish several raids before they were able to capture this part of Cusco). Here the main ceremony takes place; the sacrifice of different Andean animals all representing prosperity and good luck for the New Year. In ancient times it is also believed that humans were also sacrificed but this luckily has been taken out for the modern day experience.
Most parts of the ceremony are free to participate (come on time as spaces are not found easily) but the part at Sacsayhuaman can only be seen with an entrance ticket. All sites can be reached on foot or by car.
If you would be interested in visiting Peru during this time of year, please do not hesitate to contact us and see some of the special packages we can offer you for these visits.
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