Posted by Amanda Ibironke on Sunday, July 5, 2015
Osun osogbo grove is a sacred forest along the banks of the Osun River. The Osun osogbo grove is among the last of the sacred forests which usually adjoined the edges of most Yoruba cities before extensive urbanisation.Every year, the Osun-Osogbo festival is celebrated in the month of August at the grove. Yearly, the festival attracts thousands of Osun worshippers, spectators and tourists from all walks of life. For the people of Osogbo land, August is a month of celebration, traditional cleansing of the city and cultural reunion of the people with their ancestors and founders of the Osogbo Kingdom. The Osun-Osogbo Festival is a two-week-long programme. It starts with the traditional cleansing of the town called 'Iwopopo', which is followed after three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp called 'Ina Olojumerindinlogun'.
Ina Olojumerindinlogun, the sacred lamp lit at the beginning of the annual Osun-Osogbo festival. Then comes the 'Ibroriade', an assemblage of the crowns of the past rulers of the town, (the Ataojas of Osogbo), for blessings. This event is led by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba (the virgin calabash carrier), Yeye Osun (chief priestess) and a committee of priestesses.
Founded on an ancient covenant entered into circa 1370 AD between the first Osogbo settlers and the Osun river goddess, the festival has become an annual ritual marked by plenty of fanfare. The ceremonies culminate in the cultural procession of people to the Osun grove, a spectacle that commands the interest of thousands of tourists every year. The procession begins in the Ataoja’s palace and its star attraction is the votary maid, Arugba. She is the maiden who carries the sacred calabash of prayers and offerings to the grove. Arugba is escorted on the walk by Osun priests and priestesses who begin by leading her round the palace premises and back to a sacred hut. By this time, the grove and streets leading to the palace are teeming with people awaiting the appearance of the Arugba. Guarded by devotees, she comes out of the hut and stands by its entrance, and the calabash is placed on her head from behind. Immediately the atmosphere is electrified. The tempo increases as people press against one another; cameramen jostle for shots as she exits the palace and heads towards the grove. The crowd increases at every junction and Arugba’s advance is accompanied by chants of “Ooreyeye o!” – a lyrical exhortation of blessings to the Osun goddess.
She leads the procession into the grove where the crowd awaiting her is almost the size of her ‘entourage’. The arrival sparks fervent prayers accompanied by the snapping of fingers to cast off curses and ill-luck. The excitement regularly creates a stampede that is kept in check by the large retinue of security officers specially drafted for the occasion. Arugba finally goes to the river with the calabash as the cultural festivities continue.
For the people and their king, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji Olanipekun (Larooye II), the festival is a period of reunion and re-dedication. Beyond that, Osun Osogbo brings to the spotlight the town’s hospitality, which has become a money-spinning tourism venture for the State. As Osun faithfuls, culture lovers and tourists enjoy the revelries, dance and chant, the town’s purse swells.
Osun Osogbo enjoys the support of many local and international brands. They bid to outshine one another with entertaining events that complement the core festival, including concerts, competitions and beauty pageants. Local artisans display their crafts. And tourists pour in in ever increasing numbers.
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