It was performed
every year on June 21, that is, in the winter solstice of the Southern
Hemisphere, in the great Cuzco Main Plaza.
In the Andean mythology it was considered that Incas were descendants of the
Sun, therefore, they had to worship it annually with a sumptuous celebration.
More over, the festivity was carried out by the end of the potato and maize
harvest in order to thank the Sun for the abundant crops or otherwise in order
to ask for better crops during the next season.
Besides, it is during the solstices when the Sun is located in the farthest
point from the earth or vice versa, on this date the Quechuas (native people of
the Andes who speak "quechua" language) had to perform diverse rituals in order
to ask the Sun not to abandon its children.
Preparations had to be carried out in the Koricancha (Sun Temple), in the
Aqllawasi (House of Chosen Women), and in the Haukaypata or Wakaypata that was
the northeastern sector of the great Main Square. Some days before the ceremony,
all the population had to practice fast and sexual abstinence. Before dawn on
June 21st the Cusquenian nobility, presided over by the Inca and the Willaq Uma
(High Priest), were located on the Haukaypata (the Plaza's ceremonial portion),
the remaining noble population were placed on the Kusipata (southwestern
portion). Prior to this the "Mallki" (mummies of noble ancestors) were brought
and they were located in privileged sectors so that they could witness the
At sunrise, the population had to greet the Sun God with the "much'ay"
("mocha" in its Spanish form) sending forth-resounding kisses offered
symbolically with the fingertips. After all that, people sang in tune solemn
canticles in a low voice that later were transformed into their "wakay taky"
(weepy songs), arriving like this to an emotional and religious climax.
Subsequently, the Son of the Sun (the Inca king), used to take in his two
hands two golden ceremonial tumblers called "akilla" containing "Aqha" (chicha =
maize beer) made inside the Aqllawasi. The beverage of the tumbler in the right
hand was offered to the Sun and then poured into a golden channel communicating
the Plaza with the Sun Temple. The Inca drank a sip of chicha from the other
tumbler, the remaining was then drank in sips by the noblemen close to him.
Later, chicha was offered to every attendant.
Some historians suggest that this ceremony was started inside the Coricancha
in presence of the Sun representation that was made of very polished gold that
at the sunrise was reflected with a blinding brilliance. Later the Inca, along
with his retinue, went toward the great Plaza through the "Intik'iqllu" or
"Street of the Sun" (present-day Loreto street) in order to witness the llama
During this most important religious ceremony in Incan times, the High Priest
had to perform the llama sacrifice offering a completely black or white llama.
With a sharp ceremonial golden knife called "Tumi" he had to open the animal's
chest and with his hands pulled out its throbbing heart, lungs and viscera, so
that observing those elements he could foretell the future. Later, the animal
and its parts were completely incinerated.
After the sacrifice, the High Priest had to produce the Sacred Fire. Staying
in front of the Sun he had to get its rays in a concave gold medallion that
contained some soft or oily material in order to produce the fire that had to be
kept during next year in the Koricancha and Aqllawasi.
Subsequently the priests offered the Sanqhu that was something like "holy
bread" prepared from maize flour and blood of the sacrificed llama; its
consumption was entirely religious as a Christian host is.
Once that all ritual stages of the Inti Raymi were finished, all the
attendants were located in the southwestern Plaza's sector named Kusipata (Cheer
Secto" present-day Plaza del Regocijo) where after being nourished, people were
entertained with music, dances and abundant chicha.
Nowadays, the Inti Raymi is staged annually in Saqsaywaman on June 24th with
the participation of hundreds of actors wearing typical outfits. It's a great
opportunity to imagine the life at the Incas time.
CITIES AND VILLAGES
Not many people lived in the Incan cities. People lived in the nearby
villages and traveled into town for festivals or business.
The city was mainly used for the government. All the records for nearby
villages were reported by their leaders and recorded in the city by the
quipucamayoc. About the only people who lived in the city were the metalworkers,
carpenters, weavers and other crafters who made artwork for the temples. These
people lived in the artisans' quarters. Outside of the cities were the
government storehouses and soldiers' barracks.
In every major Inca city, the Sapa Inca had a palace for use when he visited
the city. On those grounds were the convents for the Sun Virgins and houses for
servants. The buildings on the grounds were single storied edifices, built of
stone with a thatched grass roof. Their only entrance was to the courtyard that
they were on.
Everyone worked except for the very young and the very old. Children worked
by scaring away animals from the crops and helping in the home.
About 2/3 of a farmer's goods would be shared by a tax system, and the rest
were for keeps. Some of the goods would be distributed to others, goods would be
received in return, and the rest was stored in government storehouses or
sacrificed to the gods.