Gold mint in the sky

The sky was blue and the summer sun hot on my back, as I glided along, enjoying the hills and valleys below. That’s when I got philosophical. It’s the sun that does all this — provides energy and light, reduces stress, maintains strong bones, strengthens our immune system... not to mention the benefits to the flora and fauna. Don’t you think we should celebrate it?

I scoured the net and discovered Inti Raymi in Cusco, Peru, on June 24. As luck would have it, there were tours being organised too. In truth, I don’t need to register with these tours, as I can wing it (get it?). But the benefit of going with a group is a detailed explanation about everything you see and hear. Of course, this tour had all COVID-19 protocols in place.

Hail the sun

The minute the tour began, the guide was on a roll. The Incas, he said, celebrate the sun. Originally, the 15-day festival was celebrated on June 21, to coincide with the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. It is also the beginning of the Andean New Year: Inti Raymi. Inti means Sun, considered the creator — along with Pachamama or Mother Earth — of the universe.

It was a luxurious and colourful celebration with dances and performances dedicated to the Inca ruler, who was considered a demigod. The Sun is worshipped and sacrifices are offered to ensure that he does not leave the Earth. Sadly, the last celebration was held in 1535, in the presence of the Inca emperor. The Spanish invasion of 1536 put paid to further celebrations.

But tradition is tradition, right? So, today, Inti Raymi is a theatrical performance and thousands of people from Cusco and all over the world come together not only to uphold their tradition but also to remind every Peruvian that Inca blood flows through their veins and of the need to remember their history.

I found myself a seat at the Main Square, also known as the Esplanade of Sacsayhuamn, which gave me a 360° view of the proceedings. I watched as a group of acllas (chosen women) sprinkled flowers accompanied by Pichaq men, so called as they were responsible for scaring away evil spirits with their straw brooms. Then came the hunchback or kumillo carrying an umbrella (achiwa) made of coloured feathers. There were more processions and dances and the whole thing was impressive and actually brought a tear to my eye, thinking of all the history and ancient knowledge that had been destroyed.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 3:18:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/gold-mint-in-the-sky/article34809619.ece

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