20 Jun 2021

RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

The Inca legend of Lake Titicaca and other mysteries about its origin

4 min read

We are in Peru. The history of the creation of some local cities is sometimes based on the Inca mythological legends.
One of the best known is the myth of the origin of Lake Titicaca, whose main characters are the inhabitants of Puno, a city in southeastern Peru, not by chance located on the shore of lake.
Lake Titicaca is the biggest freshwater lake in the world. It is located in the Andes, on the border between Bolivia and Peru, with a surface elevation of 3,812 metres, and It’s always been considered a sacred place by the indigenous people. Around it, countless legends were born, since it’s very beginning and, according to them, this is the place where the first children of the sun arrived.

According to the legend, before the Lake Titicaca, this place was a fertile valley and its citizens were happy with what the gods gave them: light and rain for the crops and land to get food.
Inhabitants of the valley did not need anything else.
The apus, gods of the mountains, protected them and they did not know negative feelings like hatred and ambition, and they gave them also absolute freedom with one exception: they were forbidden to climb to the top of one of the mountains since there was a bonfire with the sacred fire.
In this way, humans lived for many years without any problem and in absolute peace.
However, an evil spirit that lived in the area forbidden to men was totally jealous of them living with such happiness. Therefore, he did everything possible to get people to disobey their gods and follow the path of curiosity.
With the wiles of the evil spirit, humans felt tempted, as never before, to climb the mountain, discover the secrets that awaited them and, thus, demonstrate their courage.
The apus, obviously furious at the attitude of their citizens, stopped them halfway without being able to escape, sending hundreds of thousands of pumas who devoured people who had disobeyed their gods.
Seeing this terrible image, Inti, the God of Sun, shuddered and began to cry to such an extent that the valley in which these people lived was completely flooded with tears.
This way, the population was exterminated, except for a man and a woman who were in a reed boat and they managed to save themselves and contemplate everything that had happened.
Their fertile valley was now a huge lake and the pumas that had been sent by the Gods had turned into rocks.
From this comes also the name of the lake, since Titi means puma and Kaka, stone, forming the local name of “the lake of the stone pumas”.

There are other legends about the origin of the name of Lake Titicaca.
For instance, some point out that the origin of the name comes from the Intikjarja Island. In this case it derives from the Aymara and Quechua languages, with a meaning of Inti (sun) and kjarka (rock).
This name could have given rise to what we know today as the Island of the Sun, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca.
Not by chance, now this place is worldwide known for its incredible islands and for being the highest navigable lake in the world. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America (interestingly, Lake Maracaibo has a larger surface area, but it is a tidal bay, not a lake.)
Other cultures lived on Lake Titicaca prior to the arrival of the Incas. In 2000, a team of international archaeologists and divers found the ruins of an underwater temple, thought to be between 1,000 and 1,500 years old, accompanied by a village, some roads, terraces for farming and a retaining wall that ran for 800 meters.

There is another very popular legend in Lake Titicaca. It is about the existence of sirens.
Legend has that at least one mermaid lived in the lake, from which children could make a wish when they saw her, and the adults of the village forced the children to ask her for gold and silver.
Seeing that these wishes were fulfilled, the villagers decided to set up a trap to the siren: they managed to get her out of the water, and threatened her to tell them where she was getting so much gold and silver.
However, out of the water, her body began to change and her mermaid body became that of a normal woman, thus disappearing the siren from Lake Titicaca.

Images from web – Google Research