Everything you need to know abut Inti Raymi:
In ancient times the Inca believed that the only way to ensure that the sun god could be persuaded to return in spring was to offer him sacrifices.
Whilst valuable animals such as llamas were frequently scarified to the gods, the Inca also offered up human sacrifices in order to gain favor with the sun god. Don’t worry though, if you’re interested in visiting Cusco, to take part in the Inti Raymi festivities, you don’t have to worry about witnessing blood shed as whilst there will be “human sacrifices”, they’ll be theatrical performances. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll also be relieved to read that no animals are scarified as part of modern day Inti Raymi celebrations.
During the day long performance, actors will take on the roles of Incan royalty. However, the two central roles are that of the sun god Sapa Inca and his beautiful, ethereal wife Mama Ocllo. To be hand picked to play either role is one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed upon a Peruvian actor.
During the performance the actor portraying the sun god Sapa Inca will be placed on a throne and carried to the Sacsayhuamen, which is an ancient fortress, which overlooks Cusco. However, the king won’t travel to Sacsayhuamen alone as he’ll be joined by a large parade of actors, playing various members of Incan royalty. Expect to see a variety of beautiful, bright traditional costumes on parade.
Once the royal procession reaches the stairs of the fortress the sun god Sapa Inca will give a speech, before letting other members of the procession speak to the crowds. After Sapa Inca addresses his audience he’ll hand over the reigns to the representatives of the Suyos. Examples of which will include a serpent from the underworld, a puma, which represents earthly creatures and a condor who represents the heavens. If you’re a fan of ornate costumes, you won’t be disappointed when you spot the representatives of the Suyos in all of their finery.
Once each representative has spoken, a white llama will be ceremoniously “sacrificed” to the goddess who referred to as Earth Mother. If you’re a little shocked, just remember that no llamas will come to harm during the reenactment as props are used instead of a live llama. The llama’s “beating heart” then will be held up to the Earth Mother by a high priest, in the hope that she will bless the Incans with a fertile season of crops.
Whilst staying in Cusco you’ll get the opportunity to view streets lined with beautiful colonial city buildings and will get to stroll through markets where you’ll be able to purchase locally made handicrafts.
When to book your Inti Raymi adventure:
It’s well worth booking your plane flights and hotel accommodation well in advance as the Inti Raymi celebration is one of the most popular festivals in South America and draws thousands of tourists each year. If possible, ensure to start booking your vacation at least six months prior to the festival, which is held in June each year.
So if you’re passionate about getting off the beaten tourist track and experiencing a culture first hand, you won’t regret planning a vacation to Cusco, which coincides with the Inti Raymi festival. By attending the Festival of the Sun, you’ll get to experience what it would’ve been like to live in ancient times at witness a traditional Incan festival.