Korikancha, the Temple of the Sun is one of the most magnificent temples of ancient Peru. It is said ‘Koricancha’ means ‘Courtyard of Gold’ in Quechua, a native South American language – ‘kori’ gold and ‘kancha’ enclosure or yard. However in this translation, one sees the influence of the Spanish here as ‘kancha’ is Spanish for ‘court’ or ‘field’.
It is Sanskrit that decodes the name ‘Koricancha’ the best. ‘Kancha’ (कञ्च) is definitely of Sanskrit origin and means ‘gold’ or ‘golden’ or ‘that which pertains to the Sun’, and to ‘all that glitters’! Before the Spanish looted the KoriKancha Temple of all its jewels and gold and converted it into a Church, it was a glittering temple of legendary status and its walls were covered with sheets of gold. If there ever was any ‘kanchana’ anywhere, it was here.
In Sanskrit, ‘Korit’ (कोरित) means ‘scraped out’ or ‘budded from’ or ‘sprouted from’ and may refer to the sculpted life size statues of animals and plants of pure gold that decorated the temple complex. If the temple was ever known as ‘Korikancha’ before the arrival of the Spanish, then its name meant ‘hewn from gold’. Interestingly the word Kori appears in the name of another ancient site, namely Nevali Cori in Turkey.
|An Ancient Stone Circle depicting animals
at the remains of ancient KoriKancha, Peru.
The gold is long gone, the rest of the material was
used to construct the church at the site.
The earliest name of Koricanch was ‘Inti Wasi’ (Quechua for ‘sun house’) and was dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. However, ‘wasi’ which is attributed to Quechua may have its origins in the Sanskrit ‘vasi’ (वसि ) which is ‘dwelling place’ or ‘house’.
The magnificence of the temple was described by Edward Pococke in his book ‘India in Greece’ hence, “…the interior of the temple was the most worthy of admiration. It was totally a mine of gold. On the western wall was emblazoned a representation of the deity, consisting of a human countenance, looking forth amidst innumerable rays of light, which emanated from it in every direction, in the same manner as the sun is often personified with us…”. That is as close a description as it can get to the Hindu representation of Surya Deva or the Sun God.
|A representation of the ‘Sun God’ or ‘Surya Dev’ in India,
driven on a chariot pulled by horses.
Of Koricancha Pococke states further,” The figure was engraved on a massive plate of gold, of enormous dimensions, thickly powdered with emeralds and precious stones. It was so situated in front of the great eastern portal, that the rays of the morning sun fell directly upon it, and at its rising, lighted up the whole of the apartment with an effulgence that seemed more than natural, and which was reflected back from the golden ornaments with which the walls and ceiling were everywhere encrusted….. How little do we know of that gorgeous pomp, or solemn grandeur, which we have good reason to believe attended in every region of the ancient world…”.
An even earlier name of KoriKancha was ‘IntiKancha‘. In Quenchua it is taken to mean as ‘Temple of the Sun’, since ‘inti means ‘sun’. The closest Sanskrit cognates to ‘inti’ are ‘ina’ (इन), and ‘arani’ (अरणी), both the words mean ‘sun’, and the Quenchua ‘inti’ may be associated to these two Sanskrit words.
Pococke refers to the Peruvian festival of Inti-Raymi. He says, “In Peru, the most magnificent national solemnity was the ‘Feast of Raymi’ – read Rama”. Pococke linked the word Raymi to Sri Rama who belonged to ‘suryasvansh’ or the sun-tribe.
Sir William Jones stated in ‘The Asiatic Journal – 1841, “It
is very remarkable that the Peruvians, whose Incas boasted of the same descent, styled their greatest festival Rama- Sitva; whence we may suppose that South America was peopled by the same race who imported into the farthest parts of Asia the rites and fabulous history of Rama ….”.
KoriKancha also served as the main astronomical observatory for the Incas. The temple structure is aligned with summer solstice and the sun.