Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, was a religious ceremony during the Inca Empire in honor of Inti, the god of the sun. In Quechua, Inti Raymi means “resurrection of the sun” or “the path of the sun”. The Incas turned to Inti, who was also known as the Giver of Life, in gratitude for his life-giving powers.
The festival, which is often simply called Raymi, also is a celebration of the end of winter. Inti Raymi took place in Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, during the winter solstice (roughly around June 24). It marked the times when the days started to get longer and people were about to return to the fields to plant seeds and later harvest the plants. During Inti Raymi, people request blessings from Pacha Mama, the Mother Earth.
Prior to the festival itself there was a three day fast. During this preparation period, no fires were lit. Inti Raymi itself lasted for nine days, during which people would celebrate by eating and drinking in honor of Inti. Dances and processions were held and during the first day of the festival animal sacrifices were made to ensure a good harvest.
While Inti Raymi had a religious component, it was essentially a great festival, with many days of drinking, music and dancing.
The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence took place in 1535, after which the Catholic Church banned it. While people secretly kept celebrating Inti Raymi in the following years by having similar ceremonies, it was completely prohibited in 1572.
It wasn’t until roughly two hundred years later, on June 21 of the year 1944, that a theatrical representation of the ceremony of Inti Raymi took place in Saxsayhuam, close to Cuzco. Today, Inti Raymi is celebrated, aside from Peru, in Ecuador, Bolivia and all the places where descendants of the Incan bloodline ( Kichwa Runas de Ecuador ) migrated to. The biggest celebration of Inti Raymi takes place in Saxsayhuam, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.