The origin of Inti Raymi has come from an era of great Incan leaders and an emperial birthplace. Cusco, whose essence is from this period: giving homage to the deities, thankful for the harvests obtained and exalting the fecundity of Mother Earth.
This festival has very important significance for the Andean world equal to religious celebrations in the western world. It is considered the major celebration of the Andes, taking a predominate place in the culture of the indigenous villages. This is owed in great part to the period of maturation of the fruits of Pachamama in which there is a massive participation of the communities in the harvests that are seen in the region.
In this traditional indigenous festival each ethnic group and each community has a date and time for its own celebrations. Meanwhile, various communities begin on June 22 with a cleansing ritual in rivers, watersheds and sacred waterfalls, others wait for their day and moment to arrive to begin their festivities.
In all the indigenous communities of the Otavalo canton there are ceremonies celebrating Inti Raymi.
Armay Chishi – Ritual Cleansing
This ritual is held on June 22, the summer solstice. The waterfalls, rivers and watersheds possess special sites where energy is concentrated during the year and the cleansing ritual captures new strengths, eliminates negative energies accumulated in the year and begins the celebration of Inti Raymi.
The cleansing has a clear feeling of purification and binds together significant rural areas for the festival.
The Songs and Dances
In the evening hours during the days of celebration, the atmosphere is inundated with music in the streets and small paths. You can appreciate troupes of rhythms, flutes and hamonies and the majority of these groups have string instruments such as guitars and violins. A few groups include a panpipe and some appreciate the modern influence using these melodies.
During the dancing, the traditional instruments produce an ecstacy of strength, limitless courage and profound feelings that are manifested in the linguistic expressions of joy such as ¡churay! ¡churay!, singing that invites the dancer to dance with strength and without stopping, ¡jari! ¡jari!, ¡kulun! ¡kulun!, among other exclamations.
The troupes are called “san juanitos”, whenever they enter a house it is without asking permission and the owners receive them with honor. Immediately, they form a circle of dancers that spin around the musicians who are permanently playing in the center.
At the end of the singing, dancing and nusic, all leave the house they were visiting and exclaim a final ¡oooojaja!, in one voice, denoting completion, satisfaction and relief after the ritual.
The dance and dancers behave in this manner to wake up Mother Earth so that they can receive karana or a gift through the ritual of Randi Randi or reciprocation.
La Rama de Gallos
This is one of the most interesting rituals of Inti Raymi. Its origin comes from the colonial period, where the haciendas practiced uyanza or the rejoicing festival after the harvest. With time this tradition was lost and in memory has been resumed with a change in form, la rama de gallos.
La Rama de gallos consists of one person involved in the community making a festival in honor of the Andean deities and assuming stewardship responsibility. This is the moment for sharing with family, neighbors and friends who come to the house of the steward with a chicken and continue in the ritual. Then the owners of the house prepare "chicken broth" and share with everyone. Later, someone from the group assumes responsibility to prepare for the next year but with the condition that they duplicate the effort to invite the community and maintain the ritual through time.
The Increasing, The Castle and the Ritual Meal
During Inti Raymi, the Kichwa Otavalo communities prepare a very special karana or sacred gift that is known as the Castle. The Castle is a well made arbor with common reed grasses where different types of fruits breads, bottles of liquor, money and garlic are hung.
The stewards prepare the castle every year and generation after generation of people that wish to be stewards next year carry the contents of the castle.
This is a ritual practiced to ultimately please the Andean deities and demonstrate prosperity through thanks to Mother Earth for her fruitfulness.
The participants mostly use traditional clothing, wearing masks, hats, scarves, and chaps.