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The holy forest of Mpotsa

Mpotsa rainforest Burundi

In the Burundian society, the death of a queen mother (Umugabekazi) was followed by a long mourning period. Wrapped in clothes and covered with mats, the body was transported by carriers designated by the royal court to the region Bunyange til they reached Budidiri on the Hill Rukiga, the first resting place of the funeral procession.
They then crossed the river Mucece, climbed the hill Mahonda and reached Rusaka on the hill Bukwavu.
They finally headed to the hill Yakiriro where the bearers handed the remains to the mortuary of Banyange after which they returned to the court.
The embalm was done in the night at Yakiriro where a palace was constructed and a sacred grove was planted for the occasion.
The next day the funeral procession was moving in an atmosphere of solemnity, to the forest and stopped at Mpotsa Akogabami River for the purpose of purification. Holy men and a maid, who came to wash the royal court body with a mixture of milk from a white cow who nursed her first calf, clear sorghum beer and kaolin, before it was placed on a rack in a palace specially built for this purpose in an enclosure formed by dragons (ibitongati) and ficus trees (imimanda) in the middle of the forest.
After a variable period during which specific rites were performed by the Banyang people, the palace and the enclosures were closed down, marking the end of the funeral ceremonies of the Queen Mother.
There are four queens mothers resting in the forest: the mother of Ntare II, the one of Mwezi II, than that of Mutaga II and that of Mwambutsa II.
This site is a major tourist attraction: at the same time it is natural, historical and cultural. Its cachet associated with the mysterious death still inspires the fear within people of the region and this disposition has contributed to the protection of the forest who, until now, spared this historical primary aspect, from  bush fires or destruction.
This forest covers an area of 40 hectares still harbors a rich fauna, including a variety of medicinal plants and therefor it is not uncommon to find university researchers in their exploration.
Other species of plants found in this giant rain forest are for example:  Albizia adianthifolia (imisebeyi), the Myrianthus arboreus (amuse), papyrus (imihotora), Clausena anisata the (umutana), the syzgium guineense (imigoti) etc..



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