The sun festival (Inti: sun, Raymi: party) is prepared for weeks. The natives thank the sun and Pasha Mama (Mother Earth) for the year's harvest with a colorful celebration, symbols and music. You can attend the Inti Raymi in Ecuador!
There were actually two sun festivals, the wawa inti raymi (children's sun festival) on the winter solstice, and the capaq inti raymi (great sun festival) on the summer solstice. The most important celebration is that of the rising sun, where the rebirth of the Sun is celebrated for a new cycle, the beginning of the Inca year.
It indicated the beginning of the year as well as the mythical origin of the Inca and lasted 9 days during which dances and sacrifices took place. The last Inti Raymi in the presence of the Inca emperor was held in 1535. It was subsequently banned in 1572 by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo being considered a pagan ceremony contrary to the Catholic faith, but nevertheless continued to be celebrated clandestinely.
In June, during the solstice (called summer solstice in the northern hemisphere or winter solstice in the southern hemisphere), which takes place around June 21. The solstices (in Latin "stopped Sun") are the moments of the year when the duration of the day or the night reaches the maximum.
In Europe it corresponds to the beginning of summer.
The major epicenters of this celebration are currently in the north of Ecuador, near Quito. In particular the populations of Otavalo, Peguche, Cotacachi, Cayambe, Zuleta.
But also all along the Ecuadorian Andes Cordillera, to the south. As in Kisapincha, near Ambato, Salasaka, Saraguro in the south or Ingapirca, temple of the sun of the Inca era with the Cañaris - Inca.
Origin of Inty Raymi?
The Sacred Festival of the Sun dates back to the time of the Inca Empire and is considered one of the most important of the festive calendar of the indigenous peoples of the Andes.
It marked the beginning of the new year and brought together the most important people of the empire. At the same time, the representatives of the conquered peoples reiterated their loyalty to the emperor. The preparation was strict, 3 days before people ate little, did not light fires in the cities and men did not sleep with their wives.
When the day came, the sovereign and his family waited for the sun barefoot. Then worship in the sun began with offerings and a great meal accompanied by Chicha. Celebrations could last several days.
Interesting: this cult survived the invasion, colonization and some dictatorial and even democratic systems wishing to eradicate it.
The ceremonies include very dynamic popular theatrical performances with mythological characters like Aya Una. But also great dance rituals, popular music and an explosion of colors in the clothes of actors and participants.
The Kichwa community of Imbabura, in the north of the country, has kept this ancestral tradition. For them, it is the beginning of a new year. It is the main celebration and by its characteristics one could consider it as their Christmas. The natives make and offer new clothes which will be worn on the day of the Mass of Saint John.
This spiritual feast is rich in symbols. Among them, the renewal of the energies of the people as well as the instruments played, the representation of the rotation and the translation of the earth, the representation of the symbol of wisdom through the dance of the serpent, the orientation of Aya Uma (mythological character with two heads representing the day and the night. And 12 horns, one for each month of the year. He embodies the spirit of the mountain that guides the dancers and accompanies them in all ceremonies dedicated to the sun, the moon and nature. The Aya Uma are carefully selected. They must be responsible, honest and respected by the community).
During the month of May and the first 3 weeks of June the natives prepare themselves physically and spiritually for the realization of dances. They also gather all the ingredients to prepare Chicha (fermented corn-based drink), cuy (guinea pig), chicken, mote (corn), which are the main dishes of the celebration
Inti Raymi is celebrated from house to house and from community to community. In all the houses the dancers are welcomed with drinks and dishes, whatever the time of their passage.
There is also a castle on an altar, surrounded by offerings from relatives or friends. Bread, bananas, alcohol, money, etc., products of mother earth and products symbolizing well-being.
The dancers have to bend to the bath ritual, often in the nearest river in order to purify their spirit, renew their energy and strengthen their relationship with nature.
On the eve of the feast, the Mass of Saint John, symbol of the syncretism of peoples, is celebrated.
The day of the Inti Raymi, the main and most impressive event takes place. It is the "Toma" (the capture) of the main square of Otavalo. Where large groups of dancers (from 30 to 100) organized by each community, follow an impeccable script of songs, cries and particular movements. This ended with a great popular festival with dances, music, traditional dishes and drinks, including chicha. Sacred gifts, fireworks castles are surprising, they represent the power of light, fire and power.
The festival lasts several days and ends with the celebration of Saint Peter, which takes place in the main square of the community and is animated by a banda de pueblo (group of local musicians).
If you have the chance to visit Ecuador in this period of time you should absolutely go to Otavalo to see this incredible culture. It is the best way to do it.