By Jeff Ugochukwu Emmanuel
I arrived the densely populated Gwale/Dala local government, located North-west part of Kano metropolis. Getting directions was not too difficult as I had to ask my way around at different points, some residents referred to it as Tushen birni (origin of the city), because it is considered to be the first settlement of the Kano people who were known as Maguzawa. While some referred to it as dutsen dala (dala hills), because it is the one prominent antique directly associated with the location.
The last person I stopped to ask for direction, was a teenage boy who heartily accompanied me to the elders of the community. It is these elders who will grant tourists and explorers permission to ascend the ancient hill. It is prohibited for a stranger to climb the hill or take pictures without their express permission.
After a warm reception, the elders referred me to the custodians of the hill. These custodians ensure the tourist’s curiosity is sated, they escort visitors to the top of the hill. This part of the trip is important because the custodians provide precise information and also combat crime by protecting or keeping an eye on strangers. Miscreants in the area spot strangers easily and these could be unsafe for tourists who have no one to guide them around.
At the mention of the ancient dala hills, thoughts of a large mass of pure stone forming a peak come to mind easily. However, it is largely made up of soft, bronze colored sand from the foot up to the vertex. This is formed by a chockablock of small red stones, the sandy part of the hill is tardily washed off by rain.
The custodians say the hill has been in existence from time immemorial, even before their pioneer fathers who were hunters came to settle around it. Therefore, it will remain until the end of time. The ancient hill was named after a certain hunter named dala.
Modernisation allowed the construction of a flight consisting of 120 steps (I counted) to the top of the hill, which has made ascension easier. The apex of the hill holds it awe till this day. It provides a panoramic view of the old and the new kano state.
One of the most frightening folklores of the ancient hill is what remains of the dreaded rijiyar kare kukan ka (a well where you would cry your heart out and not be rescued). They believe there is a mythical demon known as Tsumburbura living inside the well and a wood known as Borai which makes it impossible to rescue anything or anyone who falls into the well. If a stone is dropped into the well, it travels for about 20 minutes before giving off a splashing sound signifying its landing.
According to the custodians, legend has it that there used to be a shrine on top of the hills. The shrine drew its powers from the spirits of the Jakara forest. The shrine is headed by a chief priest known as barbushe. Only the chief priest is allowed to ascend the top of the hill to consult with the spirits, while his followers would chant and dance at the foot of the hill. Barbushe would then come back to them with a forecast of the future which will in time come to pass.
In recent times, a huge pot was excavated from the top of the hills.
Further evidence reveals that there are other Pots sparsely buried on the hill, which buttresses the people’s believe that there was once a shrine on the ancient dala hilltop.
There is an agelong celebration known as Takutaha; passed down from the founding fathers, which is abiding till this day. This celebration happens once a year in the Rabi’ al-awwal. This is the third month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, a majority of Muslims celebrate mawlid – the birthday of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.
Takutaha festival reminds the denizens of their connection to the ancient dala hill. During this time; men and women, young and old, don new attires and come to the hill. Malams and other Muslims from the suburbs like; Gworon dutse, Gwambeja, Gwale, Kofar dawanau, Rijiyar lemo and beyond come to join in the festivities.
A variety of food like; Waina, Gurasa, and Tuwo are taken to the hill for Sadaka(charity). In that period, everyone is allowed to go to the hilltop. Some come to pray and listen to folktales. Some come to be prayed for, by different Malams brought together in the spirit of Takutaha. Horsemen, jubilantly swirl around the whole dala area during this festival.
To ensure the peaceful conduction of the festival, the mai ungwa who is the head of the area solicits for adequate security personnel for the duration of the festivities.
Dala hill remains one of many ancient antiquities of Kano state. The inhabitants of dala area take pride in its name. People come from different countries around the world just to climb these hills.