Visiting Machu Picchu and its surroundings is always a magical and unforgettable experience not only for its beautiful landscapes, but also for the great Ancestral Ceremonies of the Inca Culture that its communities celebrate every year. For this reason, at PeruRail we recommend 5 Ancestral Ceremonies that you can be part of in Puno, Cusco and in the areas surrounding the road to Machu Picchu.
Pachamama Raymi: feast of the payment to the earth
Pachamama Raymi means in Castilian «Feast of Mother Earth» and is celebrated every year the first week of August. In it, the people of Cusco pay homage to Mother Earth in gratitude for the good harvests of the year that are the main livelihood of the families during the year.
The festival begins on August 1, the day the peasants do not work the land to allow them to rest and thus begin the ritual of payment. In this ceremony called “haywasqa” (payment to the land) and which is headed by an Andean priest known as “Pako”, foods worked and produced by Mother Earth are used, such as huayruro seeds, coca leaves, chicha de jora and other drinks (drinks that you will also find on our Belmond Hiram Bingham train). All the provisions must be cooked as a sign of respect for the land, and then dig a hole and put all the offerings in it in such a way that the Pachamama is fed.
Inti Raymi: The Festival of the Sun
This is one of the most important festivities in Cusco and every year it brings together thousands of people for its celebration. The Inti Raymi or Fiesta del Sol celebrates the winter solstice every June 24. Here the Inca is in charge of performing a ritual to honor the most important divinity of Tahuantinsuyo: the Sun.
The ceremony begins in the Coricancha Temple (today the Santo Domingo Convent) with the salute to the Sun. After this, the Inca and the mayor of Cusco meet in Haucaypata and finally carry out the central ceremony to the north of the city in the Esplanade of the Sacsayhuamán fortress at more than 3,600 meters above sea level.
Currently, a hundred actors who use typical Inca clothing, meet in this archaeological complex and perform a representation of what was originally the invocation of the Sun by the Inca.
The Qoyllur Riti or «Snow Star» (for its Quechua meaning) is a religious festival celebrated in Cusco a few days before Corpus Christi and 58 days after Easter.
This festival fuses aspects of the Andean cultures of pre-Columbian times with the religion implanted by the Spanish after their arrival. Although Christ is used as an image for this festival, what is venerated is the fertility of the earth, the worship of the apus (hills) and the relationship between man and nature.
For this celebration, faithful and delegations of dancers from various places in Cusco meet in Mahuayani and make a pilgrimage of 8.5 km through the Sinakara Valley until they reach the Sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Riti.
Andean New Year
Every June 21 and coinciding with the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, the Andean New Year celebration takes place. In Andean cultures, this moment was known as the beginning of a new stage for nature conducive to sowing and with it a new moment in people’s lives.
Every year, the authorities together with the communities carry out rituals and cultural activities to celebrate, the most prominent being the offering to the sun. This activity is carried out in the early morning while waiting for the first rays of sun to thank for the fertility of the land and to ask for a good year.
Finally, a massive breakfast is made with Andean products such as potatoes, chuño, broad beans and quinoa so that each of the families does not suffer from lack of food in the new year.
Kasarakuy: marriage in the Andes
Kasarakuy comes from Quechua and means «to marry.» This festivity in which Peruvian couples marry in the same way as their parents and ancestors did, takes place only in August, coinciding with great festivities such as, for example, the aforementioned Pachamama Raymi.
One of the peculiarities of this celebration is that the entire community is a participant in the formal union of these couples dancing to the beat of huaynos and wearing typical clothing of the Andean cultures. The organization of the celebration is in the hands of the families of the couples, the godparents and the godparents, who are in charge of preparing the food, decorations and drinks in their respective homes.