uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

After Dingane assassinated his brother King Shaka, he assume the role of the Zulu monarch, and established his capital at Mgungundlovo, in the valley of the kings, eMakhosini. There is extensive information on the impressive homestead and royal enclosure from which Dingane reigned, which is based on various detailed observations and drawings made by missionaries and white traders who visited Dingane.

Mgungundlovu was oval in shape, and consisted of between one thousand four hundred (1400) and one thousand seven hundred (1700) traditional grass huts (umuzi), which stood in rows of six to eight each. The huts surrounded a massive open area which served a dual purpose as a cattle kraal, and parade ground where King Dingane would often inspect both his livestock, and his warriors. This space was also used for rituals and festivals. A strong palisade constructed of strong wooden poles protected the arc of huts on the outside, though the inner palisade was not as robust and would have consisted in part of reeds or thatching grass.

Here King Dingane kept about five hundred women, who were divided into two groups. About a hundred of these women formed the black isigodlo, consisting of female members of the royal family-step mothers, favoured maids of honor and concubines. If the King had any wives they too would have resided in the black isigodlo. The only outsider who was permitted to enter the black isigodlo freely was the king, and anyone else who entered without being summoned was executed. The remaining women, who were not related to the royal family, or who were servants, stayed in the white isigodlo. Had there been any royal offspring, they too would have resided in the white isigodlo. All the gates entering into the isigodlo were shut at night, and the king was the only male permitted to sleep within its boundaries.

King Dingane's Great Hut, also known as the indlunkulu, where he held audience stood in this area and was unusually large with ten pillars supporting it. Inside the great hut as many as fifty people were easily accommodated. The king also had a smaller, more private "bachelor" hut in which he usually ate and slept. This hut had only one pillar, which was decorated by maids of honor entwined it from top to bottom with intricate patterns of red and white beads.

The maids of honor wore nothing but a few strings of opaque red and amber beads, and wrist bracelets of pure white beads. When the women left the isigodlo to bathe in the stream, they were always escorted by armed men. Anyone who met them on the path had to step aside quickly and lie face down in the grass to prevent looking at them, or they would be killed for their foolhardiness. In a similar manner, people called into the isigodlo, including servants, kept their eyes carefully turned away.

The women lived separated and pampered lives, with all work done by either servants or widows, causing them to grow extremely fat and unfit. They would perspire heavily onto the reed mats which they spent most of their time on, anointing themselves with the fat from the tails of sheep. King Dingane particularly favoured the fat young woman with pretty faces, and especially enjoyed spending his evenings laying near the entrance of his hut, with about a hundred young maidens singing loudly to him. This mass choir filled the air, and could be heard from many kilometers away. Due to their obesity, the women were unable to stand and dance while singing, so they remained seated on the ground, only making movements with their arms, and growing increasingly tired as the king demanded song after song.

When the Boers returned towards the end of 1838 to carry out revenge for the execution of voortreker leader Piet Retief and his men, as well as the attack on boer settlements at Bloukrans and Weenen which folled, Dingane fled after ordering that Mgungundlovu be burnt down.

Some parts of the enormous royal enclosure and military barracks which housed roughly seven thousand people, have been reconstructed in recent years. Archaeological excavations have uncovered the charcoal remains of the enclosure's outer palisade wall, and have also revealed many of the dwellings' original floors made of mud and dung, which had been preserved by the fire. One of the uncovered floors has a diameter measuring roughly ten meters, and was surrounded by the charred remains of twenty two structural posts. The sheer magnitude of the structure, which is thought to be the largest ever built in traditional Zulu style, as well as the remains of a unique butterfly shaped fire pit, much like the one mentioned by early visitors to Mgungundlovu, indicate that this was, indeed, the king's residence.

Accommodation Near uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

Sleeps: 10

Avocado Cottage

Self Catering House, Cottage, Chalet Accommodation in Melmoth

4.5km South of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

Avocado Cottage is a traditional sugar farm homestead situated on a working Avocado and Sugarcane farm, 4km outside Melmoth town, just off the R66, Zululand Heritage Route (Route 66).


Mtonjaneni Lodge

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Melmoth

12.0km North West of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

The Log cabins well positioned andcomfortably furnished are an attraction of their own.They support 2 identical en-suite units (own bathroom facility) per room (19 rooms, sleeps 38 people.) Each bedroom has:coffee &tea-making facility...

Nkunzi Lodge

Self Catering House, Cottage, Chalet Accommodation in Melmoth

15.7km West of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

The lodge sleeps four in two well appointed bedrooms, with separate bath toilet and shower. An open plan lounge dining room area is serviced by a Jetmaster fireplace for cold winter evenings. (Firewood provided). The kitchen is fully equipped and ...

Intibane Lodge

Game Reserve And Bush Lodge Accommodation in Ulundi

17.0km North West of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

At Intibane Lodge we have 6 beautifully structured self catering units, each accommodating 4 people. Each chalet is just like a home away from home, offering you a comfortable overnight stay. All of the chalets are fully furnished and identical

Sleeps: 32 in 15 units/rooms

uMuzi Bushcamp

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Ulundi

26.4km North of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

Offering comfortable accommodation, eight of the huts have ensuite shower and toilets while one shares modern ablution facilities. The Magogo , our family room which is ensuite, has four single beds in it and is popular ...


Birds Of Paradise Bed & Breakfast

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Eshowe

31.3km South East of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

The cozy B&B is separate from the main house, each room having its own entrance. There are 8 comfortable double and 2 non smoking rooms.You can be assured of quality accommodation. We offer comfortable beds

Sleeps: 17 in 6 units/rooms

Sugar Hill Manor Guesthouse

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Eshowe

31.3km South East of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

The moment you arrive at the Sugar Hill Manor Guesthouse in Eshowe you will feel welcome and at home. Set in a large, 100-year-old Victorian home with magnificent country views.

Eshowe Guest House

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Eshowe

31.9km South East of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

The town of Eshowe, 1 1/2 hours North of Durban (Which has an international airport). The "City set on a hill" where Zulu kings used to reside, wrapped around the 250ha Dlinza Forest. Our family run...

Dlinza Forest Accommodation

Self Catering House, Cottage, Chalet Accommodation in Eshowe

32.0km South East of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

There are 4 unique 4 sleeper, tastefully furnished self-catering, fully-equipped log cabins, set in a tranquil garden bordering the Dlinza Forest, where abundant bird life abounds.

Sleeps: 12 in 6 units/rooms


Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Eshowe

32.0km South East of uMgungundlovu Royal Homestead

Inn Zululand guest house offers business and leisure accommodation in Eshowe providing guests with B & B and meals on request, comfortable rooms and quiet surroundings for work or relaxation.

Nearby Points Of Interest