ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: The Mutapa Kingdom:Religious Organization of the Mutapa State
- The Munhumutapa was the supreme leader and the religious leader of the Mutapa people.
- He had the ultimate religious powers.
- Evidence from oral tradition argues that the Munhumutapa was a seen as a divine king
- This is also supported by written evidence from Portuguese sources which state that the Mutapa subjects were of the belief that the Munhumutapa would go to heaven once he died
- The people believed if the Munhumutapa died he would become a national ancestral spirit mudzimu and be worshiped.
- Just like the residents of the previous state like Great Zimbabwe,
- the Mutapa people believed in the supreme being whom they called Mwari and
- They believed Mwari was the creator
- The Mutapas also believed in masvikiro who are the mediums of mhondoro
- Mhondoro refers to the spirits of a deceased chief or king
- These spirits were seen as being of national importance
- It was believed the mhondoro spirit would posses lions without manes (females) until they found a medium to possess
- The Mutapa people also believed that the masvikiros and the Mhondoros would pass on their grievances, requests and petitions to Mwari
- and in return Mwari would communicate to them through the masvikiro.
- Prayers and pettitions were passed on from the last deceased ancestor up until they reached Mwari
- The Mhondoro’s and masvikiros could castigate the Mutapa if he did something wrong.
- Thus the mhondoro and masvikiro acted as a check on the Mutapa’s power and exercise of authority
- This essentially means there was a rudimentary separation of religious and political power
- As the Mhondoros and Svikiros were not entirely under the power of the Mutapa
- The Mutapa was not the overall head of the religious system but he was given his deserved respect in this area.
- The religious leaders provided leadership in times of political crisis, e. g during the first chimurenga 1896-7 or Shona- Ndebele uprisings.
- The Mutapas gave the mhondoros gifts in the form of cloth, beads,cattle and young men and a sign of respect and also to get their support
- This means the Mutapa could influence the mhondoro and svikiros to see things their way in certain instances
- Mhondoros shrines were located in the capital and the mhondoros were responsible for their maintenance.
- Mhondoros served as oral historical figures as they kept record of king names and also their deeds.
- Go to this page to see a list of some of the famous Mhondoros/Svikiros in the Mutapa Kingdom
To access more topics go to the History Notes page.
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