Among the many places to see in Machu Picchu, one of the most important is the temple of the three windows which is located on the Sacred Plaza in then main Urban Section of Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Three Windows is a large lithic structure constructed of three walls. The long main wall features three large windows which are orientated east, and the two shorter lateral walls were used to support the main roof beam.
The three windows are perfectly embedded into the structure, they are also perfectly symmetrical to the surroundings. Some Machu Picchu researchers believe there were at one point, 5 windows but the structure for the other 2 probably collapsed at some point. This entire structure also had a roof over it when the Inca originally built it; this too probably collapsed throughout the years.
Machu Picchu is divided into different sections and the temple of the three windows is actually located in the “Hanan” which translates to updown, this is the most important part of Machu Picchu. “Hanan” was where the Inca had important religious ceremonies. The “uptown” of Machu Picchu is facing Huayna Picchu and Putucusi mountain located, both are located to the south of the city.
When the temple of the three windows was found over 100 years ago it was covered under 30cm (12 inches) of vegetation. Along with the temple, the explorers discovered several objects such as ceremonial jars, vases, and fountains which were very carefully decorated. This might indicate that these ceremonies might be in worship of the mountains.
There are many theories as to why this building has three windows, most of which come from ancient chronicles written by Spanish conquistadores and prominent natives nobles; all of which seem to contract each other. Hiram Bingham believed that the three windows symbolized the place where the Incas originated. His theory was based on the written words of the chronicler Pachakuti Yanki Salqamayhua who says that after the great success of Manco Cápac (the legendary first Inca ruler) in creating the Inca Empire, he himself ordered the construction of the temple. The three windows were supposed to represent the three windows of his parents’ house. Interestingly according to Inca mythology Manco Cápac and his sister Mama Ocllo were sent from heaven, not from their parents’ house!
Each window is said to represent a different plane of existence or a different part of the Inca world.
The first window represents “Uku-Pacha” which translates to the underground. Uku- Pacha would be what the Inca interpreted as hell, or where the dead are.
The second window represents “Hanan-Pacha” or what the Incas would refer to as heaven. Hanan-Pacha was considered the world where all the gods reside.
The third window was said to represent “Kay-Pacha” or what we know as the human world where people live their lives.
Engraved Animals of The Temple
There is a marked stone in the temple walls which showcases the three animals that represented each world. These animals are part of what the Inca called the “trilogy”. Hanan-Pacha was represented with the Andean Condor, Kay Pacha, or the human world was represented with the Puma and last we have Uku-Pacha which is displayed as a serpent.
Construction of The Temple
The construction of this temple is apparently related to the legend of “Tamputoq’o” and the origin of the Incan civilization. Each window is said to represent one of the ancient tribes which gave birth to the Inca. The Inca did not write down their stories like other ancient civilizations did but rather passed down origin stories through generations, this is also true about the origins of Machu Picchu as a whole. The sun also seems to align with the temple of the three windows. This would make sense since the Inca worshipped and depended heavily on the sun’s position for agricultural reasons.
Where is the Temple of The Three Windows located?
The temple is located in Machu Picchu on the “Uptown” section of the complex. During a Machu Picchu tour, this temple will be among the first areas we visit
Who built the temple of the three windows?
The temple was built by the Inca or tribes that lived under the Inca.
Did the Inca write down their history?
No, the Inca did not write down their history. They passed down stories from the previous generation to the next.
What is the significance of the Temple of the Three Windows?
Research shows that this temple was a representation of the 3 worlds the Inca believed in. The current world where humans lived, the world where the gods lived (heaven), and the underworld where the dead reside.
Which animals are engraved in the Temple of the 3 Windows?
The three animals represented are the Puma which refers to the world where humans live, the Snake which refers to the underworld or land of the dead, and the Andean Condor which represents heaven or the realm of the gods.
What does Hanan-Pacha mean?
Hanan-Pacha is Quechua for the human world.