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Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Madagascar

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Royal Hill of Ambohimanga 

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga constitutes an exceptional witness to the civilization which developed in the ‘Hautes Terres Centrales’ in Madagascar between the 15th and 19th centuries and to the cultural and spiritual traditions, the cult of kings and ancestors which were closely associated there. The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is the cradle of the kingdom and the dynasty that has made Madagascar a modern state, internationally acknowledged since 1817.

It is associated with strong feelings of identity and emotion relating to the sacred nature of the site through its venerated royal tombs, its numerous holy places (fountains, sacred basins and woods, sacrificial stones) and its majestic royal trees. Religious capital and sacred town of the kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century, the Royal Hill was the burial ground for its sovereigns. The site retains clear archaeological proof of the former exercise of power and justice. It is still today the centre of the religious practices for many Malagasy people and constitutes a living memory of the traditional religion.

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga comprises a system of fortifications with a series of ditches and fourteen fortified stone gateways, a royal city consisting of a coherent suite of buildings divided by a royal enclosure and associating a public place (the Fidasiana), royal trees, a seat of justice and other natural or built places of cult, an ensemble of sacred places as well as agricultural lands. The royal city comprises two palaces and a small pavilion, an “ox pit”, two sacred basins and four royal tombs. In addition, the designated property shelters vestiges of a primary forest conserving numerous endemic and medicinal plant species.

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga constitutes an eminent example of an architectural ensemble (the Rova) and the associative cultural landscape (wood, sacred fountain and lake) illustrating significant periods of human history between the 16th and 19th centuries in the islands of the Indian Ocean. The particularly high elevation of the Rova indicates the political importance of the site and gives it a very significant place among the fortified groups of the Imerina (region of Antananarivo). Because of its geographical position, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga offers a complete panorama, determining it as the strategic choice for a defensive residence. Thus, Ambohimanga bears witness to a strong royal power, a decision-making centre serving as a model for the future. The recognizable traditional Malagasy and European style of architecture of the royal city bears witness to the diverse political phases in the history of Madagascar.

The landscape of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is associated with important historic events (Malagasy place of unification), as well as with traditions and living beliefs having an Outstanding Universal Value (ancestor worship). The eminently sacred character of the place and its components justifies the respect and veneration that the Malagasy people have demonstrated over centuries. The site constitutes a remarkable testimony to the austro-indonesian culture (Indonesia) through ancestor worship and agricultural practices, notably irrigated stepped rice paddy fields on the one hand, and the African culture (west and southern Africa) through the cult of the royal person, on the other.

The Malagasy nation accords primary importance and absolute respect of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, that they visit to imbibe the spirituality of the place, for renewal and request blessing and protection for all that they undertake in life. It is also a cult and pilgrimage place for the nation, as well as for numerous foreigners, and has been so for centuries.

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

(Source UNESCO)

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