Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi tombs is a burial site for kings of Buganda kingdom, Buganda kingdom is the largest ancient kingdoms in Uganda. Kasubi tombs locally known as amasiro is a unique architecturally impressive structure built in around circular dome using local materials of wooden poles, reed wattle, daub thatched with grass (esumbi), Kasubi is found on Kasubi hill formerly known as nabulagala hill (changed to Kasubi when king muteesa I settled on this hill) covering 64 acres and 5 kilometers north west of Kampala the capital city of Uganda.

Kasubi tombs
Kasubi Tombs

Kasubi tombs is one of the royal tombs found in Buganda kingdom founded in the 13th century, was built in 1882 by the local ganda people as a palace for kabaka muteesa I then then king of Buganda kingdom who intended to replace his father’s palace (kabaka ssuuna II) and after his passing on in 1884 the palace was turned into a burial site. The tombs are on a large vast land with many sections and since it holds many activities its borders were clearly demarcated and marked with bark cloth trees. 

Kasubi tombs holds cultural, spiritual and political importance to the Ganda people with significant value beliefs, identity and continuity of Buganda kingdom this is noticed by 52 palm fronds of rings representing the 52 traditional clans of the Baganda people. After reinstating of kingdoms in Uganda by president Museveni in 1993 following their abolishment in 1996 by then president Milton Obote, Kasubi tombs was declared a protected site under Ugandan constitution in 1972 and it was registered under names of kabaka on behalf on the kingdom. Because of its unique architectural structure, Kasubi tombs was listed among heritage sites by UNESCO in 2001,it was remarked as one of the most remarkable buildings in the whole sub-Saharan Africa built using purely local vegetal materials.   

Kasubi tombs is divided into three sections which are used for different activities and offers different significance to ganda people. First section is used for agricultural practices using primitive tradition ways to cultivate the soils, the second section on the western side is with the tomb and the third section behind the tomb which is used as a burial site to deceased royal family members, in the northwest there is a ceremonial ground and on the top hill there is a courtyard fenced using reeds consisting of afire place which is kept burning daily.

Kasubi Tombs
Kasubi Tombs

On the border of the courtyard opposite the main entrance there lies the main central building in the names of muzibu azaala mpanga in honor of the mother of Kabaka Muteesa II of 31 meter circumference and 75 meter height, this is the main attraction in Kasubi tombs as it houses remains of four Kabaka of Buganda kingdom.

  • Muteesa I (1835-1884)
  • Mwanga II(1867-1903) who died in exile in Seychelles islands, his remains were returned 
  • Daudi chwa II (1896 -1939)
  • Sir Edward  muteesa II (1924-1969) he died in exile in London and his remains were returned in 1971

Traditionally while burying the deceased kings their bodies are buried in a separate spot in the shrine from the jaw bone .it is believed that the jaw bone contains the king’s souls.

Kasubi tombs also has sacred rooms which are separate by reed partitions with bark cloth curtains and its floors are covered by lemongrass and palm leaves. It also has a sacred forest which concealed from public view using bark cloth. Kasubi tombs the great tombs are surrounded by several houses belonging to kabaka’s wives who are entitled with the responsibility of taking care of the tombs and other used for other functions, these houses were constructed using wattle with grass thatched roofs. These houses include

  • Bujjabukula gatehouse. This is a gatehouse located at the official entrance of the tombs which was built in 1882 and traditionally as a guard house where guards used to hide behind woven reed partitions while observing the security of the palace, this house is headed by the chief guard who comes from the Butiko and this position is hereditary to only Butiko clan. Assistant palace guard comes from Mbogo clan. This house leads to a small Ndoga obukaba house through a small court yard.
  • Ndoga obukaba house. This house is also called a royal drum house built in a circular form, this house is home for royal drums including three most traditionally important drums of Buganda for example  

Mujjaguzo drum played during the enthronement of kings in Buganda, it belongs to Kabaka Mutesa I bantadde drum played to announce the arrival and departure of royal family members at the palace.

Kanaba drum played to announce the death of the royal family member.

  • Luvumbi house. This house is for king Muteesa I’s wife, the position for the keeper of this house is hereditary and comes from the lineage of mukwasa. Lady Mukwasa comes from ngonge clan and is responsible for grooming the princess in the palace.
  • Mawome house. This house belongs to one of king muteesa I’s wives, wife responsible for this house is called ssaabadu from ngeye clan she is responsible for royal regalia and a close confident to the king.
  • Nalinya (Bulinya) house. This house belongs to Nalinya (the spiritual guardian) the custodian of the palace and the tombs who takes charge in case the king dies, Nalinya is an entrusted sister to the king and work as an assistant to the king. This house was built near the king’s palace, a Nalinya position is a hereditary and the heir is a direct descendant to the king.

During the regime of Kabaka Muteesa II, he ordered the introduction modern building materials into the tomb’s structure whereby a steel rod was inserted into the tomb, concrete columns and bricks were also used to strengthen the tombs.

Kasubi tombs is an outstanding testimony for ganda people’s genius minds and center for the ganda people’s civilization, it is used a center for the manufacture and decoration of bark cloth by the Ngo clan people and the show casing of thatching techniques by the ngeye clan.

Unfortunately, in 2010 the historical Kasubi tombs became an endangered site after it was put to fire by the unknown and this same year it was listed among world heritage sites in danger by UNESCO. According to reports from tombs workers they termed the fire as a deliberate action through some authority officials blame the workers for the fire. This fire destroyed most of the royal regalia

In 2014 the reconstruction process was initiated with the help of funds from the government of Japan and the contribution collected from the local people (etofali).

Plan your safari to Uganda the pearl of Africa where you will explore these Kasubi tombs and other interesting tours like Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Forest.

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