ORIGIN OF THE FESTIVAL OF THE SUN OR INTI RAYMI
During the Inca era, Cusco was the scene of four great festivals, of which the most important was the Inti Raymi. This festivity had its first appearance with the Inca Pachacútec around 1430.
The Incas met every winter solstice in the imperial city to welcome the Sun god. On the night of June 21 to 24, the torches of Tahuantinsuyo were extinguished to wait for the sunrise, which on that day is at its peak. more distant from the earth.
At this time, up to 50,000 people came to Cusco from all over the empire to be part of the celebrations that lasted around 15 days. During these two weeks, all the attendees, including the Inca and his family, priests, nobles and other personalities of Tahuantinsuyo, met in the current Plaza de Armas. In this place dances were performed, chicha was drunk, coca leaves were burned and, according to historians, around 200 llamas were sacrificed in honor of the god Inti.
All these celebrations were held to thank said god for the year’s harvests and for everything facilitated on earth. Thus, on June 24, the Inca arrived at the Plaza de Armas to wait for the sunrise and toast with a glass of chicha, from which his family also drank and whose remains were thrown to the ground. After this, a pilgrimage was made to the Qorikancha temple, where the celebrations continued.
Due to the importance of this celebration, for the Incas, June 24 and the Inti Raymi festival marked the beginning of a new year.
WHAT IS THE INTI RAYMI?
The Inti Raymi or Festival of the Sun is a celebration that revalues the Inca tradition in the Andean regions, especially in the city of Cusco.
This festivity is based on the ancient Inca ceremony known as the Wawa Inti Raymi. This ancient ritual was established by Pachacutec in the 1430s approximately.
The objective was to reorganize the empire with the cultural subjugation of the conquered peoples. With the passing of time, this ceremony was prohibited by the Spanish conquerors.
Since 1944, the city of Cusco celebrates this festival as a vindication of the Inca culture and as a tourist attraction. Although this festival is also celebrated in Ecuador and other Andean regions; Today is one of the main festivities in Peru.
INTI RAYMI HISTORY
Inti Raymi history dates back to the start of Tawantinsuyu, the Quechua term for the Inca Empire. Inti Raymi was the most important Incan festival as it was their New Year celebration. The festival celebrated the return of the sun (Inti) during the winter solstice, and the connection of the Sapa Inca with his people. In the old days, the festival involved many human and animal sacrifices, but the modern revival emphasizes symbolic offerings of figurines and effigies. These offerings were to please the Inti at his farthest point from Earth, and convince him to return to give life to the land.
The Inti Raymi was established by Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the ninth Sapa Inca and one of the greatest conquerors in the empire. Pachacuti took the small kingdom centered on Cusco and built it into a massive empire that stretched across the Andes. In 1412, to celebrate his accomplishments and solidify his position as the son of Inti, he threw the first Inti Raymi celebration alongside his wife, who symbolized the legendary Mama Ocllo.
The last official Inti Raymi of Tawantinsuyu was held by the doomed Inca Atahualpa in 1535, the year before the Spanish conquest.
The first three days of the festival began with a massive procession from the Inca Temple of the Sun, Coricancha (now the Catholic Convent of Santo Domingo), through the city of Cusco, the Inca Capital to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman. Workers would run ahead of the procession, sweeping the road and covering it with flowers so it would be clean and soft for the feet of the Sapa Inca’s entourage. At that time, there was a massive golden tower at Sacsayhuaman that the Inca would climb to address the people of the empire. The priests of Inti would bless the people, and the procession would return to Cusco.
On the fourth day, the middle of the festival, as many as two hundred Llamas and Alpacas were sacrificed. In times of trouble, such as earthquakes or plague, two children from each of the four regions of the empire were sacrificed as well. The entrails of the black llamas would be examined by priests for omens of the upcoming year. Two large, fine golden goblets of the best chicha would be poured. One would be given to Inti, and poured into a jar that sat in the temple, and the other would be first sipped by the Sapa Inca who then passed it around among the nobility to solidify the bond of loyalty between ruler and subject.
In 1572, the Inti Raymi was prohibited by the Spanish viceroy Francisco de Toledo as it was considered a pagan ceremony and contrary to the Catholic faith, although it continued to be celebrated clandestinely. The Catholic church, with the support of the Spanish Empire, banned the festival, though it continued undercover and in remote areas where the Spanish and the Church held little power. In areas where the church was more powerful, the Festival of the Sun was merged with the feast day of St. John the Baptist, and celebrated in a guise that was acceptable to the priests and conquistadors.
The holiday was revived in 1944 by Faustino Espinoza Navarro, a Quechua writer, actor and director, who revived the celebration in Cusco as part of an effort to restore the pride and identity of the Quechua people. Navarro himself portrayed the Sapa Inca for twelve years, before handing off the role to a successor handpicked for eloquence, dignity and grace. Today the yearly celebration, performed in Quechua, draws thousands of tourists from all over the world, and is South America’s second largest festival after Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.
Formerly, on the opening day of the ceremony, very early in the morning the Inka would leave his palace on his way to the Haucaypata square, with a procession of more than 300 orejones, members of the Inka elite who bore that name because they wore large and striking earrings. of pure gold. They were not approached by anyone who was not of their blood. From this group came two choirs which sang back and forth.
In Inca times, up to 50,000 people came to Cusco from all over the empire to be part of the celebrations, which lasted around 15 days.
After opening the party in the center of the capital, the Inka moved his residence to Manturcalla or Matucalla and stayed there until the end of the month and when that time was over he came to the square that is in front of the Cuzco square called Aucaypatá (currently known as Rejoice).
Formerly the Inti Raymi lasted several days and began with the winter season. Today it lasts about 7 hours.
HOW IS INTI RAYMI CELEBRATED?
Today, its main feature is the representation full of color and history of the ancient Inti Raymi ceremony.
This staging is performed by hundreds of actors with typical clothing of the Incas. The main role is played by the high priest Willaq Umo, the Inca nobility, the Inca and his wife the coya.
In addition, there are personifications of the Inca’s entourage, his delegates from the four of his own or corners of Tahuantinsuyo. This staging lasts 1 day, in which the entire ‘Imperial City’ lives the Sun Festival with joy.
The objective is to revalue the culture of the Inca ancestors as well as motivate tourists to visit Peru. Every year the participation of more than 700 artists on stage and more than 100 thousand spectators between tourists and locals is expected.
WHEN IS INTI RAYMI CELEBRATED?
On June 24 of each year, Cusco celebrates the Inti Raymi. This date is due to the fact that it coincides with the Day of the Farmer.
In Cusco, that date was declared a holiday. June is considered the jubilee month of Cusco, not only because of the celebration of this festival but also because of the famous Corpus Christi.
WHERE IS INTI RAYMI CELEBRATED?
The staging takes place in 3 specific sites in Cusco with great historical significance:
Coricancha : The Temple of the Sun or Coricancha, from the early hours of the day, begins the Festival of the Sun. This representation takes place in the so-called golden garden. It begins with the appearance of the Inca. The first rituals offer coca leaves, llamas, alpacas and more. The staging is free. You should only approach El Sol avenue from the first hours of the day. The staging begins at 09:00 a.m. and lasts 45 minutes on average.
Plaza de Armas: The historic center of Cuzco is the nerve center of the celebrations of the Fiesta del Sol. The Plaza de Armas is cordoned off. The Inca is carried on a litter by eight servants and performs the so-called Coca Ceremony. There is a platform for tourists who purchased their ticket. However, most visitors have to stand and observe the staging of the ritual. The ceremony starts at 11:00 a.m. and lasts about an hour.
Sacsayhuaman: The Chuquipampa esplanade in the Sacsayhuaman fortress is the main stage for the Inti Raymi representation. This place enjoyed great importance during the Inca Empire. Today only public access with an entrance ticket is allowed. There are 3 platforms or grandstands equipped for tourists. The staging starts at 01:30 p.m. And it lasts almost two hours.
WHAT IS THE INTI RAYMI FESTIVAL REALLY ABOUT?
The Inti Raymi was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god (Inti), one of the most venerated deities in Inca Religion. It was the celebration of the winter solstice and became an important festivity to the religious, ceremonial, social and political ambience that extended through the entire Tahuantisuyo (Inca Empire). After the Spanish conquest, the catholic church banned the Inti Raymi celebrations in the 1570s, pushing them underground and almost into obscurity.
The Inti Raymi Festival has been revived, and is among the most spectacular attractions of Peru. Every June, the city of Cusco prepares for the festival over nine days. The first several days are more about partying and celebration than ancient tradition, but the 24th June is when the real festival of Inti Raymi takes place. The downtown of Cusco is closed to traffic as actors, dancers, singers and other performers gather from all four suyu or “provinces” of the former Inca Empire.
The two most coveted roles are those of the Sapa Inca and his consort Mama Oclla. They are very carefully chosen from among the most talented and famous Quechua actors and performers to portray the dignity and grandeur of the emperor and empress.
After the performers have gathered, the ceremony begins at Coricancha, where the Sapa Inca addresses the rising sun. The Emperor and his entourage then begin a procession through the center of Cusco, following the ancient path laid down by Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui over 600 years ago.
THE CEREMONY OF INTI RAYMI
The main ceremony takes place when the procession reaches the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Here representatives of the four suyu report to the emperor about the state of the realm and reaffirm their allegiance. The Sapa Inca gives a speech to the people, and another to the Inti, the sun, at exactly 1:30 PM. Chicha, a kind of corn beer that was sacred to the ancient Inca, is passed from the Sapa Inca to his court.
Finally, after a few more rituals, a llama sacrifice is staged (no killing takes place) to appease the sun and ensure that the days begin to get longer again. Dances and performances are held, once again representing the native traditions and culture of the four regions of the ancient empire and its diverse people. Then the party winds down and everyone heads back to the center of Cusco for various after-parties and festivities.
THE INTI RAYMI INCA FESTIVAL NOWADAYS
First, there is a morning gathering at the beautiful, large garden of the Koricancha temple in Cusco City downtown, the most important religious place of the old empire, literally like the Vatican for the Catholics, where local actors wonderfully recreate the Inca court and the dignataries who traveled to Cusco. The Inca emperor himself commands gratitude and reverence to the Sun god (Inti in Quechua, their official language), protector of the empire, giver of light, warmth and life to all.
Second, from the Koricancha’s garden everybody except the emperor, who is carried on his throne, takes a very short walk to the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), where in Inca times stood the royal palace. There the ritual continues. A very typical part is the reading of coca leaves, for the Incas believed that they could make vegetal connection to the spiritual world, thus there were priests specialized in telling the future according to the leaves thrown many times. The priests then conducted a reading to find about the prosperity of the empire.
Third and finally, the Inti Raymi continues at the massive Sacsayhuaman fortress, just outside north of Cusco City. The Inca emperor leads over all the colorful ceremonies and dances, then addresses the crowd before the ritual sacrifice of a white llama, whose flesh and blood are given in offering to the Sun God and also to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) thus assuring a time of abundant crops, because the Inti Raymi, although on June 24th for us, actually marked the first day of the year for the Incas.
Of course nowadays the ritual sacrifice of the llama is only a show, no animal is harmed at all, but the actors really bring back the grand, mighty, solemn atmosphere of the Inca festival. And lastly, as it was in the old days, the Inti Raymi gets to a close with festive music played by a typical Andean band, on a procession down to Cusco City.
Don’t forget to bring a cap or a hat, sunglasses, sunblock and bottled water because the event is on open air. And of course bring your camera for amazing pictures! Currently, the Inca Festival of the Inti Raymi is conducted on three stages.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THE INTI RAYMI WITH ANDEAN GREAT TREKS
We will provide all guidance and support for your top Inti Raymi experience. Our professional guides have enough experience to get our customers the best positions to enjoy the Inca festival at any of the three venues, we provide the best native translators because all the celebration is spoken in Quechua, you will also need expert tour staff to explain the complex meanings of this ceremony. You can also take the chance to expand your good times here in Peru by booking a Machu Picchu tour or one of our top Inca Trails.
WHAT IS THE INTI RAYMI INCA FESTIVAL?
Inca religion was based on a worship of nature and the Sun was the main god. They firmly believed that all nature had a spiritual energy which needed reverence, so a series of rituals were developed. The Inti Raymi was perhaps the most important Inca festival back in the day, which celebrated the Winter solstice in this part of the world, when the Sun is at its lowest, closest to the Earth at noon. On our current calendar, the ritual is conducted every June 24th. All Inca people in Cusco City gathered, the royalty and priests carried on the liturgy and many offerings were made to the Sun: llamas’ flesh and blood, coca leaves and chicha (typical Inca brew). The mummies of the previous emperors were also taken in solemn procession. For more information about their spirituality, read the article regarding the Chakana or Inca Cross.
HOW LONG BEFORE DO I HAVE TO RESERVE INTI RAYMI TICKETS
To have a good seat from which to see the staging ceremony of the festival of the sun in the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, you must book this cultural program at least one month before June 24th. In fact, the tickets for the Inti Raymi Festival are sold by EMUFEC, which is the company in charge of staging the most lavish festival since the time of the Incas. If you decide to buy the inti raymi tour with only a few days left before the date of the party, it is not guaranteed that you will access the best spaces.
Due to the popularity of Inti Raymi, you should book your Inti Raymi tickets in advance. You will be able to purchase your Inti Raymi tickets easily and safely and you will receive your official entrance ticket issued by the Municipal Organization of Cusco Festivities. If for any reason the festival is canceled due to covid restrictions, you will get a refund of the ticket or tour value less credit card processing fees which are approximately 3.6%.
WHERE AND AT WHAT TIME IS THE INTI RAYMI CELEBRATED?
The Inti Raymi, the festival of the Sun, takes place every year on June 24 and takes place in 3 historical and natural stages:
- 9 am – The Qorikancha or Temple of the Sun in Cusco
- 11 am – in the main square of Cusco
- 1 pm – at the Inca fortress of Sacsaywaman
HOW IS THE INTI RAYMI 2022 TICKET SEAT MAP
Here we attach the Inti Raymi seat map. The orange space is that you have the best vision, and that with which we organize this tour. Then there is the red color with a lower cost. And green, which is the most economical, but the ceremony is not adequately visible.