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Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


Jean Laborde built the Rova (royal enclosure) of Tsinjoarivo as a holiday resort of Ranavalona I. Construction began in 1834 and ended two years later. Ranavalona II (1868-1883) and Ranavalona III (1883-1897), like Rasoherina, who reigned from 1863 to 1868 and who moved little for reasons of health, like the first of the name, stayed in Tsinjoarivo. Especially Ranavalona II who is often suffering and who appreciates the rest she enjoys in this wild setting.
However, compared with their holidays, their official visits are rare: three for Ranavalona I (1840, 1842, and 1856), two for Ranavalona II (1880 and 1882), two also for Ranavalona III (1889 and 1890). All the rituals of their stays are organized under the first sovereign, the two following merely follow what is already fixed, contenting themselves with removing what is outdated and improving what can be.
As the custom has established since time immemorial, the queen never leaves the Rova through the great north-east gate through which she has entered. To leave it, it borrows the portal of the south-west. The latter also leads to the two famous falls of the Onive which flows at the foot of the Rova and denominated Ambavaloza upstream and Andriamamovoka downstream.
The name Ambavaloza comes from two rocks located at the foot of the fall. Very visible when the water is low during the dry season, they give the impression of forming an open mouth of fawn where the water is engulfed before rejecting it.
Both historians and villagers assert that this was the “favorite game” of Ranavalona I, “cruel queen” at the time. It consists of throwing up the fall of the calves requisitioned from the breeders. Carried away by the current, they struggled before smashing themselves on the rocks of the river. This show would be highly appreciated by the queen. When the calves are lacking, it will precipitate prisoners whose sentences exceed four years of detention.
A little further downstream, to reach the fall of Andriamamovoka you have to go down a large stone staircase that also has its history. Formerly before marriage, the betrothed must appear before the sovereign to receive his blessing. She gives it only after the young man and the girl, each on his side, goes down the steps that make up the stairs. A number that each must tell the sovereign.
If their two answers are correct, they receive the much-anticipated “tsodranon’ny mpanjaka”. On the other hand, if they are false and, moreover, do not agree, it separates them immediately because, argues she, they are incapable of understanding and therefore living in harmony.
Andriamamovoka bears his name well. A few steps from the footbridge where you have a beautiful view of the waterfall, you are already sprinkled with “dust” of water. Reflecting the sun’s rays, these water droplets form a rainbow whose location varies according to the position of the sun: in the west in the morning, in the east in the afternoon. The oral tradition, however, maintains that this rainbow appears only if one whistles in a certain way.
In the dry season, when the water is very low, it is possible to cross the river by borrowing the rocks. The queen, on the other hand, contented herself with a natural platform near the fall to bathe. She lets herself be sprayed by the spray from the water that strikes the bottom of the platform, the villagers say. It also appears that it is near this platform that the ritual sacrifices of oxen “volavita” organized in Tsinjoarivo take place.
It is between the two waterfalls also that are executed the young people who keep company at Ranavalona Ire at night. Early in the morning, elements of the royal guard took each unfortunate man to his fate, on the banks of the Onive, to decapitate him. By this act, it is said, she suppresses the proof of her inclination for the beautiful males of the village. Out of respect for these “innocent victims”, it is forbidden to relieve themselves between the two falls. This is the only taboo that exists in the Rova and its surroundings. Another popular custom takes place at the foot of Andriamamovoka until August 2008.