Chakana – Incan cross
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The stepped cross with four corners, ridged with three steps each is called the Incan cross or “Chacana”. The Chakana symbolizes the dynamic between the universe and the life it contains. Each of the three steps of one corner is believed to have meaning:
The first quarter of the cross represents energetic tiers or worlds:
- the lower world (Uqhu Pacha) represented the underworld and death
- the middle world (Kay Pacha) represented the world of human life
- the upper world (Hanan Pacha) included the stars, celestial beings and gods
The second quarter represents their revered animals, corresponding to these worlds:
- the snake, living underground, represented the lower world
- the puma, a powerful land animal represented the middle world
- the condor represented the upper world in the sky
The third quarter symbolizes 3 commandments of Incas:
- don’t steal
- don’t lie
- don’t be lazy
The fourth – the human principals:
- love and well doing
The four arms of the chakana designate the four provinces of Incan Empire (Tawantinsuyu): Chinchaysuyo, Kollasuyo, Antisuyo and Contisuyo.
The ends of the Incan chakana also represent the four main stars of the Southern Cross, an important constellation for the Inca, who believed that was the centre of the Universe.
Besides, the four “arms” of any chakana represent the four 'classical elements' of earth, air, water and fire; the four directions of the compass and four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn.
The light and dark shades of upper and lower halves of the Incan chakana represents duality of the world (yananti), and the hole in its centre denotes Cusco, termed "the navel of the Inca Empire" and also represents the circle of life or the centre of the Universe.
This symbol was widely used. It was used in decoration of buildings, in embroidery, jewellery, etc. There is a half-chakana in Machu-Picchu – 2 quarters of the chakana, which during the solstice cast the shadow forming the whole chakana.