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SACSAYHUAMAN, The Royal House of the Sun God

Visitors to this magnificent Inca site can’t help but to be impressed by its scale and symmetric beauty. Although the Spaniards referred to Sacsayhuaman as a “fortress,” researchers have determined that it was a temple dedicated to the Sun God, or Inti in Quechua. The cyclopean Sacsayhuaman overlooks the valley from a hill above Cusco. It is said that, in the Inca city plan, Cusco, the capital of the Empire, was laid out in the shape of a puma (an animal sacred in the Inca cosmovision), with Sacsayhuaman forming its head and jaws.

The Incas worshipped the Sun, Inti, as source of all life, so every year during the Winter Solstice (in the Southern Hemisphere) they would summon and celebrate the Sun God through a magnificent and sacred ceremony lead by the Inca Emperor himself—this ceremony came to be known as the Inti Raymi, or the Festival of the Sun God. Though the Spaniards banned the celebrations for their pagan nature and dissonance with the Catholic faith, which they vehemently imposed on the Inca Empire, the knowledge of the rituals and the fervor with which it was celebrated survived in the minds and hearts of the Inca peoples, who still celebrate the Inti Raymi every June 24 with an imposing and colorful reenactment of the feast. The ceremony takes place, as it did when the Incas ruled Peru, in the grassy plaza at the heart of Sacsayhuaman.

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