The Osun Osogbo River
Osogbo, capital of Osun State, is again agog, as tourists, culture enthusiasts and indigenes converged to celebrate the Osun Osogbo festival.
The annual festival remains a unique traditional event, which every year unites the devotees of Osun the great goddess of western Nigeria, from all over the world.
In preparations for this year’s edition, the state government promised to make it a world-class traditional event with the grand finale billed for August 24.
The government has made provision for free rail transport service during the festival, apart from tarring the roads that lead to the Osun grove. In the Osun grove one finds the head waters of the Osun river which is believed to be the abode of the goddess.
The Osun Osogbo festival was first held in late 14th century AD. It marks a covenant (which is renewed yearly) between Osun and her devotees, who receive annual blessings from her for their humility, devotion, their steadfastness to humane principles, and their works of love in the course of the coming year.
Since the 14th century, its celebration has grown in status. It remains the most famous of all traditional festivals in the South Western part of the country.
In 2005, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) enlisted the Osun grove as a world heritage site.
The annual Osun-Osogbo festival is celebrated in the last week of August of every year.
The Ataoja Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, is the direct custodian of Osun grove. He is the chief priest and community leader of Osogbo.
He described the festival as a remembrance of the great ancestors and ancestresses, an occasion to honor goddess Osun and an avenue for people to get blessed, as Osun is believed to be a giver of health, wealth, happiness, peace and children. The water that flows from the river is curative, healing all forms of diseases.
He further stated that the goddess of the river was a living being, and the annual festival was to adore and appreciate it for its covenant which it never breaks since it was made centuries ago. He said the festival would continue to attract multitudes, due to the covenant between the goddess and the founding fathers of the town: “Little wonder Osun Festival has turned into an international festival now celebrated not only in Osogbo or Nigeria, but in some other foreign countries of the world such as Brazil and France.” The festival always lasts two weeks with various traditional and cultural activities lined up for each day.
During the grand finale of the festival, the votary maid (Arugba Osun – anointed priestess) leaves Osun shrine with the Osun calabash, which contains some antiquities to worship the goddess of the river.
The anointed priestess with the calabash goes for royal blessing from the traditional ruler and later leads the processession to the shrine at the groove.
The anointed priestess, who is a young virgin from the family of the incumbent Ataoja must not stumble while going or coming from the grove.
The same calabash that was used when the festival started in 1370 AD is still being used to worship Osun till date.
Bamigbola Gbolagunte, “Osun Osogbo: Again, the world prepares to celebrate a river goddess”, Friday, August 17, 2012 www.sunnewsonline.com