Inti Raymi through the times has many changes. Since the first celebration by our ancestors until this 2014. Because a lot of things missing and new ones it are reassessing through times. And for that reason our website make a little article about the biggest changes into the Inti Raymi history.
A Pre-colonial Inti Raymi
Before the arrival of Spaniards in Cusco, the Incas worshipped the sun as their main deity and source of life; the Incas, they believed, were the children of the Sun God. Each June 22 (the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere), the Incas would therefore summon the Sun God through a festival that came to be called Inti Raymi. On this day of the winter solstice – when the sun is at its furthest distance from the equator – the Incas invoked the sun deity, pleading for him to come closer again lest he lose himself in the deep dark universe. They prayed for a good harvest and protection against famine and hunger.
Tawantinsuyo is the Quechua term for the Cusco region. It is derived from tawa, meaning ‘four’, inti, meaning ‘sun’, and suyo, which means ‘side.’ In Inca times, Cusco was the four-sided sun empire. Only the royal family, priests and other influential people were allowed to inhabit the sacred city, but depending on the merits of a few ordinary citizens, some of the latter were permitted to enter its walls on June 22nd to take part in the religious festival celebrated on what is today Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
At the height of the Inca Empire, around 50,000 people from outside the city would gather, bearing gifts and offerings to present to the Inca elite. In order to participate, they needed to have fasted for nine days. This was followed by nine days of great banquets and feasting on roasted meats and corn loaves. Chicha de jora (fermented corn drink) ran like rivers of laughter, and participants would chew coca leaves, so as to not get too drunk.
Spanish Suppression and 20th Century Restoration
In the early 16th century, the vast Inca Empire began to crumble. From 1524-1526, a smallpox epidemic brought to Central America by the Spanish wiped out huge numbers of natives, including both the ruler and his heir. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his brothers then invaded in 1532, seeking gold and riches. Over the next several decades, the Spanish quashed native uprisings and established Cusco as the seat of their Spanish colony. Catholicism was declared the official faith and the annual Inti Raymi festival became a source of tension. Finally, in 1572 Viceroy Toledo forbade what the Spanish considered a pagan celebration.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that this lost Inca rite was restored. In 1944, Faustino Espinoza Navarro, founding member of the Peruvian Academy of the Quechua Language, brought Inti Raymi back to life. He salvaged texts from the Royal Commentaries, written by Garcilaso de la Vega in 1612, and studied fragments dealing with the ancient Inti Raymi ceremony. He created the first play based on it. “I wrote the script for 600 actors and had the privilege of playing the first Inca, a role I assumed with great pride for 14 years consecutively,” said Espinoza. Nowadays, the ceremony is actually celebrated every June 24th, both in the city of Cusco and in indigenous communities all over Peru.
On the actual day of Inti Raymi, the ceremony begins on the site of the ancient Coriaconcha, the holy of holies of what was theTemple of the Sun (now built over by the Santo Domingo Church). An invocation to the Sun is given by the Sapa Inca in the square, as he calls for a blessing from the Sun. Following this, he is carried on a golden throne in a procession to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman. Following him come the high priests in ceremonial robes, then officials of the court, and others resplendent in elaborate costumes with gold and silver ornaments.
The drama continues with speeches by priests representing the Suyos, the three levels of existence: Snake for the world below, Puma for the life on earth, and Condor for the upper world of the gods. A sacred Coca leaf reading is consulted to divine the future of the empire, and a ceremonial fire is rekindled. In a very realistic moment, the high priest (apparently) sacrifices a white llama, holding up its heart in honor of Pachamama. This ensures the fertility of the earth when combined with the light and warmth of the sun… to ensure a bountiful crop for the next cycle.
Each year, more than 150,000 colorfully dressed natives take place in these events. The booming drums, eerie panpipes and blaring horns, all pre-Hispanic instruments, send a chill up your spine as you look in wonder, feeling like you have just stepped out of a time machine. This is a day to recapture the spirit and values of their ancestors, a celebration of cultural pride. Consider yourself fortunate indeed if you have the chance to witness this incredible event yourself.