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Two legends about the origin of the Inka have been passed down in Inkan mythology, with more than 40 different variations of these myths recorded in the chronicles of the Spaniards and the stories of the Indians. Below, the most popular versions will be illuminated and presented in detail.
One version states that Inti (the sun) sent his son Manco Qhapaq and his daughter Mama Ocllo to Earth to teach the people, who until then had been living like savages. The two children reached this world through a cave on an island of Lake Titicaca and began to civilize the people by passing on knowledge about farming, animal husbandry, and the art of weaving.
Inti also gave them a golden staff and instructed them to build a city in the spot where they could drive the staff completely into the ground. They succeeded in doing so at the location of the modern city of Cusco, derived from the Qechua word Qosqo, which translates as “navel of the world.”
After they had built the holy city, Manco Qhapaq went north and Mama Ocllo went south, to bring people together from near and far, to establish the Tawantinsuyu, and to lay the foundation for the Inka dynasty.
Another version talks of the legend of Inkarrí, the first Inka king. God (Wiraqocha), the creator of all life, commanded Inkarrí to build a city. For this purpose, he was instructed to throw a golden staff three times and to build the city in the spot where the staff landed upright in the ground. He threw the stick for the first time and it landed flat on the ground. He threw it a second time, and the staff stuck in the ground at an angle – so he built the city of Q’ero in this location. When God made him aware of his mistake, he threw the staff a third time and this time it landed vertically in the ground, where he then built today’s city of Cusco.
Both versions closely resemble each other and it is reasonable to believe that Manco Qhapaq and Inkarrí are one and the same person. There is one big difference, however: For the Q'eros and many other indigenous peoples in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, Inkarrí is still alive. He is waiting to return and to be able to restore the Tawantinsuyu to its former size and splendor.
In any case, the possibility that both rulers ever lived can neither be ruled out or proven unequivocally– reality and legends have combined into a living history over the centuries.