Why is Odwira Festival Celebrated?
Like all festivals held in Ghana by the various ethnic groups, the Odwira Festival has a history and a reason behind its annual celebration.
The festival is held in the month of September every year as part of the tradition and customs of the Akuapem people. It was instituted in 1825 by the then paramount chief of Akropong, Nana Addo Dankwah (1811-1835) after the Akuapems defeated the Ashantis in a brutal war that lasted years. Odwira was to give thanks to the ancestors and gods of the land for the victory as well as remember and celebrate their famed victory.
Ever since then, the festival has become an annual ritual and one of the most anticipated outdoor events and festival in Ghana. While the main purpose of the festival and reason for initiating the festival may have slightly changed over the centuries, the festival continues to be keenly held in high esteem by the Akuapems.
Today Odwira is described as a festival celebrated to usher in a peaceful new year. Activities such as durbars, clean up exercises, entertainment event like street carnivals are used to mark the festival in the various towns.
How is Odwira Festival Celebrated?
The celebration of Odwira festival involves the performance of several religious rituals and customary rights performed by the chiefs, elders and local priests of the various Akuapem towns including Larteh, Akropong, Manfe, Aburi, Adonten and Adukrom.
Before the festival commences, there is a 40-day meditation period involving all the chiefs, elders and councilmen of the participating traditional areas. This period is interpreted as a period where the rulers of the traditional areas seek wisdom and guidance from their ancestors. The meditation period is also used to solve differences between towns’ people to ensure their grudge is not carried into the festive period.
14 days to the commencement of the festival, the Gyigyafo and Ntoabarima shrines (both located in Adonten) outdoor the new yam harvest with special outdoor event known as Odehero. At this event, libations are poured to the gods and ancestors by the chief priests of the shrines.
There is also a ban on noisemaking and public ceremonies likely to generate any form of noise in the communities. It must also be noted that the various communities have slight variations with regards to how the festival is celebrated, however, the major practices such as the 40-day meditation are generally observed by all.