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


Strange epidemic of convulsion which bursts in Antananarivo in March 1863 during the reign of Radama II, the Ramanenjana reaches its paroxysm in the following May, when there are no less than 20,000 convulsionnaires. The disease is characterized by a kind of attack of nerves that communicates “by sympathy” and several hypotheses are issued to explain this singular epidemic. Including the one who said that it was only a skilful farce mounted by the conservative Hova party, the fierce opponent of Radama II, to prepare for his assassination and that of his friends and courtiers, the Menamaso.
At that time, rumors circulated, recounts the tradition, “that a great house scene is declared in Ambondrombe, the mountain near Fianarantsoa, ​​where the spirits of the Merina go to their death to live as here below” , That is to say according to the respect due to the hierarchy of the castes, the trades and the geographical locations.
In 1861, when Ranavalona I turned her back, she was said to be welcomed with great pomp: the subjects acclaimed her, the soldiers organized great parades, the music was played, the cannons thundered. The demonstrations lasted a fortnight, the numerous oxen and the new firearms which the queen was accompanied on her last journey, only increasing the popular jubilation.
Two years later, a Palais officer arrives at Ambondrombe and reports to the Sovereign the various news, notably the fact that “Radama II and the people are praying to the God of the Whites”. Furious, Ranavalona, ​​whose position on Christianity is known, comes to find her husband and declares to him, “Ikotoseheno and the people,” they say to me, “pray in Antananarivo. To which the king replies: “He is our only son, let him do what he pleases.” But the queen does not hear him, and enters into a black anger. “Which human being dared to convert Ikotoseheno to Christianity” Immediately, she decided to return to Antananarivo “to remove her son from this trap”.
Radama-father tries in vain to dissuade him, and to cut the way for him, he burns the forest which borders the road. But it persists in its decision. In his turn the king gets angry. And the news is already spreading among the living.
“Radama, furious, burned the forest of Ambondrombe and Ranavalona as well as the people fled from the mountain. Henceforth the affairs of the dead and of the living are mingled. “
To punish his wife for her stubbornness, Radama I gave him only a few men to accompany her, which is not to the taste of the queen who intends to avenge himself. She leaves Ambondrombe in the night, and, in order to distinguish the road, she makes lighthouses and torches light. When day comes, too many baggage begins to weigh and Ranavalona gives the order “to take a sixth of Merina by territory for the
carry”. Pressed to follow the queen, it is said, “soldiers and simple chosen subjects rush and under their heavy baggage, they contort.” They are the spirits of the convulsionnaires, it seems.
Arriving in the capital, Ranavalona Ire sees to what extent Christianity is gaining ground and decides with her few men to chase the Christians. Those who are caught up are subjected to all kinds of bullying as degrading as painful. This is how some patients of the Ramanenjana delirious and scream of suffering. Others, especially the slaves, are tied up. That explains “that they keep their arms stretched out and tight in the back”. All this-convulsions, sufferings that appear on the face, delirium and arms in the back-disappear only at their cure, after three days for the luckiest. Some patients, it is added, enter the Rova of Antananarivo to announce to Radama II that “his mother awaits him in Mahamasina”. What surprised the young king especially since there are only sick people surrounding the Vatomasina of his swearing-in.
According to historians, some Great of the kingdom want to see “in this unknown epidemic”, the premonitory sign of the death of Radama II. And when one knows, at least according to official history, that he is strangled with a lamba of silk a few days later, one can suppose where the disease and the rumors come from. Official history because another version, unofficial, maintains that Radama II can flee in country tanala to his brother of blood Ratsiandraofana, king of the Ikongo. According to Callet, the Ramanenjana “has become an endemic disease in Imerina at each end of the rainy season”.