Inti Raymi is an old Inca festival to worship the sun which takes place every year on the 24th of June.
Before the colonial Spaniards banned the ceremonial events occurring each Winter Solstice in Cuzco, the native residents gathered to honor the Sun God, sacrifice an animal to ensure good crops and to pay homage to the Inca, as the first born Son of the Sun.
The ceremonies took place at the winter solstice, when the sun is farthest from the earth. Fearing the lack of sun and ensuing famine, the ancient Incas gathered in Cuzco to honor the Sun God and plead for his return. In 1572, Viceroy Toledo banned Inti Raymi celebrations as contrary to the Catholic faith. Following the edict, the ceremonies went underground. Today, it’s the second largest festival in South America. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Cuzco from other parts of the nation, South America and the world for a week long celebration marking the beginning of a new year. There are events every day, expositions, street fairs and people dancing in the streets. The best of Peruvian musical groups come to the Plaza de Armas for free concerts.
The centerpiece of the festival is the all-day celebrations on June 24, the actual day of Inti Raymi. On this day, the ceremonial events begin in the Qorikancha, Here, the Sapa Inca calls on the blessings from the sun. Following the oration, Sapa Inca is carried on a golden throne in a procession to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán, in the hills above Cuzco. With the Sapa Inca come the high priests, garbed in ceremonial robes, then officials of the court, nobles and others, all elaborately costumed according to their rank, with silver and gold ornaments. Once all the celebrants are in place in the grand square of the fortress, there are speeches by Sapa Inca, the priests and other representatives. The ceremony of Inti Raymi ends with a procession back to Cuzco. Sapa Inca and Mama Occla are carried on their thrones, the high priests and representatives of the Supas pronounce blessings on the people.
Inti Raymi is an all-day event, with at least five hours spent at Sacsayhuamán.