Twelve Sacred Hills

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In the late 18th century, King Andrianampoinimerina unified the several Merina tribes and established the kingdom ruled from twelve sacred hills.

All around Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, a range of hills stand out against the horizon. Before they were conquered, each of them was the centre of a lillte kingdom rivalling the hill of Analamanga, now called Antananarivo.

Twelve of these hills are called the twelve royal hills in memory of the small states they once represented. Later they were called the twelve sacred hills in tribute to these royalties as they were revered as being part of the glory and honour of the Hova power.

The number of hills was supposedly increased to twelve to arrive at this number which in ancient Jewish and eastern civilisation expressed entirety, completion and fullness.

The number twelve then has to do with rituals: For in fact there are more than twelve royal hills in Imerina. Likewise, there were traditionally twelve royal wives (whereas Andrianampoinimerina had more than twelve wives). There were twelve kings of Imerina and twelve idols.

But according to oral tradition (when asking the elders), twelve is the number of these famous hills which we sometimes pompously call mountains. From the top of each of them, you can see past the plains and ricefields Antananarivo, where the Queen's Palace stands clearly outlined.

The concept of the twelve sacred hills was established by Andrianampoinimerina. The hills constituted the framework of the political history of that great king. (Text by Isabelle Ratsira)

The twelve sacred hills

In the centre of Antananarivo

In the north of Antananarivo

In the north-west of Antananarivo

In the south-east of Antananarivo

In the south-west of Antananarivo

Other not sacred hills in the surroundings of Antananarivo