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Ambohimanga Rova

Unveiling the Rich History and Architecture of Ambohimanga Rova

The Sacred Hill of Ambohimanga

Ambohimanga, originally called Tsimadilo and then Amhitrankanga, was named the “blue hill” by King Andritsimitoviaminandriana in the 18th century because of its lush vegetation and charming forest. After sharing his kingdom in 1710, Andriamasinavalona designated Ambohimanga as the capital for one of his sons. This is where Andrianampoinimerina, a renowned sovereign, was born and later made it the capital of his kingdom.

King Andrianampoinimerina aimed to unify the entire country during his reign, considering the seas as the boundaries of his sovereignty. He resided in Ambohimanga for several periods and was buried there before being later transferred to Manjakamiadana palace by colonists. The Rova an Ambohimanga site preserves historical and scientific artifacts that represent royal life.

During the 19th century, Rova an Ambohimanga became a religious capital and sacred city of Madagascar’s kingdom. It served as a place for Malagasy religious practices and gatherings.

The old fortified capital is 21 km north of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. It’s a significant place for the monarchy of the Hautes Terres where the famous King Andrianampoinimerina lived.


The rova is a palace in Madagascar that was built with strong defenses. It is surrounded by deep ditches called “hadivory” to keep enemies out. To further protect the palace, there are 7 main gates with specific purposes. Some gates are for funeral processions, some for the royal family, and others for servants or citizens. These gates have stone structures and different architectural styles, some topped with straw roofs and others closed with stone discs.

The gate named Ambatomitsangana is the main entrance to the palace, located on the east side. It has a watchtower and a huge stone disc weighing about 12 tons to close it. In 1847, a tall wall was added under Queen Ranavalona I using an old construction technique common in Madagascar.

– The rova palace in Madagascar has strong defenses like deep ditches surrounding it.
– There are 7 main gates with specific purposes such as for funeral processions or royalty.
– The Ambatomitsangana gate is the main entrance with a watchtower and a massive stone disc.
– In 1847, Queen Ranavalona I added a tall wall around the palace using an old construction technique shared by many ancient buildings on the island’s constructions.

Building Structures

The Mahandrihono Palace is the former residence of Queen Ranavalona III and King Andrianampoinimerina. It is built with black rosewood and contains historical artifacts like kitchen utensils, bowls, and lamps. Adjacent to the palace is a glass pavilion used for government meetings and by the queen. Just north of the palace stands the Bevato Palace.

Behind the palaces lies FAHIMASINA, an area where oxen were sacrificed. There’s also DOBOMASINA, which has two basins for royal baths—one for King Andrianampoinimerina and another for Queen Ranavalona Ière—sourced from Amparihy sacred lake.

At ground level on the left side of the palace is lapa Fidasiana, a space where the king addresses his people and where oxen are sacrificed. It’s shaded by a sacred tree called “amontana” that only grows in sovereign places. The area also features a large stone used as a platform when kings address their people.

Ambatomiantendro at the top of the palace offers panoramic views of beautiful landscapes surrounding it—a spot traditionally used by royals to play Fanorona, a traditional game.

In this same location stands a sacred stone used by visitors and locals as a prayer site—people throw stones into its small hole while praying, particularly women seeking to conceive.

Returning to the base of the palace are royal tombs: Felamboahangy Tomb and Mahazaza Tomb.

Rova an Ambohimanga proudly preserves Malagasy royal values and historical culture—an enduring symbol of national pride.

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