The controversy generated by the planned coronation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has brought sharp focus to the holy Agikuyu shrine of Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga.
Situated in Gaturi ward, Murang’a county, Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga is considered the mythical garden of Eden of the Gikuyu tribe of central Kenya.
It is believed to be the central point of dispersal of the Gikuyu after arrival into the Mt. Kenya area.
According to the myth, Ngai took the first Gikuyu man up to his abode on top of Mt. Kenya, Kiri-Nyaga, and showed him all the land pointing to the Aberdare Mountain ranges (Nyandarwa) to the West, Ngong Hills (Kia Mbiruiru) to the South and the Ol donyo Sabuk (Kia Njahi) to the South East.
God told him, “All that land between those mountains and here is yours. Whenever you need me, pray to me facing those mountains and I will answer you. Now go and settle at that place near that giant Mukuyu fig tree and build a house for your wife.”
Gikuyu then discended and went to the place he had been directed to and there found a woman waiting for him. The woman’s name was Mumbi, which means Creator or Potter. They settled in the place and had nine plus one daughters but no sons.
The daughters names were, Wanjiru, Wambui, Wanjiku, Wangari, Waceera, Wakiuru, Waithira, Wairimu, Wangui, and Wamuyu.
After some time Gikuyu felt that his daughters needed to get married and he went and prayed to Ngai and Ngai answered him requesting the sacrifice of a spotless goat at the foot of the Mukuyu and for Gikuyu to return early in the morning to the spot.
On arrival at the fig tree the following morning he found nine young men waiting and he took them home. Each of the girls took a mate who was her height. Wamuyu was left to stay without a husband as she was too young to marry.
These nine couples went on to establish their own homesteads and are the source, together with Wamuyu of the Nine plus One Gikuyu clans.
The Agikuyu shrine is at times referred to in different expressions as the Agikuyu shrine, mythical site, and origin or heritage site. A shrine is a place associated with or containing memorabilia, or a casket containing a sacred relic, or a niche containing holy statues.
The shrine is the Mukurwe wa Nyagathaga site, a relic for the Agikuyu cradle since it serves as memorabilia of Gikuyu and Mumbi and the Agikuyu cultural life that governs surviving customs and beliefs from a past age.
The Mukurwe or Mugumo tree at the site was viewed as an immemorial object of worship while Nyagathaga is a type of bird that used to build its nest and lived on the top of the sacred Mukurwe tree.
The Agikuyu shrine is located at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga in Gakuyu Village, Gaturi location, Kiharu Division, Murang’a County, Kenya. It is the cradle of the Agikuyu civilization and has symbolic, ritualistic and aesthetic values that fulfiled the ceremonial functions and spiritual beliefs of the community.
The Agikuyu ancestral parents, Gikuyu and Mumbi, were believed to have resided at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga with their nine daughters, creating the origin of the clan system among the Agikuyu people. The daughters were: Wanjiru, Wanjiku, Wambui, Warigia, Waithera, Wacera, Wangui, Wairimu and Wangari.
The Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine is a very significant landmark to the Agikuyu because of its ancestral, spiritual and cultural heritage. From time immemorial the shrine was considered sacred to the Agikuyu people.
Communion with Ngai
It was a place of offering sacrifices to Mwene-Nyaga (God), which was mostly done when the Agikuyu community was faced with calamities such as famine, epidemics, drought, internal conflict and waging wars against local or foreign invaders.
Sacrifices were also offered as a thanksgiving to Mwene-Nyaga for his bounties. Overall, the shrine was the soul as well as the spiritual centre of Agikuyu life.
Political activities are strictly forbidden at the shrine and anyone defying the elders is always met with calamities.