The Inti Raymi was the most important ancestral festival in the Inca lands (Tahuantinsuyo) to which about 25,000 people used to attend during the 15 days it used to last in the 15th century. Now it is considered to be the second most important festival in South America, after Rio de Janeiro’s carnival.
Every June 24, the God Sun is the main protagonist of one of the most important and traditional festivals celebrated in Peru and South America: The Inti Raymi or “Fiesta del Sol”. In Quechua Inti means Sun and Raymi celebration. Inti Raymi is the celebration of the God Sun, the most venerated god in the Inca religion.
The Inca emperor, as well as the Cusco nobility, were considered natural children of the Sun; to it they obeyed their existence, and that is why they had to thank and tribute with sacrifices and offerings.
This festival was established in Cusco by Pachatutec, the first Inca, in the 1430 A. C. to celebrate the winter solstice of the southern hemisphere which marked the first day of the New Year in the Inca calendar. On this day is when the Sun is farthest from the Earth and it is the shortest day of the year.
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. The festival was still held in secret for about 400 years, although not with the same grandiosity as now the Inca emperor wasn’t there to officiate it. In 1944, Faustino Espinoza Navarro, a Peruvian written who promoted the Inca and Quechua customs, was able to introduce back this one and only celebration.
Today, the tradition is maintained as a theatrical representation charged with mysticism and spirituality. During this date, thousands of national and foreign tourists walk the streets of the historic Cusco, Peru, and gather to experience closely a special day of cultural activities, with the aim to keep the Inca legacy.
There are about 700 people, including actors, dancers and musicians who – dressed in typical clothing – star in a series of staging’s that include dances, performances and praises performed outside the Qorikancha complex and the Sacsayhuamán fortress, as well as in the Plaza of Arms of the city.
The triumphant return of the Sun on the shortest day and on the longest night renews the nature and it is reason for joy and celebration. So the Inca and his entourage pay their respects and admiration to the Sun, the Inca says a prayer in the Quechua language and simulates a sacrifice so that a shaman can predict the prosperity and well-being of the coming year.
The Inti Raymi is not an exclusive celebration of Cusco, since most of the Andean populations continue presenting their offerings every June 24 in countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, northern Argentina and Colombia.