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


Long ago, for a long time, Malayo-Polynesian sailors were thrown by accident
It seems, on the coast of Madagascar. These Hova with stretched eyes and bridles, with prominent cheekbones, black hair and smooth, coppery complexion, strain in the Great Island. They will engender the race of chiefs, which will extend its dominion over the High Plateau.
On these lands of striking contrasts, they choose, it is said, the first settlement of the small country of Anerinerina. They will be found later in Ampandrana, then in Imerimanjaka. Then, in a circular march of conquests all around the future location of Antananarivo, they were found to found fortified posts on hillocks called Alasora, Ilafy, Ambohitrabiby, Ambohidratrimo and Ambohimanga, their penultimate station.
An enclosure of adobe fences or superimposed blocks, often lined with ditches, constitutes the Rova, the feudal village. Wooden or granite doors, in front of which an enormous circular stone is rolled, give access to these refuges guarded by guards. For “strangers to the country, the Hova had to fight against the first landowners, the Vazimba” (Urbain-Faurec), the invaders decided but conquering few. And to defend themselves against their reprisals that the legend portrays terrifying, the newcomers settle on the ridges of camps easy to preserve. However, with stubbornness, they transform into neighboring marshes into rice fields.
The highest of the 12 hills overlooking the Plateaux (1468m) bears the name of Analamanga, “the blue forest” or “to the pretty wood”. It is “near the sky” (Imarivolanitra) and its position is all the stronger as a steep one hundred meters makes its western slope inaccessible.
Analamanga, with the ravine of Ambatoborodamba (the rock where the lamba tears), justifies the choice by the hova kings of this natural fortress to citadel-capital, especially since the rock dominates and controls the fertile plain where flows the ” Ikopa, as well as all the surrounding lands that make up thousands of hectares of good land suitable for crops and rice fields.
We can thus understand the singular attraction which this Mount Analamanga exerts for two centuries on the Merina, as well as the fierce struggles for its possession. For the history of Antananarivo is that of the conquest of Analamanga, and this conquest is closely linked with the immense work of clearing, draining marshes and planting rice fields, work undertaken from the foundation of the city .
Tradition attributes this foundation to Andrianjaka, Lord of Ambohimanga (1610-1630). According to legend, he camped with his troops at Ambohitsiroa where he pronounced these memorable words: “We can not be two.” One way to announce his will to be the sole master of the conquest undertaken. Having done this, the prince plans to colonize the top of the hill and establishes 1000 men as settlers. Hence, Antananarivo, the City of Thousand, is explained.
Some disagree with this traditional etymology. For them, the word “arivo” with the value of an augmentative, very common in Malagasy in the names of places and people, would simply mean “the great city”, as it was in the eyes of the peasants.
Andrianjaka undertakes the drainage works of the marshes of the south of the city in order to transform them into rice fields. The dyke of Ankadimbahoaka (the ditch of the people) dates from its reign. What favors the settlement and the city takes the consistency of a political and economic center. Almost a century of relative peace would have assured him of a definitive principality if the kingdom was not divided at the beginning of the eighteenth century: the rupture of unity deprived the city of its leading role. But she will find him ninety years later.