Kasubi Tombs (Buganda Kings Burial Grounds)

Kabaka Tombs (Buganda Kings Burial Grounds): The Kabaka Tombs are located on Kasubi Hill in the Buganda kingdom, which is found near Kampala, a city in central Uganda. As the final resting places for the past four Kabakas (kings) of Buganda and other members of the royal family, the Kabaka tombs, also known as Kasubi tombs, are significant religious, historical, and cultural landmarks in the Buganda kingdom. The Kabaka and his representatives frequently perform significant ceremonies that are connected to the Ganda culture in the Kasubi tombs, which are a living testament to the Ganda traditions. The Kabaka Tombs are a significant monument for the Buganda Kingdom and Uganda because they were included on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 2001.

Location of Kabaka Tombs

Five kilometers from the city’s center, on Kampala-Hoima Road, lie the Kabaka Tombs. On approaching Makerere University from Kampala City Center, you pass by it before driving to Nakulabye, where you turn right into the Hoima Road at the intersection. After driving another mile up the road, you then bear left onto the Masiro Road. When you approach the Kasubi tombs and the northwest coasts of Lake Victoria, you will see the entrance, which is indicated by a thatched tent.

History and Culture of the Buganda Kingdom

The Baganda people belong to the Bantu and their first Kabaka was Kato Kintu Kakulukuku who adopted the name Kintu so as to associate himself with the father of all people because Kintu was the name of the first person on earth in Buganda. Kintu had one wife Nambi Nantutululu and Kintu is said not to have died but to have disappeared into the forest at Magonga.

The Baganda Kabakas have always built their palaces on hills, and each new monarch is allowed to select a hill for his palace and give it a new name. When the Kabakas died, it was customary to bury each Kabaka at a different site and build a royal shrine to house his jaw bone, which was thought to contain his spirit, at another location. This was done to control the main roads leading to the palace so that easy escape routes could be found in the event of a rebellion. The true Kabaka tombs at Kasubi Tombs are built in an area known as Kibira, or forest, which is hidden behind a backcloth curtain. In front of the curtain are raised platforms that correspond to the positions of each Kabaka’s tomb. The 35th king of the Buganda kingdom, Muteesa 1 was the first Kabaka to be interred in Kasubi.

The 4 Kabaka’s of Buganda at Kasubi tombs

Kabaka Muteesa 1: Kabaka Suuna’s son, Kabaka Muteesa 1, was born in 1810 and died in 1852. Kabaka Suuna had 148 wives, 2000 concubines, and 18,000 maid maids. Kabaka Muteesa I, who had 84 wives, 1000 concubines, and 17000 maid maids, succeeded Kabaka Suuna. Kabaka Muteesa 1 was crowned in 1856 after his 1835 birth, and he built his palace at the Kasubi tombs in 1882. The first kabaka to be inspired by other civilizations during the era of African travel was Kabaka Muteesa 1. His first contacts with people outside of his native country were Arab traders, who traveled the entire African continent in search of slaves to trade for beads and guns, disappointing Muteesa and other African leaders. In order to escape this system of trade, he met Henry Morton Stanley, a European missionary explorer who was traveling through Africa in search of the Nile’s source and other things, in 1875. Following his encounter with Muteesa, Henry Morton Stanley made contact with the British, who assisted him in eliminating the Arab middlemen.

Powerful Kabaka Muteesa I was terrified of uprisings and imprisoned all of his brothers in a trench where many of them perished. The two Buganda customs of being buried whole and not at a separate hill site were broken when Muteesa 1 passed away in 1884 and was buried at his new palace in Kasubi. He had also ordered that his jaw bone not be removed from his body.

Kabaka Mwanga 11: As the final ruler of an independent Buganda, Kabaka Mwanga 11—the son of Kabaka Muteesa 1—took the throne in 1884. He dissuaded the pages who were very actively engaged in religious instruction and began a nationwide hunt for Christians. Kabaka Mwanga built the artificial Kabakas Lake, but when religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims erupted in 1886 and resulted in their deaths by burning, he fled the throne. He returned in 1889 and ruled until 1897. Along with Kabalega, the king of the Bunyoro Kitara kingdom, Kabaka Mwanga 11 joined the resistance movement against the British colonial forces in 1897, but they were beaten and taken prisoner on April 9. Then, they both fled to the Seychelles Island, where Mwanga 11 passed away in 1903. In 1910, his remains were returned for burial and interred at Kasubi with that of his father, who had also defied convention by interring the Kabaka`s at various locations. Kasubi became a significant Kabaka burial place as a result, though.

Kabaka Daudi Chwa 11: Kabaka Daudi Chwa 11, son of Kabaka Mwanga 11, ascended to the throne at the age of one, reigned from 1898 until 1939. Only four years after his father Mwanga was driven from his realm and into exile on the island of the Seychelles, the 34th monarch of Buganda was crowned. The first ruling king of Buganda to publicly identify as a devout Christian and have his wedding solemnized was Kabaka Daudi Chwa 11. Due to the fact that Kabaka Daudi Chwa11 was completely surrounded by imperial forces and that he was too young to rule until he reached adulthood at the age of 18, the three regents who were appointed at his enthronement—1 catholic and 2 protestant chiefs—made all of the kingdom’s decisions on his behalf. According to legend, Kabaka Chwa11 had a dismal reign that caused his early death in 1939. He was interred in Kasubi tombs alongside his two forebears, which increased the cultural significance of the graves.

Kabaka Muteesa 11: Kabaka Muteesa 11, who ruled from 1939 until 1969, was the son of Kabaka Daudi Chwa. At the age of 15, Kabaka Muteesa 11 assumed control while still a student at Buddo. Martin Luther Nsibirwa, the kingdom’s prime minister, Lawuli Kiwanuka, the judge, and Sserwano Woofunira Kkulubya served as regents under his leadership. Later, Kabaka Muteesa 11, who had left the kingdom in the care of the regents while he went to study in the UK, returned to take over in 1949. The Europeans interfered heavily with his rule by pressuring him to sign the Buganda agreement, which he refused to do. The same agreement was drafted under Kabaka Chwa’s administration but was also never signed. Because the governor, Sir Andrew Cohen, did not approve of the Buganda accord, Muteesa 11 was forced into exile in England, much like his grandpa Mwanga 11 was in 1953. In 1942, Kabaka Muteesa 11, the 35th king of Buganda, was crowned. Following this, there was a protest since the colonial administration had not been cooperative. He was twice exiled to the United Kingdom as a result of this demonstration, where he believed they would turn him into a puppet king.

The birth of political parties in Uganda was a result of the numerous uprisings against European colonial rulers that erupted throughout Africa during his administration. On October 9, 1962, Uganda gained independence from the British, and Kabaka Muteesa 11 assumed constitutional presidential duties. Owing to his status, he and the prime minister Apollo Milton Obote quickly became tense, which led to the Kabaka’s palace being stormed in May 1966. Due to his perception that the kingdoms of Uganda posed a threat to the interests of the country, Obote abolished them in 1967 and made the 1962 Federal Constitution obligatory.

He was forced into exile in England after government forces under Idi Amin raided his palace, which resulted to the early collapse of the kingdom. Muteesa 11 passed away in London in 1969, and his bones were transported and interred in Kasubi tombs in 1971. In 1993, after returning from exile, his son Sabassaja Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Kimera Mutebi 11 was crowned. His crowning hastened the cultural recovery of the Buganda kingdom, where many people are unaware of Ganda customs.

Buganda Kingdom has other 6 burial sites including:

Kabaka Suuna 11 is buried in the Wamala King Tombs, where he had 218 children and 148 wives. He ruled from 1836 to 1856 and was the last monarch to have his jaw bone removed after his death and to be buried in his own palace. The tombs are located at Wamunyenye, Kyadondo county 13km along Kampala- Hoima road.

Nnamasole tombs which house the body of Nnamasole Kanyange the mother of Ssekabaka Suuna 11 who is buried at Wamala tombs, the tombs contain special drums which are used as a ritual to summon Kabaka Suuna’s spirit. The tombs are located at Kagoma, Kyadondo County 12km along Kampala- Bombo road.

The Baagalayaze Nnamasole graves are the location of the grave of Nnamasole Baagalayaze, the mother of Kabaka Mwanga 11, who passed away in 1916 and was renowned for her kindness. The tomb serves as a cultural hub for performances that highlight the people, history, and culture of Buganda. These performances include storytelling, music, dance, theatre, art, and crafts, among others. It is situated 15 kilometers along the Kampala-Gayaza Road in Mpererwe, Busiro County.

Naggalabi Coronation site on Buddo Hill

It is reported in the Buganda kingdom that Kintu, the first Kabaka, assassinated his brother Bemba and subsequently proclaimed himself king in the 13th century. Over the past 700 years, the Kabakas have been crowned here. The coronation of the reigning monarch, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi 11, took place at Buddo Hill on July 31, 1993. The Buddo Hill Site offers a fantastic panoramic view of the entire nation and is situated in Nagalabi, Busiro County, 11 kilometers along the Kampala-Masaka Road.

As a royal shrine that houses the remains of the four Buganda kings as well as other royal family members, including their mothers, grandmothers, princes, and princesses, the Kabaka tombs are very significant to the Buganda kingdom and the entire nation. As such, they serve as a religious and cultural destination for travelers.

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