The Buganda Kingdom. Uganda Cultural Tour Experience
Buganda is a Bantu kingdom within Uganda and is the largest kingdom in present-day East Africa. Buganda has a long history and around 14 million people representing approximately 26.6% of Uganda’s population make up the largest Uganda region. The kingdom was unified in the 13th century (1300AD) under the leadership of Kato Kintu who was also believed to be the first Muganda. Baganda can be found in the present districts of Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Mpigi, Masaka, Rakai, Kiboga, Mubende, Bukomansimbi, Kalangala, and Kalungu among others. The main language spoken is Luganda. Buganda is also known as Africa’s last surviving kingdom.
Origin of Buganda Kingdom
Baganda is believed to be the descendants of the first Muganda known as Kintu. It is believed that Kintu came from heaven while others believe that he came from the Eastern direction from Mount Elgon and crossed to Busoga hence arriving in Buganda. The kingdom was established around the 14th century along the shores of Lake Victoria and evolved around its founding king Kintu who is believed to have arrived as the leader of multiple clans and conquered the area defeating the last indigenous ruler known as Bemba Musota hence establishing his new state. Kintu later disappeared mysteriously after laying Buganda’s foundation.
The religion of the Buganda Kingdom
Baganda is believed to have believed in superhuman spirits in form of Lubale and Misambwa and up to now some of them still believe in these spirits. Lubale was believed to be an exceptional attribute in life that carried over to death. The Mizimu were believed to be spirits of the dead people and was believed that the body could die and the soul keeps existing as a muzimu. These ghosts were always monitoring the family and sometimes would haunt anyone that had grudges against the dead person.
The most significant spirits were the mizimu who visited the living in dreams and in most cases warned them of coming dangers. The belief in this so-called mizimu is still common among most people in Buganda. The Supreme Being among the Baganda was the creator commonly referred to as Katonda who was believed in differently from Lubale. Katonda has three temples in Buganda and these were located in Kyaggwe under the care of priests from the Njovu clan. Katonda/Ggulu was the most important of them and was also known to be the god of the sky and the father of Kiwanuka the god of lightning. Kawumpuli was also known to be the god of plague, Musisi was the god of earthquakes, Ndawula was the god of smallpox, Mukasa the god of Lake Victoria, Wamala the god of Lake Wamala, Kitaka the god of the earth and Musoke was the god of the rainbow.
Present-day Baganda is Christians that are both catholic and Protestant. About 15% are Muslims.
Rites of passage
This is where a Muganda passes through what we call stages of growth. This is from a child (Omwana) to a youth (Omuvubuka) and then to a man (Omusajja) or woman (Omukazi). In the Buganda culture, a child’s umbilical cord is kept safely for use later during a special ceremony commonly referred to as ‘Okwalula Abaana’.
Boys and girls are expected to be well-behaved among the Baganda for example respecting adults as well as elders, greeting visitors properly, especially for the girls kneeling as a sign of respect to the elders, and sitting properly for the girl child. Sex education is enhanced among both boys and girls and through this they are all taught to always respect their bodies until they are ready to be married. Girls were assisted by the aunt commonly known as the Senga and this one is usually the sister of the girl’s father.
In Buganda, death was much feared and Baganda did not believe in the paradigms of life after death. Weeping was important in Buganda and whoever refused to weep would be suspected to be the cause of death. They also did not believe that death was a natural calamity but instead attributed it to wizards, sorcerers, and supernatural spirits. After every death in Buganda, a witch doctor would be consulted and burial was after five days. This was because they had to wait to see if the so-declared dead person would be containing an element of life and perhaps come back to life.
Women would even go the extra mile to an extent of pinching the corpse to see if it felt the pain. Women were believed to eat rot faster than men and were hence buried faster than men. A full month of mourning was declared and later after ten days, they would carry out what is termed Okwabya Olumbe in Buganda. During this process of Okwabya Olumbe, an heir would be installed if the deceased was the heir of the head of the family. The heir-to-be would be dressed in bark cloth near the door where he would be given instructions.
Children of the deceased would be dressed in a backcloth, with their hair shaved, and then instructed to go to the banana plantation crying so that the ghost of the deceased comes out of their home. Bark cloth is part of Buganda culture for over 600 years.
Food of Buganda Kingdom
Buganda’s staple food is matooke and is commonly served with sauce like meat, pasted ground nuts, beans, mushrooms, and cowpeas among others. In Buganda, people also grow and eat other food crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, maize, yams, and greens like tomatoes, onions, and cabbage among others. Types of fruits like pineapples, jackfruit, oranges, mangoes, and lemons are also planted. Baganda were primarily agriculturalists and the climate of the Buganda region favours crop growth because of the fertile soils.
A gomesi and Kanzu are the traditional wear for the people of Buganda. A gomesi is worn by women and a kanzu is worn by men. These attires are most treasured in a way that they are won at functions like Kwanjula, and Kukyala as well as weddings. Gomesi traces its origins to 1905 as it was introduced by a Goan designer, Caetano Gomes who was by that time a resident in Uganda when it was still a British Protectorate.
The dress gained widely when the wife of the then Kabaka of Buganda Daudi Chwa II wore it at the 18-year-old coronation. A rural Muganda woman is therefore supposed to wear a busuuti. This traditionally was strapless and made of bark cloth and is worn on occasions for example during the festive season. A real Muganda man is supposed to wear a kanzu, a white long cotton robe, and on special occasions, it is worn with a trouser underneath a Western-style suit jacket.
The first missionaries introduced literacy and formal education to Uganda in the 19th century and Buganda education is most valued. Family members in Buganda will make sure they combine heads to support a child through education. Later after a child has completed their education, they are also expected to help other members of the family. Come experience the beauty of Buganda as you also learn more about its cultural heritage.