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Kasubi Tombs: The live burial zone

Still active despite being first established in the 13th century AD, the area of Kasubi Tombs is the sacred place of rites as well as rituals for the Ganda culture that is being practiced by the royal family. The site even today holds the burial chambers of the previous four kings (Kabakas) of the Buganda. So, it is a royal enclosure that is nestled on the Kasubi Hill at Uganda’s Kampala. These royal Kasubi tombs stand as the symbol of the history as well as culture of the East Africa and are also the standard masterpieces that in detail reveal the traditional structural design of the Ganda culture. As per this culture, the tradition holds that the Kabakas are buried at a different site from their palace, which becomes his royal shrine housing also his jaw bone. And there is not doubt that it is now the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Talking about a bit of history, people here are of the opinion that the first Buganda Kabaka was Kintu who is associated with the magical tale that says that he is not dead, but has been disappeared in the Magonga’s forest.

For the tourists, the hill housing the Kasubi tombs is split into three zones: the main Tomb zone in west, a large zone of agriculture in the east, and a zone at the rear of the tombs loaded with the grave yards as well as other edifices. One takes an entry via the Bujjabukula as a beautiful gate house made up of wooden columns as well as thatched roofs. Safety is at its best here where the guards normally hide for all 24 hours in the home located at the rear of a tangible reed panel from where they keep a watch on the entry.

Kasubi Tombs

After passing through this security, you enter a small courtyard where there resides a round home of imperial drums called the Ndoga-Obukaba. Next, you reach the Olugya that is the main courtyard safeguarded with the reed fence. This was where a myriad of houses resided, mainly for the Kings’ widows as well as for traditional usage. And yes, while you are in this courtyard, look for the superb main tomb edifice: Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga.

The 19th century Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga was made by the 35th King called Mutesa I in 1882. This king was the first to be cremated here. The structure is the main round edifice holding a domed shape. As a tourist, you enter under a low wide arch that is dotted by copiously woven reeds. This is where the charm of the descending thick thatched roof will mesmerize you. Within, a giant bark cloth on the big wooden poles that symbolize power as well as harmony cuts the ‘Sacred Forest’ wherein only the royals as well as widows can enter. This private sacred zone is internally adorned with the medal, photos, lance, drums, and armor of the buried Kabakas. In addition, a thick lemon grass carpet as well as the mats of palm leaves decorate the floor. Here, there are four royal graves: Mutesa 1 (1856) who was the most influential king and was popular for infringing the traditional rules, accepting the foreign philosophy, and implementing a few Islamic practices. Near the tombs was his palace. However, he was cremated without removing the jaw bone. Mwanga 11 as the last kabaka of the free Buganda was the son of Mutesa and was against the conversion to Islam as well as Christianity although that was preferred by his father. This son also fought against the British leading to a defeat after which he was exiled to the Seychelles Island. He left his mortal body in 1903 after which he was being buried here.

Daudi Chwa II, Mwanga 11’s son expired in 1939, who was cremated here with two other predecessors; which led to the intensification of the ritual signifcance. His son, Muteesa II was also buried here.

The people living here still believe that these spirits are alive here. So, when anybody from the royal family expires, the other royals with the folks perform rituals so that they can calm the spirits via the offerings, gifts, and sacrificing animals at the shrines.