Arts of South America

In what is stated to be an advanced part of the South American pre-Columbian civilizations, the Inca faith is believed to be among the most developed empires of its era. Similar to the Maya culture, the Inca religion shaped a feature in their daily political, economic, and social lifestyle. The humans paid tributes to celestial bodies such as the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Incas considered each success and failure as an influence that comes from their ancestors and gods and therefore desirable both the ancestors and gods was viewed as a requirement to avoid plagues and their wraths. The Incas religious beliefs had an have an impact on on the Machu Pichu as a sign of their commitment to their beliefs. This article expounds on these aspects as well as the difference between the Inca and Maya religions.

Despite their differences, most of the Inca and Maya religious beliefs had fundamental aspects that were highly similar.

The Religious beliefs of the Incas and their Effect of Machu Pichu

By looking at its purpose and construction, the Machu Pichu was viewed as one of the most inexplicable layouts as a result of the Inca religious beliefs. The Machu Pichu was a royal estate build for Inka Yupanqui, its emperor, and his family. It was a location where the emperor could run the affairs of the empire as well as for the community to perform religious practices. Farming was the primary activity of the Incas, and it was evident since many of the Inca`s gods were associated with nature such as the god of the Sun, the Moon, and thunder, which explains why they respect nature. The Incas also believed in controlled irrigation, and the altars at the center of their fields and the contour shape of their landscape supports their way of life. The environment of the Inca consisted of a balance of built environment and nature. The plans of Machu Pichu consisted of main roads that traverse it at an angle situated deliberately to align it to the central plaza owing to the demands of their religion that make them face the sunrise. The Inca also constructed royal residences that face the sunrise and structures with long sides that are parallel to plazas. The architects of Inca also placed windows and doors to provide great portals that facilitate viewing of astronomical events and bodies. Some of the buildings were rearranged, and others built making it evident that their physical structures were influenced by their culture. The structures also consisted of sculptures and religious buildings. The Incas built temples for worshiping their gods. In Cusco, the temple was constructed to resemble the rays of the sun coming from every direction. A system of imaginary lines known as Ceques symbolized the sun’s rays, and they served a divine purpose as well as assisted in subdividing the city into small districts. Int, the god of the sun, was the most adored. The Inca constructed a statue of the god and placed it in the temple of the sun. Other gods of the Inca also had temples; god of thunder (IIIapa), creator god (Viracocha), and the moon goddess (Mama Kilya). The earth goddess (Pachamama) was built a stone altar at the centers of the fields where they could offer sacrifices in exchange for a good harvest. The Incas had sacred tools that they could use to perform religious rituals and work with. Inca`s holy places such as the Urubamba River and the Sacred Valley were considered sacred and holy objects, and elements of nature (huaca) have been taken into account in the performance of the rituals. The culture of the Inca was significantly influenced by their beliefs.

Inca gods. The Pachamama or Mother Earth was the goddess of good harvest and fertility. The Inca developed a soil ritual known as Challa that involved the pouring of Chicha, an ancient beverage, while the remainder was distributed among the participants of the ritual (Turner, 2015). The sun was the mighty god, and he was considered to be the custodian of all things on earth. The Incas believed that a day would not exist without the god of the sun, and they used gold as a symbol of light when making offerings. Wiracocha, a hermaphrodite had a cult that covered the empire. The universe and the creation of the sea are associated with him. Besides, the Incas believed in the balance of the world and harmony. The balance of the universe was of the environment and nature, life and death, and day and night. They all served a purpose in the construction of structures in Machu Pichu (Turner, 2015). One important and influential structures in the Machu Pichu Sanctuary represent three worlds; Uku Pacha that means the world of the dead, Kay Pacha that symbolizes the living world and Hanan Pacha that signifies the heaven above. The world of the dead (uku pacha) is seen as a place where all the people who died go. The present world is a place where people live, Hanan pacha is a world belonging to the world of the heavens, and it is the inhabitant of all the major gods. All the major gods were worshiped in the Pichu Sanctuary, to celebrate the cults. The Incas religion was fundamental to them that they used different types of rocks to build the temples (Turner, 2015). Another significant and ancient civilization with a rich religious culture is the Maya.

The difference between Inca and Maya Religions

The civilization of the Maya began around 2600B.C., and unlike the Inca, the Maya lasted longer. The Maya are believed to be the greatest people in the Mesoamerican civilization. In spite of being the first inhabitants, the Maya prospered only after incorporating much of their culture from the civilization of the younger Olmec people. Compared to the Inca, the Maya had more successful and longer achievements including Belize and El Salvador. Kings and priests headed the Maya rule unlike the Inca, they were not forcefully wiped out of existence, but they dissipated gradually. In contrast, the Incas are believed to have existed around A.D. 1200, and they inhabited the region around Peru Mountains that were from the Maya. The empire of the Incas involved 16 million people and extended 2500 miles (Toohey, 2013). Compared to the Maya, the Incas were particularly advanced and had an army, had a sophisticated irrigation system, and constructed roads and bridges including tunnels. Unlike the Maya who disappeared gradually, in 1533 the Incas were wiped out after the Spanish invasion defeated them. In the religion of the Maya people, every person was mandated to make a blood offering to their gods by piercing their body parts, and some also offered their gods` hearts of their prisoners. The Inca sacrificed their food, garments, and Llamas. The Mayas religion and culture embraced the idea that all their gods had control over different parameters of their life. As part of the faith, the Incas also worshiped mummies made from bodies of their dead kings.

Similarities between Maya and Inca Religions

Both Maya and Incas Empire believed in worshiping many gods and each of their gods had a different role and thus influenced the lives of the people in a variety of ways. Besides, the empires had religious ceremonies that involved the performance of sacrifices to their gods whom they believed to control both human works and nature. Lastly, priests were viewed as key persons in the religion of both cultures as they acted as intermediaries between the gods of the land and the people (Osuna, 2015).


The two most advanced and dominant civilizations that developed in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans was the Inca and the Mayas. By observing their foundation, culture, and most importantly religious beliefs, both the Inca and ancient Mayan civilization have historical importance. In both cultures, religion was an essential part of their daily lives. Both cultures expanded into great empires under the reign of their kings and guidance of their priests. It is also evident that the religious beliefs of the Incas had a significant influence on the Machu Pichu. Also, the religious beliefs of both Inca and the Maya may be different in various ways but maintain same fundamental factors such as the worship of many gods and performance of sacrifices.


Hurley, J. A. (2014). Conflict in the Early Americas: An Encyclopedia of the Spanish Empire’s Aztec, Incan, and Mayan Conquests. (Reference & User Services Quarterly), 53(3), 274-275.

Osuna, E. S. (2015). The Aztec, Maya, and Inca Civilizations. In Sleep Medicine (pp. 55-59). Springer New York.

Toohey, J. L. (2013). Feeding the Mountains: Sacred Landscapes, Mountain Worship, and Sacrifice in the Maya and Inca Worlds. (Reviews in Anthropology), 42(3), 161-178.

Turner, B. L. (2015). Interpreting Oral Pathology at Machu Picchu, Peru. (International Journal of Osteoarchaeology), 25(4), 502-514.

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