Raqchi – The Wiracocha Temple
Origin and meaning
The name “Raqchi” comes from the indigenous language Quechua and describes a clay pot fired from clay. The origin of the word also describes precisely the main activity of the population of this region, to which this archaeological place Raqchi was located since the pre-hispanic period and from which the inhabitants of this region brought their ceramics to various places in the south of the Andes. The inhabitants of Raqchi’s “ceramists” or “artisans” have always been known and are still very much associated with the ceramic craftsmanship. During archaeological excavations, the researchers repeatedly found many ceramics from pre-hispanic times.
The small farming community Raqchi is located in the district of San Pedro, which belongs to the province of Cusco with the Canchis region. The town is accessible from the road that connects Cusco and Puno, by bus, coletivo or even on foot. It is also on the map on the banks of the Vilcanota river. With its three residential districts, Hanansaya, Urinsaya and Qullana Ayllu, the community consists of approximately 150 families that preserve their cultural identity and ancient structures. The ruins are about 100 km south of Cusco and can be seen from the road. Despite everything, it is therefore quite far from the actual drive of the tourists, and thus largely spared the tourist flow from Cusco.
The Archaeological site “Wiracocha”
According to inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the citadel was built under the inca king Wiracocha. Between 1439 and 1471, during the reign of inca Pachacútec, it was expanded and completed in the third construction phase, according to the spanish conquistador, chronicler and historian Peru’s, Cienza de Leon under the inca Tupanqui between the years 1471 and 1493.
The sanctuary served basic purposes; religious ceremonies were held in honor of the god Wiracocha, who was considered the invisible chief god and became known as “Apu Kon Titi Wiraqocha”. Wiracocha is also considered the creator of the sun, moon, stars, animals, plants, humans and the earth. The place also served as a warehouse for food. Derived from the Quechua language name Wiraqocha is composed of the words “Wira” (water foam) and the word “Qucha” (the personification of the mother lagoon or goddess of water), in the indigenous cross, which is also under the name “Tawa Chakana” (an equilateral indigenous cross) is located. This is worshiped in the constellation “Willka mayu”, and the chakanas are carved in the main walls of the sanctuary.
For the time, the temple is a huge building. Architecturally, it is also called “Kallanka” (large covered house). It is a typical rectangular Inca construction with a thatched roof that accommodated several hundred people. The outer walls of the temple are around 92m long and 25.25m wide. The main wall comes to a height of three meters. The base with its niches of about 9 meters in length consists of stones of up to three meters in height. The mud walls are 1.65m high and about 1.30m thick from their base to the upper ends.
Particularly striking is the wall of mud bricks, which extends in the middle of the building complex up to a height of about twelve meters and thus divides the temple into two equal halves. The stone walls of the temple were built not only from clay, but also from the volcanic rock which was brought specially for the construction. As a result, the walls appear in a very different light than those of other temples. The centrally divided temple of Raqchi is assigned by the researchers of the pre-inca period, in which the Tiwanka culture finds its temporal assignment. Wiraquocha or today also Wiracqua was built according to inca Garcilaso de la Vega along with the citadel-like remnants of the plant under the inca king Wiracocha and therefore still bears his name today. Wiracocha was according to the stories of the Spaniards to one of the most important deities of the andes region around Cusco.
In the andean culture, the holy places were decorated with beautiful figures or decorated. Omnipresent is also the andean cross, which was engraved or made in plaster. In the Wiracocha temple, the cross was plastered with seven steps of the finest clay, representing the seven colors of a rainbow and the seven fixed shapes in the andean worldview of the time: man – woman, sun – moon, mountain – mother earth (pachamama), morning light – light of dusk, lightning – rain, rainbow – wind.
The three worlds of indigenous cosmovision are also embodied as: Hanq Pacha is represented by the “Mallku Kuntur”, the condor, which stands for wisdom and intelligence. For Kay Pacha, the world we all live in, the puma stands as a symbol of strength and tireless zest for action. Ukhu Pacha is represented by Amaru, the serpent who represents the encounter with nature and the deities of the earth or the universe.
The Inka Trail
Even the original route to the south, created by the Incas, the so-called Inka Trail leads directly through the temple complex of Wiracocha. Already the ancestors of the Inca expanded the first ways and paved them, built bridges and sentry posts. Qhapac Ñan, as the royal road of the Inca is also called, is still intact at the exit and entrance of the Wiracocha temple. Along these streets moved the “Chaskis,” the messenger runners who traveled long distances within the inca empire, as well as people who traveled to temples and cities for ceremonies. In the garden-like part, which is located just outside the temple complex, you can still see parts of the inkatrail and then, at the lower edge of the mountain, meet the immense staircases, which are very well preserved.
The core area of the plant
The buildings in the core area were exclusively reserved for the astronomical observations, which also predicted the agricultural calendar. Here were three parallel streets, twelve living rooms, each with a separation wall, which is very similar to the middle wall of the temple. Ten of these apartments were reserved for selected wise women. There were eight courtyards where the “Yachaq” and the “Awkis” communicated with Chakana, the sun, the moon, the stars and the shadow, the pleiades (a star cluster that is part of the milky way) and many other parts of the heavenly body. The sacred living quarters have 29 wall tables corresponding to the 29 moon cycles. In one of the sacred courtyards the winter solstice is celebrated on the 21st of june marking the beginning of the andean year.
The “Inti Tayta”, which appears at the height of the Apu Awkisa in one of the corners of the courtyard in the morning around 6:45, forms the first rays of sunshine in the streets to form a shadow of about 45 degrees. This shadow connects to the diagonal of the chakana and thus points to the orientation of the planet to the South Pole. It is quite impressive to see how the ancestors of the Inca managed to do so easily and aligned their buildings with the star system. The main street of the complex is after the sunrise and the summer solstice on December 21st. This is also the middle of the year in the Andean calendar.
The dwellings within the temple city were intended for wise people or those selected by the Apus, the deities of the mountains. For example, the “Paqu”, the Andean priest of “Llapa”, was struck by lightning. On special holy days rituals were performed here in the temple, at whose ceremonies also the acting “Raqchi Ayllu” took part.
On the south side of the Wiracocha temple there are 156 “Pirqa” round buildings on this site. They were built with a diameter of 8m from coarse volcanic rock and clay mortar. As a result, these buildings were very pleasantly air-conditioned for the residents. An important detail of these buildings, also called “Colcas”, is that they are earthquake resistant and each one is unique to itself. The round buildings were arranged so that they form 10 rows with small alleys in between. Each of these buildings has two small windows for ventilation and a door approximately 2m high and 0.65m wide. The research of various archaeologists has shown that they were originally once covered with a conical roof, the “Ichhus”. The shape of the roofs and buildings also suggests that they once served as granaries or storerooms when the Inca Empire kept large quantities of agricultural produce there. Thus, in the archaeological investigations, traces of maize, various potato varieties, Tarwi, Chuno, etc., and also meat products and also e.g. Chárki, a dried fish found and many other things. The society of Tahauntinsuyo put these for the times of famine and drought, just to be taken care of. Incidentally, the arrangement of the buildings in their grouping also resembles the shape of the constellation of the pleiades (a star cluster from the Milky Way) or “Qullqa”.
Usnu and rituals
The Ushnu is a pyramid-shaped construction used by the incas for the conduct of the ceremonies and worship of the gods. There is also concentrated a special magnetic force, which has a positive effect on the strengthening of the consciousness, with which the inca or the respective representative led the ceremonies and the ritual meetings. During the ritual gatherings, drinks were often prepared from the sacred coca leaves and presented to a specific group of people. There is also Wakás, a sacred place dedicated to the Deity of the Rock Mother. The mother of the rock should be so animated, but still remained immobile. Only very specific men and also women from the place Raqchi performed the rituals on the holy days. In the four apartments, which are located on the hill, the so-called “Yachaq” were prepared in the time of Tahauntinsuyo as a sign of a spiritual pooling of forces.
The main ceremony was the mutual communication between the gods of gratitude and the spirits associated with the nature deities, such as the “Apus”, the deities who live in the mountain peaks, the “Pachamama” (mother earth and goddess of fertility) , as well as the “Wakás” (These include: The sun, the moon, the stars, the lightning, the water and the hail). The offerings included selected coca leaves called “k’intus”, chicha (fermented beer from corn), “untu” (alpaca fats), wine, “Huayruros” (a colorful red-black seed), corn and others. This ritual serves to mediate between the divine and human worlds and is carried out in the months of august, february, but also other times.
The Holy Fountain Springs
The so-called “Bath of the Incas” consists of five small waterfalls, which were worshiped. The “Unv mama” is the “waká” or goddess of the water, the mother of all life. The vital and crystalline fluid that springs from the sacred lagoons of Apu Awkisa and Inka Puhu symbolizes the spiritual cleansing of the people who gather in Raqchi and become spiritual and spiritual before entering the places of ceremonies had to wash. Two of these waterfalls follow the solstices and the three others continue to communicate with the “chakana” (the indigenous cross).
The chapel of Raqchi and the souvenirs in the entrance area
The first stories of the record name the building as a chapel of the archangel Michael already in a time about 300 to 350 years ago. Edilfonso Mamani and Marcos Arósquipa Rodriguez are responsible for the construction of the Hanansaya Tower, built by Manuel Amaru. The latter then took over the construction of the Urinsaya tower. All three were born in Raqchi and were higher stonemasons.
For the construction and the acquisition of the volcanic rock one used “Ayni” or the system of the common agricultural work. The women spread the food and holy chicha. The location of the chapel was decided uniformly. Now the chapel is between 300 and 350 years old and houses two virgins and a catholic saint: De las nieves, the archangel Michael and Rosario. Their respective religious ceremonies will take place on 5th august, 29th september and 17th and 18th october. Typical dances are performed, including Quyache, Kate Wayna, Auqa Chileno and Qhapaq Qulla.
The beauty of this ruins is that it is not so crowded and if you come earlier in the morning, then you can enjoy the resort even without many other tourists. During the week various travel companies (also from Germany, Austria and Switzerland) drive on the from Puno to Cusco or on the opposite way over here and hold only relatively briefly to see the temple complex. But the time for the bus rides are already very tight and the programs are organized very tightly so that there is hardly any time left for a complete visit, let alone for an own exploration. so at least the statements of some bus drivers, we could interview. It is worthwhile to visit Raqchi as individually as possible.
As in many other places of interest, so here in Raqchi are small stalls and shops, where you can buy souvenirs. There are e.g. handmade ceramics and of course clothes, bags and a lot of little things offered.
Is a place on the way from Cusco to Puno and vice versa. The entry to the temple ruins currently costs 10 Soles and is payable locally
Daily departures at a time we go to arrange with you
Level of Difficulty
- If you want to get a private tour with explanations, then there is the possibility to negotiate with the local leaders. The guided tour with our friend Lidia e.g. costs 20 Soles. Otherwise, you can also fall back on us, should we accompany your tour.
- This place can be reached on the way from Puno to Cusco or vice versa with your own vehicle or by bus with INKAExpress.
- More information about departure times of the bus and the complete travel program, we will gladly put together on request.