Almost hidden in the Peruvian Andes high on a steep mountain with a flattened top, Machu Picchu escaped the notice of the Spanish conquistadors and was forgotten for centuries by the outside world. After it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American archeologist Hiram Bingham, the world became aware about the hidden secrets of Machu Picchu. As suggested by the scholars, Machu Picchu (meaning ‘Old Peak’ in the Quechua language) was built around 1450 CE as a summer retreat for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti. Often wrongly referred to as the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu is the most familiar icon of Inca Civilization.
Located in Peru, at an elevation of 2,430 meters above sea level, the 15th century Inca City, Machu Picchu is situated on a mountain ridge above the beautiful Sacred Valley. Completed around 1450, Machu Picchu is said to support as many as 750 residents during the summer months. This seasonal retreat of the Emperor is a planned patchwork of homes and temples held up by a mammoth network of strong underground walls. Long stretch of terraced farms notched into the Andean mountainsides provided the settlement with plenty of food. Two thousand feet above the rumbling Urubamba river, the cloud shrouded ruins, which have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all are in a remarkable state of preservation.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with high walls of massive polished stones. Its three primary structures were known as the Inti Watana (a ritual stone associated with the astronomical clock or calendar of the Inca), the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. It is a mystery, how the ancient Incas moved those massive stones to such a remote location and how they could hoist them without the help of any wheel. It is also amazingly mysterious, how the entire city was constructed with smooth and massive stones, which were interlocked without the use of any mortar.
However, the biggest mystery of Machu Picchu is perhaps the Intihuatana, a giant rock inclined on a raised platform which towers above the main plaza. The Intihuatana stone (meaning ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’) has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other significant celestial periods. According to Shamanic legends, if a sensitive person touches his forehead to the Intihuatana stone, the stone opens his vision to the spirit of the world. Intihuatana stones were considered as the supremely sacred object of the Inca people.
The Temple of Three Windows is a stone hall, 35 feet long and 14 feet wide, containing three trapezoidal windows along one wall, a rare feature in Inca architecture. The three windows represent the windows of the three parts of the world – The underground (Uku-Pacha), the heaven (Hanan-Pacha), and the present or the actual time (Kay-Pacha). These windows also represent the rise of the sun, the most important event in the everyday life of the Inca people.
With its romantic mystery and magical attraction, today Machu Picchu is considered as Peru’s most-visited tourist attraction. In 1981 it was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, in a worldwide Internet poll, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.