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(Arhuanran Of Udo Deity )

(Last Update August 4, 2023)

Arhuanran is said to have been the son of Oba Ozolua, who reigned in the late fifteenth century. He is described as a giant who had twenty toes and twenty fingers, so that it was impossible to tell whether he was coming or going. The tradition is that he was born on the same day as his brother Osawe but at an earlier hour. His birth was, however, reported to the Oba many hours after the announcement of the birth of Osawe, and so he was regarded as the junior. One day Osawe, Arhuanran, and their elder brother Ogidogbo decided to pole-jump over a pond. Osawe and Arhuanran did this successfully, but Ogidogbo fell and fractured his legs which made him a cripple for life. Being a cripple Ogidogbo was ineligible for the throne, and Osawe became the heir instead, which created great enmity between him and Arhuanran. When Osawe was crowned Oba of Benin with the name Esigie, he was greatly worried by Arhuanran who was now chief of Udo about 25 km. to the north-west of Benin City. An army was sent against Udo, and many battles were fought. At last Arhuanran was defeated, and to avoid being taken prisoner he drowned himself in the lake Odighi. n ‘Udo (Odighi natural pond or lake as caused by a river) while playing an Akpata pluriarc (D. Ben-Amos 1975: 44; Egharevba 1968: 25-26)

Arhuanran of udo deity
The principal Arhuanran shrine is situated in a clearing in the bush about one kilometre away from the village of Udo. This shrine, in which Arhuanran is said to have lived, is meant to serve the whole kingdom of Benin. The chief priest of Arhuanran, who lives at Udo, has the title of Ohen Odighi n ‘Udo (Ohen priest who worships for a community). Being one of the most high-ranking priests of the kingdom, he is allowed to wear an ada state sword. When he dies, his eldest son inherits the title but has to get it confirmed by the Oba. Once a year, in February, there is an Arhuanran festival at Uda. The festival lasts for 14 days, and during this period the chief priest lives in the shrine. Arhuanran worship is not, however, confined to the festival. Every five days the chief priest makes offerings at a small shrine in his residence at Udo.
Arhuanran of Udo deity
Arhuanran worship is carried out with dancing and singing to the accompaniment of an instrumental ensemble. The music is, however, not the same on all occasions. When performed at the shrine in the chief priest’s residence or on the way to the principal shrine, the songs are accompanied by one braced goblet drum of the Agban type, two Idan drums, one or two Egogo dapperless bells, Ukuse gourd rattles, and one pair of Elaghalogho clapper-bells. In the music performed at the principal shrine in connection with a festival the instrumental ensemble used at the chief priest’s shrine is supplemented with another Idan drum, one braced cylindrical Agban drum, and one braced, cylindrical drum with four legs called Egoma. These three drums are always kept in the principal shrine and cannot be removed from there. During a festival there is also a ceremony at tite Odighi n ‘Udo Lake. On this occasion no other musical instruments than ikpasa stick clappers are allowed to accompany the singing and dancing.
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