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Inti Raymi or Festival of the Sun in Peru

by Marie

Inti Raymi is a nine-day winter solstice celebration worshiping an Incan god and involves colourful costumes, lavish banquets, festive music, and historical recreations.

As the world around us becomes increasingly high-tech, and scientific fact becomes the central pillar of our society, it’s comforting to know that there are still places that take time to pay homage to our primordial past, particularly those that allow us to suspend our belief and give into magic and mythology. For one such experience, there is Inti Raymi, a nine-day winter solstice celebration worshiping the Incan god Inti in the city of Cusco. Involving colorful costumes, lavish banquets, festive music, an elaborate reenactment of ancient Incan rituals, and culminating in a royal procession to an ancient fortress—if it's magic and mythology you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.

The Incans were sun masters as they built their temples ever closer to the sun and their festivals are a lasting tribute to that fireball in the sky.

The celebration of Inti Raymi, or “Festival of the Sun” occurs each June, in conjunction with the South American winter solstice. Hundreds of thousands of devotees descend on Cuzco, Peru for the re-enactment of this ceremony, to praise the Inca and to celebrate traditions. A week’s worth of festivities culminates in an epic daylong event on the 24th of June. 

The ancient Inca so feared the diminished effects of the sun during winter, they would fast, create lavish banquets to honor the sun, and sacrifice llamas to ensure a bountiful crop. The rise of Christianity in the 16th century labeled the Incas as pagans prohibiting their beliefs and practices. Inti Raymi remained resilient as an underground phenomenon until 1944 when the government and church sanctioned it. It is now the second largest festival on the South American continent.

On June 24, a throng of actors specially selected to reenact the rituals of Inti Raymi gather at the Koricancha Square. The rituals that take place are a daylong affair that draws the largest crowds of the week. These actors represent various figures from Incan royalty including the Sapa Inca (Sun King) and his wife. The Sapa Inca delivers a traditional oration in praise of the sun after which he’s carried upon his massive throne in a royal procession to Sacsayhuaman, an ancient fortress located in the hills overlooking Cuzco. The congregation following the Sun King includes actors occupying the roles of priests and nobles from the traditional Incan hierarchies, bedecked in lavish jewelry and colorful robes. The path they walk to the fortress is strewn with flowers and constantly swept by groups of women keeping it free of evil spirits.

Once the congregation reaches the grand square of the fortress, Sapa Inca delivers another oration followed by representatives of the Suyos, which include the Snake to represent the underworld, the Puma representing terrestrial, or earthly life, and the Condor representing the Heavens. 

The vibe at the Inti Raymi festival celebration is reverent yet jovial

At sunset, a great fire and dance ritual honors Tawantinsuyo, the name the Inca gave their territory (Tawa meaning Four, Inti meaning Sun and Suyo meaning Direction; all combined this amounts to “The Four Directions Under the Sun”). The final phase of the festival finds the procession making its long march back to Cuzco with the Sun King and Queen held high atop their thrones. 

If you are looking for adventure, magic and mystery, you will love Peru.

Photo credits : Torukojin 

Find out more about Inti Raymi in this video ! 

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