The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is located in the Madagascar highlands, around 24 kilometers to the northeast of Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagsacar. It is the most important and highest hill, among the 12 sacred hills of Imerina. It became internationally recognized as a site of great historical and cultural significance since the 1817. Presently, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The hill and the royal palace complex (rova) are more than what meets the eye. The walls carry age-old traditions and secrets that have died with the end of the sovereign rule. The Royal Hill was the burial ground for the sovereign monarchs in the 19th century.
You will find that this massive historical destination consists mainly of a complex of royal building, venerated royal tombs and majestic gardens complimented with fountains and sacred basins. Atop the hill, there is also a sacred forest, home to a large number of indigenous species.
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, The Religious Capital of Madagascar
Till date, many Malagasy people routinely conduct sacred rites at Ambohimanga. It is a place where, as natives of Madagascar, they strongly identify themselves with. It is revered as a monument of great sanctity. The traditional and living beliefs of the natives include ancestor worship among others.
So, there is no room for doubt why the natives chose Ambohimanga as the religious capital of Madagascar. However, back in 1787, Ambohimanga was the original capital!
A native of Madagascar or not, as you stand by the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, you will definitely feel like you’ve been taken back in time, all the way to the 18th century. It is truly a mesmerizing experience.
It is interesting to know that “Ambohimanga” means ‘blue hill’ in Malagasy. The word “blue” is probably used to signify the sacred nature of the hill.
Another main attraction at the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is the former seat of justice. It is located on a huge granite rock with the royal fig tree providing it shade.
The Panoramic View from the Rova and Its History
The panoramic view from the royal palace or rova, is simply amazing. It gives a complete view of the city of Antananarivo. It must have been a strategic choice of location to get a heads up in times of war. It is commendable from the part of the rulers.
You will hear a lot of interesting stories about the past of the pre-colonial kingdom of and about the infamous King Andrianampoinimerina, who lived in the Royal Palace from 1788-1810. His dwelling house was made of palisander with a gabled roof. During your visit, the guide will surely keep you amused with a lot of facts during the rule of Merina kings. The hill of Ambohimanga was the birthplace of the Merina kingdom.
As you stand at the rova and look down at Antananarivo, after having heard the history of the Merina rulers, you will see the historical references flash before your eyes.
If you survey the area carefully, you will find that some parts of this historic site are damaged. This is because of Hurricane Giovanna that swept through the region back in the year 2012.
Much of the damage at this cultural and historical destination was regulated with help from UNESCO, and the historical monument was restored back to its glory.
Check out the Digue Markets
On your drive back to Antananarivo, don’t forget to stop by the traditional “Digue” market which is famous for its artisan wood crafts and other souvenirs. It is one of the busiest markets here. From stones to crafts and wares, you will just about find anything and everything made by the Malagasy people.
Author: E Jey
Just a passionate traveler who loves scribbling his expeditions @ www.jauntmonkey.com, www.outonroads.com, and www.blogthatall.com