Peru’s Inti Raymi Festival

Peru’s Inti Raymi Festival
The Inti Churin (Son of the Sun) is carried
Photo by Cynthia Motta

The country of Peru is known for the richness of its culture, traditions, and the veneration of its Inca ancestors. One of the most celebrated events is the Inti Raymi festival which takes place on June 24 and marks the New Year, according to the Inca calendar. This date is significant since Peru is below the equator, making June and July winter months with the winter solstice officially marked on June 24th.

The name Inti Raymi comes from the Quechuan language meaning ‘Sun Festival.’ The festival began as a religious ceremony held by the Inca Empire in honor of Inti, the Sun God. The commemoration takes place on June 24th specifically because the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year with the fewest hours of sunlight. Inti is honored and beseeched to return the sun, thereby ensuring the flourishing of crops, and granting the gift of life to people and animals. 

Peru's Inti Raymi Peru’s Inti Raymi Festival
Spectators, including international visitors, gather every year to watch the ceremony and take part in the parade of people dressed in woven costumes and masks.

In the early 16th century, Spanish conquistadors suppressed the rites and other Inca practices and enforced the spread of Catholicism. The festival was renewed in 1944 by Faustino Espinoza Navarro and is again celebrated throughout the Andes. Once the capital of the Inca Empire, Cuzco is the principal location of Inti Raymi celebrations, which are held among original Inca architecture. 

The Return of the Inti Raymi Celebration. Image From 1944

The revised festival stays close to the ancient traditions with some small but significant changes. The original festival lasted from the early hours of the day to nightfall with people gathering for the religious ceremony. Then, as now, the event is filled with dances, food and the burning of cocoa leaves. 

Raising an offering to Inti, the Sun God.

Today, the festivities occur in three different stages. In Cuzco, events begin in the early morning in front of Korikancha, the Inca Temple of Sun, to which the Inti Churin, or Son of the Sun, has been carried on a litter. At the temple, the representatives of the four suyos (or regions) of the Inca Empire start off the ceremony by calling praise unto Inti. The next event takes place with a parade led by these representatives to the Plaza de Armas where the cocoa leaves are burned. It is believed that the flames reveal the fate of the coming year. Originally, mummies of ancestors were carried during the parade. Lastly, at the Sacsayhuaman, another Inca ruin, the ceremony is closed with the sacrifice of a llama. In ancient times, the sacrifices included 2 children from each of the four regions, if the preceding year had been particularly difficult. Nowadays, the sacrifices are merely symbolic, though some more distant regions may still sacrifice a llama. 

At NOVICA, our Andean artisans help to keep their culture alive by creating traditional jewelry and other items that celebrate the majesty of the Inca.

Incan Sun God 925 Sterling Silver and Ceramic Inca Sun Necklace from Peru Peru’s Inti Raymi Festival
‘Incan Sun God’ Ceramic Inca Necklace from Peru
Click Image For More Details
Inca Offering Cultural Serpentine Stone Inca Sculpture from Peru Peru's Inti Raymi Festival
‘Inca Offering’ Cultural Serpentine Stone Inca Sculpture from Peru
Click Image For More Details
Inca Geometry Cuzco Ceramic Decorative Vase Peru's Inti Raymi Festival
‘Inca Geometry’ Cuzco Ceramic Decorative Vase
Click Image For More Details

Peru’s Inti Raymi festival is now one of the largest annual celebrations in South America, second only to Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. It draws thousands of tourists every year and has spread to other areas of the world, even as far as Madrid, thanks to the travels of Quechua peoples.

Rate this post:
[Total: 1 Average: 5]
Share this:
Written By
Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

This is very interesting article. Nicely written

Cyntia Motta
Cyntia Motta
5 years ago

Hi. The first photo are taken by me, and was made available on Wikimedia, with the condition of being credited. Please correct them.

Pamela Hofman
Pamela Hofman
Reply to  Cyntia Motta
5 years ago

Hi Cynthia,

What wonderful photos! I am sorry you were not credited and we will correct that. There was no initial credit on the search page, but we still want to make sure that artists are the given proper acknowledgment for their work.

After further investigation, I was able to find your name on the first photo and it has been added to the caption as the photographer. Is the second one yours as well?

Thank you for contacting us!