HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, in this piece, sought the views of leaders and traditionalists concerning the myths and taboos surounding the existence of Idanre Hill located in Ondo State.
Ondo State, often called the Sunshine State is one of the states in Nigeria blessed with several tourists centers with unequalled historical values. One of such tourist attractions is the popular Idanre hills, named after Idanre town in Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State, about 24 kilometer from the state capital, Akure.
The hill which surrounds the houses within the town and serves as fence has both spiritual and tourist values to the town and was said to have existed for more than 800 years.
Apart from its spiritual value to the people of the town, the hill has placed the town in the world map with its enlistment on the World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) while tourists from across the globe pay visit to this tourist center.
This has greatly contributed to the economic development of the hilly town as the hill now serves as a good source of internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the state government, as a good sum of money is realised from tourists who pays before entering into groove.
Idanre hill consists of about 640 steps and there are about five resting place before getting to the top of the 3,000ft hill, with some physical attraction which include the old Owa palace, Old court, shrines, Belfrey and a fascinating footprint which is widely believed that can be enlarged or contrasted to accommodate every foot. It was believed that any foot that does not fit in into the footprints is considered to belong to a witch or wizard.
Going down memory lane, a devotee of the hill, Oluwaseun Ayobami explained that the people of Idanre lived on the hill before they emigrated from the top to the bottom of the hill in 1923 but said the people never abandoned the hill ever since then.
He however noted that apart from tourists who visit the hill on a daily basis, traditional religion worshipers, spiritualists, especially prophets visit the hill to receive guidance and to observe spiritual exercise needed for the growth of their ministries and work.
According to him, “Arun water” from a stream on the top of the hill, from time immemorial has been a special delight to spiritualists who claim averred to its therapeutic effects which can cure all forms of ailments, which brings about the popular demand for the water by spiritualists within and outside the state.
He said one distinguished feature of the “Arun river is that “the flowing river is crystal clear and one can see crabs and a few other aquatic animals inside it, while the more adventurous can also dare the Agboogun Footprints, which is widely believed to enlarge or contract to accommodate every foot.”
Agboogun foot print which is said to be a work of nature as it conveniently enlarges on contract to accommodate every foot put inside it. The foot print was said to be as old as the hill itself and it accommodates all forms of human feet of different sizes with its enlargement and contractible ability.
Explaining the story and myth woven around Agboogun, he explained Agboogun was a great hunter with supernatural powers. He said a popular account asserts that the great Agboogun asked three of his lieutenants to accompany him on a journey. On their way, he paused to inscribe pictographic scripts on a hillside, which till today is still hard decipher or read and became known as the “Unreadable Signs” till today.
He said “ at the bottom of the hill, Agboogun struck his foot on the rock, leaving an impression or imprint on its surface. The foot shaped-depression is now known as “EseAgboogun” (Agboogun’s Footprint) and left an instruction that : “Any person accused of witchcraft should be made to try it for a size; it fits any foot size except those of the malevolent.”
Ayobami said that “the evergreen landscape surrounding the hills provides fellowship with nature’s best. The peacefulness that pervades the atmosphere, the blossoming civilization that existed on the hills, the rigors of climbing and a refreshing swim in Arun River, all make the Idanre Hills a wonderful place to visit,”
Another devotee of the hill who identified himself as Olowo also explained that “Oke Idanre consists of high plain with spectacular valleys. Its physical attributes include Owa’s Palace, Shrines, Old Court, Belfry and Agbooogun foot print.
It also has diverse and variegated eco-systems of flora and fauna. Oke Idanre contains very important bio-physical and land form features whose interaction with the physical features created an enduring cultural landscape within the setting.”
He said that “Idanre hill is one of the most awesome and beautiful natural landscapes in Ondo State and Nigeria. Added to its beauty which fires human curiosity is the fact that the entire people of Idanre lived on these boulders for almost a millennium.”
Olowo however said the people of the town never abandoned the hill since they moved down from the hill in 1923 noting that most traditional festivals of the Idanre usually take off from the hill.
He said “since emigration down hill in 1923,the topography, vegetation as well as the fauna and floral life have remained undistributed. There is the Ogun festival, which is partly celebrated on top of the hills during October and Ije festival, which spread over seven days.
Apart from the festivals, which make the site a living tradition, the flora and fauna of the hills are also unique. There is a special species of tailless animals called Hyrax that live on the rocks which because of hunting are becoming extinct and there are special monkeys sported near the hill.
Olowo explained the story of monkeys attached to the hill and the people of Idanre. According to him, many years after the movement from the hill top to the present abode, monkeys took over the hills and often come down from the rock. But said people started killing these monkeys until they were presumed extinct, but said it is derogatory to liken the people of Idanre with these monkeys.
He said that the various objects on the hill which include grinding stones, household materials which had become antiquities on the hill showed that the people of Idanre came from the hill top.
These include the palace of the Onidanre of Idanre used while at the top Idanre is still located on the hill till date and tourists pay homage to the palace as a mark of respect for the custodian of the norms, values and culture of Idanre people.
He also informed that certain rituals take place on the hill by the Idanre people, especially during the Ogun festival and some other traditional festivals observe by the people of Idanre. The hill, he said is also worshiped during the festivals.
A tourist guide, Adebayo, however told our reporter that the hill has some guiding principles for any one prepared to get to its top saying one of the principles is that those coming from the top must not meet those going up, adding that there are certain places where tourists, especially those who are not indigenes of Idanre town should not talk.
To avoid talking in forbidden places, the guide ensured that leaves are put on the mouth of the tourists, also to ensure that those coming from the top did not meet those going up; different routes are passed by the tourists.
The state Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade who hails from the town said that the state government has invested huge amount of money on tourism saying this has facilitated the enlistment of the hill on the World Heritage Site by UNESCO through the efforts and commitment of the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko to the development of tourism sector brought about the achievement.
The annual celebration of the hill, tagged “Mare Festival” by the state government has also given prominence and a rev to the hill.