The Empire of the Incas was the greatest native state ever to appear in the Americas. Overcoming the seemingly impossible obstacles of their environment and limitations of technology, the Incas created one of the world’s most unusual civilizations.
The Inca Empire included parts of the modern countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. From the capital city of Cusco, Peru, the Inca rulers controlled a vast territory.
Inca kings were believed to be descendants of Inti, the Sun god, and the people viewed the king as a god on earth. The Incas were a naturalistic and ritualistic people who worshipped the sun, god Inti, and the earth goddess Pachamama, as well as the moon, thunder, lightning, and rainbow, which were all regarded as deities.
In Quechua, Inti means Sun and Raymi celebration. Inti Raymi is the celebration of the God Sun, the most venerated god in Incan religion. According to Inca tradition, Pachatutec, the first Inca, created the Inti Raymi to celebrate the winter solstice (an astronomical event that happens twice a year when the Sun’s apparent position in the sky, as viewed from Earth, reaches its northernmost and southernmost extremes), which marked the first day of the New Year in the Incan calendar. The winter solstice begins on June 21st but according to the Incas, the sun stays in the same place until the 24th when it finally rises. Therefore, every year on June 24th the festival of the Inti Raymi takes place in the city of Cusco.
The metal used to venerate Inti (Sun) and to get closer to him, was gold since gold shines like the sun. Therefore, the Incas made gold vases and plates to serve food to the gods, gold jewelry for the nobility, gold knives known as Tumis for sacrificing animals and performing surgery, and decorated their temples with sheets of gold, and altars of solid gold.
Inti Raymi was one of the most important celebrations in the Inca Empire. The celebrations lasted nine consecutive days and took place in the main plaza in the city of Cusco. Three days before the start of the celebrations the participants had to go through a purification period in which they had to fast and the only food allowed to eat was white maize and an herb called chucam. All these rituals were accompanied by dances and sounds of shells and musical instruments. Participants of the ceremony were the Sapa Inca, the nobility and the Inca army.
The last Inti Raymi in which an Inca Emperor was present took place in 1535. In 1572 the Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, claimed that it was a pagan ceremony opposed to the Catholic faith, and completely prohibited any celebrations of Inti Raymi on behalf of the Spanish conquerors and the Catholic Church. The Festival of the Sun didn’t resurface until 1944, when a theatrical representation of it was held for the first time; Inti Raymi has been an annual development in Cusco ever since.