Sacsayhuaman is one of the most impressive Inca temples in the Cusco City and definitely one of the most beautiful places of Peru. It is located in the northern zone of the Cusco, to 2 Kilometers of the Downtown of the city. The entire complex covers around 3093 hectares. Originally, Cusco was designed with the shape of Puma (wildcat) and the Sacsayhuaman Temple was constructed to be the head of the Puma.
The name of the temple is a composed Quechua word (the language of the Inca Empire), which derives from “Saqsay” that means “to satisfy” and the word “Waman” that means “falcon”; then Sacsayhuaman would mean satisfied falcon. Nevertheless, another theory proposes that the correct translation of the name is speckled falcon.
Like most Inca structures, Sacsayhuaman was constructed using huge stones, which fit perfectly so that neither a sheet of paper could pass between them. The Sacsayhuaman Temple has a very special design with walls in zigzag, because of this uncommon design similar to some castles in Europe, Spanish invaders believed that Sacsayhuaman was a fortress. Nevertheless, the Sacsayhuaman Temple was dedicated to the Andean God Illapa (the Ray or Lightning), which was very important to the agriculture rituals; this deity is the true reason of the shape of the Sacsayhuaman Temple.
The main zone of the temple is composed by three zigzagging ramparts, built with giant pieces of stone, which can reach until 8 meters high and 361 tons weight. Many of the stones used in the temple were brought to Sacsayhuaman from a quarry, located around 35 Kilometers from the temple. The three ramparts represent also the Andean Cosmology, which was composed by three universes: Hanaq Pacha (this is the world where gods live), Kay Pacha (the reality where we live) and the Uhu Pacha (the underworld).
The amazing stones stretch in a zigzag pattern for almost 400 meters. The stones support earthworks on top of which, there are more structures. In front to the three ramparts, there is a flat green plaza (square), which was used with ceremonial purposes. This square is presided by a magnificent throne carved into one piece of granite, which was used by the Inca (the King) in the ceremonies.
The complex has also an enigmatic system of underground passages known as “Chincanas”; it believes that these Chincanas connected the Temple of Sacsayhuaman with other temples and palaces and temples in Cusco, such as the Qoricancha (Sun’s Temple), the Cathedral, the Santa Catalina Convent, amongst other. There are some satellite images that sustain this theory.
The complex has also a zone with large stone slides, which are used now as an entertainment place. Originally, there had also three turrets Muyucmarca, Sallacmarca and Paucarmarca, the most famous of them, Muyucmarca was a cylindrical turret of 22 meters diameter and 4 levels. During the Manco Inca’s revolution, one of his captains, named Cahuide decided to throw oneself into the void from the turret, preferring to die before falling into the hands of the European invaders. Unfortunately this turret was destroyed and currently, it can see only the remains its base.
Besides, Sacsayhuaman is surrounded by a great number of beautiful Inca temples like Puca Pucara, Q’enko or the amazing water fonts of Tambomachay. If you want to visit Sacsayhuaman there are many bus lines, taxis and private travel agencies available in Cusco. The temple is only to 15 minutes by car from the Downtown of the city. Sacsayhuaman is one of the places that it must definitely visit if you are in South America.
Archeologists believe that the construction of Sacsayhuaman began in the second half of the XV century. The temple was built by order of the Inca Pachakuteq, who was the greatest king of the Great Inca Empire. Nevertheless, the construction of the temple was continued after the Pachakuteq’s death by his son Túpac Yupanqui and by his grandson Huayna Capac. Archeologists calculates that the construction of Sacsayhuaman lasted around 50 years and 20 000 men were used to built this monumental work. According to the Cusqueño (born in Cusco) writer Inca Garcilazo de la Vega, the construction of the temple was headed successively by four important Inca builders: Apu Huallpa Rimachi, Inca Maricanchi, Acahauana Inca and Callacunchuy. Nevertheless, there are not registers that confirm this asseveration.
During the Spanish invasion in 1536, Manco Inca one of the first men that fought against the Spanish invaders in the New World, use the Sacsayhuaman Temple as base to combat against Spaniards; therefore, Spaniards believed that the temple was a fortress. Unfortunately, Manco Inca lost the battle and decided to move the capital of the Empire to Vilcabamba, which was the home of the Vilcabamba Dynasty, the last Inca Panaqa (Royal family) of Peru. After the defeat of Manco Inca, a great part of Sacsayhuaman was dismantled and many beautiful stones of the temple were used to build new colonial buildings in Cusco. During the colonial age, which lasted 300 years the temple was abandoned. Only in the XX century the people of Cusco revalued the greatness of their glorious past and decided to retrieve the sacred Temple of Sacsayhuaman.
Today Sacsayhuaman is one of the main archeological sites of Cusco and South America. Besides, the temple is used every year to celebrate on June 24, the famous Inti Raymi (Fest of the Sun). This fest is celebrated since the Inca time in the winter’s solstice. It is the most important celebration in Cusco and one of the main celebrations of the country. In this fest, local actors stage the ritual Inca worship in honor to the God Sun. The local actors play and dance, using typical and colorful costumes, repeating the tradition of their ancestors.
In the last years several investigations has been made in Sacsayhuaman and many other important archeological discoveries have been done. In March 2008, a group of scientists of the INC (National Culture Institute of Peru) found the remains of a new temple in the Sacsayhuaman area, as well as a very complex hydraulic net. They found also several remains of funeral ceremonies and a great quantity of ceramics and metal items, which belonged to the Inca civilization. These discoveries are allowing to the archeologists to build a best picture of the real role of Sacsayhuaman in the Inca time.
Currently, Sacsayhuaman is used also by many local and foreign people to do yoga, tai chi and meditate, taking advantage of the peaceful and mystical atmosphere of the temple. Sacsayhuaman is one of the most wonderful places of Peru and America.