Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
Kasubi tombs is a cultural, tradiditional and ceremonial burial ground for the kings[kabakas] in the Buganda kingdom. The site is located at Kasubi hill, Kampala, the borders of Kasubi tombs were established in 1882 and it comprises of about sixty four acres of land, five kilometers Northwest of Kampala city center.
Like any other traditional setup, there is a legend that talks about Kintu as the first Kabaka of Buganda kingdom. Apparently, kintu had come with his wife Nambi after he had won her hand in marriage from her father Ggulu, the god of the sky. This first kabaka is said not to have died but disappeared into a forest at Muganga. This explains why in every burial grounds in Buganda have what is called Kibila, a sacred forest where the tombs are housed, concealed from public view by a back cloth curtain.
The borders are marked with bark cloth trees, protecting the site from being encroached on by the fast growing residential developments. One corner contains a royal palace built by kabaka Muteesa [35th kabaka] in 1882, replacing his father’s Ssuna 2, which he had put up in 1820.The new palace became a royal burial ground in 1884 after his death. Four other kings have also been buried at the same sight that is; kabaka Muteesa 1, kabaka Mwanga, Daudi Chwa and Sir Edward Muteesa 2.
At the site, a gate leads to a small courtyard known as Bujja-bukula, then to the ”Ndoga obukaba”, a house where royal drums are kept then to the main circular curt yard[olugya] located n the hilltop surrounded by a reed palace.The main central building called Muzibu Azaala Mpanga is 7.5 metres high. It is located at the edge opposite the entrance. Muzibu Azaala Mpanga was originally constructed from local raw materials like wooden poles, reed wattle,topped by a thick thatched dome with straw laying on 52 rings of palm fronds representing the 52 clans of Buganda. However, the 1938 major renovation by Muteesa2 introduced modern materials of construction. These modern materials thou were concealed behind the traditional structures.
The floor of the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga is covered by palm leaf mats and lemon grass.Other structures on the site are the traditional houses of the kabakas widows and homes of the royal family,guards and administrative officials like the spiritual guardian [Nalinya] and the assistant[Katikiro]. Most of the land on the site is used for agriculture.
One may wonder why most of the kabakas built their palaces on hilltops and the 3 reasons were clear, one; was to control all the roads leading to the palace and two; was to find easy ways to escape in case of invasion. The third reason was to have a sense of security since its easier to watch happenings from a distance so in case of any attacks, the guards woud quickly take action.
One of the practices done at this burial ground which may seem a bit ridiculous is, burying the kabaka at a different site and establishing a royal shrine where his jawbone was housed. The jawbone was believed to contain his spirit.
Kasubi tombs became a UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage Site in December 2001 and one of the most remarkable buildings using purely vegetal materials in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The site caught five in 2010 and unfortunately the cause of the fire in still unknown till today. Efforts to re-construct the structures started in 2014 with assistance from the government of Uganda and funding from the government of Japan. However the Baganda still stick to their vow, to protect this treasured site.
Kasubi tombs acts as a rich tourist attraction to both local and foreign people and more fascinating still to those who are rooted in culture and nature because that’s what the site displays. Besides this, Kasubi tombs carry a historical and spiritual effect among the Buganda people and the Kabakas of Buganda Kingdom.
With all this on board, i think anyone would love to wake-up to this beautiful natural scenery and the only way to make it real is to drop by and check out the royal burial grounds for Buganda Kingdom.
By Kabagambe Gerald.