The Inti Raymi is an Inca ceremony that takes place every winter solstice (June 24, in the southern hemisphere) in the city of Cusco.
What is the meaning of its name?
‘Inti Raymi ‘ is a Quechua word (the language of the Incas) that means “Festival of the Sun”.
Inti Raymi history
It was the Inca Pachacutec who established this celebration around the year 1430 and it was celebrated every year during the winter solstice of the southern hemisphere. It was the most important ancestral festival of the Tahuantinsuyo that was celebrated in the city of Cusco and was attended by around 50,000 people for the 4 Suyos. This celebration lasted about 15 days and counted for the last time with the presence of the Inca in 1535. For the Incas, June 24 and the Inti Raymi celebration marked the beginning of a new year.
The purpose of this celebration was to thank the sun god for the year’s harvests. On June 24 of each year, the Inca arrived at the Plaza de Armas to wait for the sunrise and toast with a glass of chicha, which his family also drank and what remained was thrown to the earth, then the Inca went to the temple of Qorikancha to continue with the celebrations. In 1572, after the Spanish conquest, Inti Raymi was prohibited by the Spanish viceroy Francisco de Toledo for considering it a pagan ceremony and contrary to the Catholic faith, however, this festival continued to be celebrated clandestinely. In 1944, the Peruvian writer and actor Francisco Espinoza Navarro made a reconstruction of the great Inca festival, based on the writings left by the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Since that date, the festivity has become public again and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
The Intiraymi today
Nowadays, the Inti Raymi is a theatrical representation that takes place in 3 sites of Cusco with great historical significance:
The Temple of the Sun or of Qorikancha: At 9:00 a.m. begins the Festival of the Sun. This performance 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 and you can watch it from El Sol Avenue. The duration of this ceremony is approximately 45 minutes.
Plaza de Armas: Cusco’s main square, the Inca is carried 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 observe the ritual performance standing up. The ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. and lasts approximately 1 hour.
Sacsayhuaman: It is the main stage of the Inti Raymi representation. More than 700 actors gather on the esplanade of the fortress and, dressed in costumes of the time to the rhythm of Andean music, perform a representation of what this festival was for the Incas. To witness this ceremony you need to buy an entrance ticket. The staging begins at 01:30 p.m. and lasts approximately 2 hours.