The Sango Festival is an annual festival that is celebrated during the month of August in the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo.
It is a special day used to celebrate Sango, a popular Yoruba deity who was believed to possess magical powers. The festival was rebranded as World Sango Day by the Oyo State Government to signify its international wide spread. The festival plays host to visitors from all over the country and followers from foreign countries like Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobaggo and the Caribbean.
Sango was the third Alaafin-king of old Oyo empire. He took over from his brother Ajaka who was regarded as weak. During his reign he was constantly fighting battles with other towns. He mistakenly destroyed his palace with lightning which brought about the end of his reign.
Sango is widely referred to as the God of thunder. He ruled Oyo kingdom for seven years and married three wives Oya Oba and Oshun. He is worshiped on the fifth day called ojo Jakuta. His followers like to wear a red attire which was his popular clothings.
Sango is a popular Orisa in Yorubaland, as such his festival plays a very important traditional and cultural role with the Yoruba people. Sango is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the present Oyo State. It is a day when Yorubas used it to reconnect which each other, and to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Yorubas such as drumming, dancing and singing.
The festival dates back over 1000 years ago when Sango mysteriously disappeared from the palace. He was believed to have committed suicide after he was challenged by one of his powerful chiefs who ordered him to leave the palace. Since then the festival has been celebrated by the people of Oyo.
The Oyo State Government in 2013 decided to put Sango Festival on global stage when it changed the name to world Sango Festival. It has since been recognized by UNESCO. It was a day used to serve as home coming of Yorubas from all over the world notably Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobaggo and the Caribbean as well as to celebrate Sango.
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The Sango Festival is a 10 days event, which is marked with pomp and pageantry. Worshippers and visitors can be seen in a happy mood. The worshippers are usually adorned with white or red attire.
The first day of the festival is celebrated with games of different kinds. Some of the activities lined up for the day are
Ayo is a special game that is popular among the Yorubas. It is one of the oldest games in Yoruba land and it is usually played by aged men sitting face to face. It involves moving pebbles from one hole of the board to another.
It is a carved wooden, fairly rectangular object with a total of twelve circular carved out pockets arranged in two rows, six pockets in each row. The wood used to make the Ayo is very light due to the continuous drying of the wood. It contains elaborate decorations on both side of the board.
The board is trapezoidal in nature and the appropriate size measured top – 20”x 12” / bottom – 22” x 12”.
Ayo board can be made of wood or clay and it has a lot of carvings on it.
Ayo board game is not only a recreational game it is seen as a spiritual connection to the essence.
The Ogun Ajobo Day is celebrated on the second day of the festival. On this day, the traditional groups from the Oyo zone make great display to the cheers of people. Olode Cultural Display from Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun and Kwara States would be paraded from Owode in Oyo town to the palace of Alaafin. A night party is usually held called the Aisun Koso featuring some popular Yoruba artist amidst drinking and eating.
On the third day; Friday other cultural groups such as the Igunu and Omolulu would display their performance. This day is called the Sango Obakoso day.
On this day the shrine of Sango koso would be opened. This is usually marked by wide celebrations from performance from the members of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) and followed by a night party for Oya Okenira.
From Sunday down to Thursday and Friday, there would be celebrations of Oyo State, Oya Day, Aje Oloja Day, Sango Oyo Day, Osun State Day and Iyemonja Day, Esin Elejo Day as well as Kwara State Day. This period is usually filled with excitement and wide celebrations among the people.
This day marks the ending of the festival. On this day, a group of followers called Elegun Sango would entertain the crowds with magic which many, find frightening. The Elegun Sango come from different parts of the country such as Oyo, Ekiti, Ede, Ibadan, Ajagba and Koso. They usually plait their hairs and their eyes are usually looking frightening.
The Elegun Sango Koso Alaafin, is usually the last to appear on the stage at the grand finale. He would go round Oyo township, praying for people, before coming to the palace. He greets the people and goes to Iya Ilekoto before leaving the palace.
The crowning of the Alaafin is usually done at the shrine of Sango in koso. It is a significant event for the Alaafin because without wearing the crown of Sango, he is not yet regarded as an Alaafin. The crown gives him the right to rule from the old Oyo Empire to the present Oyo.
No doubt, the Sango Festival has lived up to its biling as a special day for the unification of the Yoruba race.
Sango played a major role in the advancement of the Yoruba race far beyond it borders, this just goes to show how important the World Sango day means to the Yoruba people.