The Inti Raymi
Luis Barreda Murillo

The Inti Raymi
Wanuku Pampa
Oro de Qorikancha
The Inti Raymi

Dr. Luis Barreda Murillo
or Festival of the Sun
Sources of Information
Little is known about the subject of the Inti Raymi, however, some information gathered by chroniclers Cieza de Leon, Cristobal de Molina (the Cusqueño) Jose de Acosta, Murua, Guamam Poma de Ayala, Betanzos and Garcilaso de la Vega are very important. Because they shed some light in the matter.
The information we have used to recreate the festival that honors the Sun called Apu Punchao Inca, also known as Sun of the Incas comes from the memories of the actual peasants who still practice some of the ceremonies during the year to honor their tutelar gods inherited from the Incas. This information has also been gathered from the archeological findings.

Nowadays, this ceremony is represented on the stage of Saqsaywaman fortress with a written script. Lately, new scenes have been added, such as those held in the courtyard of Koricancha Temple and the Main Square of Cusco, called the Haukaypata, from which, the royal followers go to the slope of the fortress every June the 24th. Each year special stands are built for the visitors that can reach about 100 000 on that day. Local people sit around the complex to watch the ceremony.
For the author, it's a special privilege to narrate a ceremony he has witnessed. Now follows a summary of the events on stage.


From the main architectural sites built by the incas, we can see that the sun was the main deity. Buildings like the Koricancha made of polished stones where we can admire the surrounding wall and the interior rooms with delicate polished stones of the finest quality.

This temple, was richly decorated with precious metals and delicate weavings honoring the sun god, and making it the main target for the pilfering carried out by the Spaniards.

It is also mentioned that walls had golden plates that were stolen by spaniards, who eager for gold and silver entered the sacred sites and tore down all ornaments and offerings like those inside the Koricancha. The offerings buried in the ground were the only things spaniards couldn't take.

For the festival of the Sun, people made prior arrangements for the ceremony and when the Inca and his followers entered the temple, all the people toasted him with chicha or a drink specially prepared for this ocassion. The chicha was served in two container es called Keros. In one glass, people toasted the land and the gods, and with the other container, people toasted the visitors. This custom is maintained to this day among peasants. The representation of the Sun consisted of a sculpture of gold that was kept in a special place in the temple, and probably was away before the spaniards got into the Koricancha, and saved in a site farther away. The idol represented the Sun and was dressed with the most elegant weavings of the Empire. This is confirmed with the findings in a peak in Chile and other summits where mummies have been found with finely woven clothes

This idol of the Sun was presented in all main important ceremonies.

It's necessary to remember the unknown elders of Cusco who organized the first presentation on a stage in 1928. This outdoor presentation was called the Defense and Taking of the Fortress of Saqsaywaman, performed by a group of teachers who put on stage the conquest of the site by the invaders. The main characters were, the Inca Cahuide (a mytical character). More than 100 indians participated acting out the defense and the custody of the Virgins of the Sun, kept in some place around the fortress. The indians lost the battle and Cahuide jumped from the top of the wall.

For the representation, the Inca and his followers wore special customes made by a talented artist of the group. The entire program presented on 1928 was featured on the magazine "Mundial". President Leguia (the president at that time) was unable to attend the presentation, and instead sent his two daughters. The program included dances performed by the Sikllas; country folk dancers from Urubamba; the Canchis from Sicuani; and the Dance Mestiza Coya from Paucartambo. The whole show was a hit much appreciated by the whole audience.
Dr. Humberto Vidal Unda, probably saw the presentation when he was 22 years old and later he presented a project to the American Institute of Art for a future presentation of the same program in the same area of the complex.

The Sun was considered by the Incas a divinity of the highest rank, to whom temples were built in his honor in the most important places of the Empire. Not only presentations were made in honor of the Sun, but also in honor of God Kuntor (Condor), and Qoa, Choquechinchay or Titi (Feline God).

To honor the Sun God, animals were sacrificed. Nowdays during the ceremony of the Intiraymi there is a simulation of a sacrifice of a llama. In a drawing made by the chronicler Guaman Poma de Ayala, we can see how the priests take the guts of the animal through an opening located to one side of the animal where the priest put his hand and pulls out the heart still beating, then the lungs are inflated by the priests and through the blood stains, they could forecast the future for the Inca and the Empire. Similar ceremonies are still held by the peasants, but in the original ceremony of the Inti Raymi dozens of llamas were killed.

Other part of the celebration featured the start of the new fire. Obeying the order of the Inca, no fire was allowed that day in the city. The new fire was obtained through a hollow mirror and brilliant surface that focused the rays of the sun, and projected them to the fur of an animal, and when the fur caught fire it was then used to start the rest of the kindling distributed in different platforms in the main square.

90 soldiers of the National Army played the part of the Inca's soldiers, who represent to the Inca's soldiers. Actors wear clothes similar to those drawn in chronicles of Guaman Poma de Ayala, with a shield in one hand and carrying on the other a stick with a star made of wood. The soldiers also wear rubber sandals and a helmet similar to a cap.

In the ceremony there are also 25 couples of women who represent the acllas, but not in the original ceremony. To make the scenes more spectacular, both, the Inca and his wife (Coya) arrived by litter.

There was a compulsory participation of priests in the ceremony, all of them with names according to their characters. The Wirapiricuq, the one that took the guts, the one called Kallpa rikuq, shepherd of the llamas for the sacrifice, the Turpuntay, or priest in charge of the cutting with the sacred knife called Tumi, and the willaq Uma in charge of the forecast or prediction observing the viscera of the llama, and the one who told the Inca the good or bad news.

Before the Inca entered the plaza or the slopes of the fortress, a group of ajllas or selected princesses led the procession along with the pichaq, or men in charge of sweeping the floor to drive away the bad spirits. The Inca is shown in all the documents accompanied by a hump backed dwarf called Kumillo who carried the achiwa, an instrument similar to an umbrella made of colorful feathers.

The festival lasted several days. Some days the Inca and his priests and the nobility waited for dawn in the Koricancha Temple and the other days in the Usno or Altar of the Main Square.

Before the Inca climbed to the Usno, he had to walk along a garden of flowers and weavings of delicate clothes placed specially for the emperor to walk over.

In these ceremonies the Inca was carried on a litter with a linen veil, and he held a staff symbol of power taken by the Umillos before the Inca climbed to the Usno. Later the priest and the participants sing songs to salute the Inca and the Sun, accompanied by the musicians.

Referring to the Unku, or the undershirt worn by the Inca, we have samples of these displayed at the museums, where they are shown as pectorals made with fine feathers of different colors. Together with a fine lace tied to the mascaypacha, used on the forehead.

During the ceremony the Inca is toasted with chicha (a fermented drink) poured into gold containers, one for the Inca, one for the Sun, and the third one for the mother land, mentioning also the Apus or gods of the earth. As a fitting finale, the Inca gives a speech in the native language quechua.

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