Religious Significance in Machu Picchu


¿Why is it important Machu Picchu?

Beside of being one of the most interesting places to visit in Perú, this site was an important and sacred place to the entire Tahuantinsuyo Empire.

The way that it was built, the inaccessible and rugged location puts Machu Picchu as a unique place, because only few persons has permission to enter to this magical and beautiful Sanctuary to perform the rituals and ceremonies related to their gods and their principal festivities.

¿Who were these deities?

Many of the Gods that the Incas worshiped were from the environment, like the thunder, the moon, the sun, and so on. All of them reflect the respect that the Incas had to their place where they living, and the balance between the places that they built and the nature itself.

The Pachamama (Mother earth)

Was a goddess that symbolized the fertility and the harvest, practice so important among the Inca inhabitants.

There’s one ritual that evocates the importance of the soil, it’s called Challa Tuesdays, that implies several rituals like pouring Chicha, and ancient and sacred beverage, and the rest of the Chicha is drank between the persons who participate on the ritual.

Nowadays the cult to the Pachamama has changed and took the form of a Christian cult, like the Virgen de la Candelaria and many others religious festivities.

The Sun, The almighty god

Father, god, and other adjectives are said of this deity. His importance lies on the fact that he is the principal benefactor of all living creatures, he brings the light that the plants needs to create oxygen, without him the day wouldn’t exist, and is relate to one material in particular: The gold, according to the Inca Mythology, the sun was made of gold, and every time that one artifact, like earrings, capes and sticks are part of the greatest god of all.

Wiracocha, the Creator

Apu-kon-tiki Wiracocha was his full name, he was and androgynous deity, creating by himself (Hermaphrodite), he was and still are one of the most important deities for the Andean people. His cult covered every place of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, he is associated to the creation of the universe, and is related to the sea, since according to the ancient mythology, he returned to the ocean once he create the universe, and promise to comeback. His appearance was described as a white man, average stature, with a white tunic and a book on his hand. From all that descriptions, many natives of the Tahuantinsuyo believe that the Spanish conquers were Wiracocha, their god and their savior.

Harmony and balance in the Inca life.

To all ancient cultures, there’s got to be a good and appropriate balance between the nature and the environment, since these cultures believes in the duality of the universe (day-night, up-down, and life-death).

The Incas were not the exception, their believes was related to find places to serve as a point of reference to build some of their most amazing structures, that is the case of Machu Picchu. In this Sanctuary are combined one of the most important believes that the Incas had, represent the 3 worlds or universe that exist in the Incan believes:

Uku Pacha (the dead’s world): According to the Incan Mythology, this is the world where all people go to their final destination. In Machu Picchu has been found many caves, and inside the caves are mummies that belong to this world.

Kay Pacha (The world of the present): This is where the people live; the present is just a stage, a place where you’re only passing by. Machu Picchu was built to perform as a small city, so the people can live quiet and peaceful.

Hanan Pacha (The world from up there): This is the world that belongs to the sky, the heavenly world. It was made to the principal and important gods lived there (The Sun, The Moon and the Mother Earth). In the Sanctuary there are several place where the gods were worshiped, like the Intihuatana, to celebrate the cult of the Sun, The temple of the Moon (the partner of the Sun). Only the fair people can live in the Hanan Pacha, the path that leads to this place is by crossing a bridge that is made of hair.

Sacred places

Since everything that nature has left his mark on the Inca believes is considered as sacred, many natural formations like a river, mountain, lake, were considered as an origin point.


These places are considered sacred because all of the Incas and their subjects belong to a specific Pacarina, for example the Incas belong to the most important Pacarina of all: The Titicaca Lake, that according to many legends and myths, this is where Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo come out and found the first group of people that lived on the Inca territory.


In the Andes is called Huaca to all that is sacred but in this case is a monument, or in other cases is the top of the mountain or a river shore. The Huacas are associated to the religious rituals and ceremonies, and also related to the agricultural production. By the time of the Spanish arrive to these lands, many of the Huacas has been destroyed, because according to their believes, in the Huacas is where the devil and all evil lived, and that’s why many Churches were built on the rest of the Huacas, like the good has won over evil.

¿Was Machu Picchu a Huaca?

Zadir Milla, on his book ¨The secret code of Machu Picchu¨ said that the Sanctuary was a Huaca (Waka wasi in the native language, Quechua) and also was a Yachay Wasi (House of knowledge), because in this place were located observatories, and astronomic altars.

According to this author, Machu Picchu and Caral are both citadels that have architectonic resemblance; many iconographic places are hiding on the vegetation, like the condor head, the Ushnu that was a pyramidal construction to celebrate the most important rituals and ceremonies performed by the Inca, and this structure have archaeo-astronomic purposes.


Was a stone that represents the ancient people, gods or gods that brought the knowledge to the civilization, which according to the myths the stones were people that turn into the stone, to sacralized the memory of the creators. There was a Wanka in the middle of the main square, but it was removed because of the visit of the King of Spain, to land his helicopter; this Wanka was never put on his original place.

Sacred animals in Machu Picchu

There are 3 animals who were worshiped by the Incas; each animal has a specific purpose and symbolism. These animals were adored because the abilities that each of them has: the ability of fly (Condor), the strength (Puma) and the speed (Snake).

Being able to absorbed some of the principal characteristics of the animals were a huge aspect in the Inca Cosmo vision, this ritual was so important because starts the guide through the Sanctuary and his connection with the Universe.

The symbolism of these three animals is reflected on the constellations above the Incan sky, and the behavior of the stars is related with the behavior of the animals in the earth.

The snake (Amaru)

This animal represents our own way through this world, like the snake, we moved crawling, trying to evolved and find our destiny and sense in the universe. The Sacsayhuaman fortress was built like the shape of the Snake, maybe because this animal represents the greatness of the construction. This animal has the characteristic of roam without precaution, but also the snake can eat itself, like it was some kind of routine or vicious circle, not evolving to the next step or animal, the Puma.

The Puma (Uturunku)

This animal is one of the strongest in the Inca believes, he’s the one who lead us to an emotional journey through the courage, one of the characteristics more outstanding of this animal.

The Puma show us how attack fear, a feeling so ancient and innate to the human being, since the fear of die is one of the first concerns since the dawn of humankind. The city of Cusco was designed as Puma shape, because this way the city has no fear when intruders could attack the city.

The Condor (Kuntur)

The Condor teaches us the ability of fly and freedom, and to transform into this animal we got to transcend from our state of mind and liberate from our body to feel the freedom in our soul and essence.

Is one of the most sacred animals in the Inca Cosmo Vision, because he lives on the heights and rules the skies, like he was the master of the wind, the clouds and the sky.

In Machu Picchu there’s a temple called el Condor, leaving his mark as one of the most transcendental animals in the Inca universe.

¿The real name of Machu Picchu was Patallacta?

The Sanctuary creates a lot of unsolved mysteries, and of them is what was his real name and what was his function, because many chroniclers said that The Inca Pachacutec was buried in one of the temples of Machu Picchu.

A Spanish Historian, María Del Carmen Martín Rubio said that Patallacta was the original name of the Citadel, and probably the mummy of the Inca Pachacutec could be buried here. She based her studies reading and investigates about two chroniclers, Sarmiento de Gamboa and Juan de Betanzos, they wrote about that this Inca conquered the Vilcabamba Jungle called Antisuyo ( One of the parts of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire) and after that he send to build a city near this location, to keep the corn production on the constructions called Andenes (Platforms) and other materials like gold and silver as part of the tribute that the citizens gave to the Empire.

But one of the traditions that the Incas had was buried some parts of the body, hair, nails and other parts, but not the entire body was buried, because he was afraid of what the Vilcabamba people could do to his mummy, because these people were very brave and to Pachacutec was not easy conquered.

¿What was the meaning of buried two bulks? The Incas did this because when somebody declares war to them, they carried one bulk with some of the parts of the Inca, in a way to bring them luck and strength to the battle, the other bulk was put in the sacred place, in this case Patallacta.

But the real Pachacutec mummy was buried in the Coricancha (the temple of the Sun) place where all the mummies were leave there, this is corroborated by the chronicler Polo de Ondegardo, who saw the Pachacutec mummy 60 or 70 years after his dead. The mummy was conserved in a good shape, hiding it in the Totocachi neirbourghood, known these days as the San blas neirbourghood, one of the most peculiar and interesting places to visit.

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