The History of the Nyanja and Their Maravi Empire

Chewa territory

And their subtribes of the Zimba, Chewa, Mang’anja, Chipeta, Nsenga, Mtumba, Mbo.💥

Written By Inno Chanza

Chewa territoryThe Maravi were led into Nyasaland in the 12th century by Kalonga Mazizi down to Karonga in Nyasaland where he died. 🔥

Kalonga Chinkhole then led the Maravi descending to the central part of Nyasaland establishing the capital at Kapilintiwa and then moved the head quarters to Mankhamba with Manthimba as the religious headquarters.

The colonial records reveal the Maravi were not the first people to arrive in Nyasalands as widely believed. The Maravi found the Ngonde, Lambya, Namwanga, Ndali with their supreme leader Kyungu already in Nyasaland and these tribes had arrived in Nyasaland in the 10th century.🙊

Kalonga Chidzonzi made Mankhamba in Ntakataka Dedza, the capital of the Maravi kingdom. The Maravi spread along the lake shore as far as South NkhataBay upnorth and down south the lake to Monkey Bay and the eastern leg of Lake Nyasa. 🔥

Some Maravi sections crossed the lake to the eastern side of Lake Nyasa adjacent to Likoma where their settlement became to be called Malawi in Mocambique for centuries.🙊
The Amalawi from Malawi in Mocambique maintained their name for centuries while the whole Empire was documented as Maravi in Nyasaland because of Gasper Buccaro who visited Nyasaland in 1616.💥

Francesco Barreto also wrote about the Maravi Empire in 1570 when he visited the Monomotapa 🔥

Gasper Buccaro travelled over land from Tete in 1616 where he was looking for silver deposits.

From Tete Buccaro travelled towards the lower shire…. crossed the shire at Chiromo and travelled through Cholo to Zomba where he saw the Lake Chilwa. The natives told him that there was a very big lake upnorth.🔥

He travelled upnorth and saw in 1616 what he documented as Lake Maravi and the people he found there as the Maravi.🙊

The Maravi were called the Nyanja because of their settlement around Lake Maravi and their language was also called chinyanja. 👌

Kalonga Chidzonzi had a younger brother… Undi Chisakamzondi who was tasked to distribute land to other subchiefs hence was ‘Gawa.’💥

Upon the death of Chidzonzi, Undi wanted to become Kalonga.. but Muzura the king’s nephew was propelled as the new Kalonga.🙊

Undi broke away from the kingdom with his other Nyanja followers and headed to Mocambique/Zambia border and established their own kingdom with their capital Maano near Kapoche river.🌲🌲

Undi’s followers were called the Nyanja and their language Nyanja but settled in vicinity of Chulu and Mkanda where their subtribe of the Nyanja had adopted the name Chewa in Mchinji and Ngara [aka] Kasungu.🔥

Mwase Kasungu and Mwase Lundazi left Mankhamba.. one settling in Kasungu and the other in Lundazi Zambia.

Another group of Nyanja also left Mankhamba… entered Zambia and settled in Petauke area where they became to be called the Nsenga.💥

When Dr Francesco Lacerda passed through Nyasaland in 1798 visiting Mwata Kazembe in Zambia… he found Mkanda, a sub chief of Maravi in Mchinji more powerful than Undi who shared borders. 🙊

Mkanda was not from the Phiri ruling clan he was a Mbewe. 💥

In 1832 when Antonio Gamitto passed Nyasaland on his way to Zambia to meet Mwata Kazembe… found Mkanda and Mwase of Maravi as more powerful than Undi.💥

Mkanda, Chulu and Mwase were by that time being recognised more as Chewa and not the Nyanja anymore and the surrounding Chipeta were also identifying themselves as Chewa.🔥

Kaphwiti and Lundu were also nephews of Kalonga Chidzonzi, they were tasked to move to the Shire highlands to create and expand the Maravi Empire frontiers. 💥

Kaphwiti and Lundu established the ‘’Mbewe wa Mitengo’’ and ‘’Malawi wa Kaphwiti’’.🔥

Kaphwiti’s headquarters was in Mwanza and he bordered Undi to the eastern side in Mocambique who was of no influence to him….to the west he extended to Mulanje. The whole of the Shire highlands was under Kaphwiti.
Lundu left Mankhamba with a religious section of the Banda establishing his headquarters in the lowershire. 💥

At first Lundu was reporting to the Kalonga as a subchief but stopped doing so as he had his own religious shrine which Undi did not have.💥

His religious leader was Mlauri/Mbona son of his sub chief Ngabu. Later on Mbona was placed under Tengani,,,another subchief of Lundu.💥

Lundu grew in power… made an alliance with the Zimba and waged a war against the Portuguese in Mocambque. 💥🔫

The Mbo and Mtumba who settled in Mocambique Tete area under their Chief Chikorongo were also fighting the Portuguese.💥🔫

The Maravi Empire expanded it borders to the Monomotapa Kingdom and to the Indian Ocean by 1600 AD.💥

Friar Joao dos Santos reported how Kalonga Mavura attacked one of the disobedient Mtumba subchiefs Chikorongo in 1590. 🙊

The Portuguese called Kalonga Muzura Mavura and regarded him as the greatest Kalonga who expanded the empire through conquest, trade and sending subchiefs to new areas. 💥

The alliance of the Portuguese and Kalonga Mavura defeated and subdued the great Lundu in 1622.💥🔫

Kalonga Mavura aka Muzura was dubbed an ‘uprooter’ by the Nyanja of the Maravi Empire.🔥

Kalonga Mavura invaded the Monomotapa Empire after the death of Gatsi Rusere in 1624 and kept the successor Kaparadze in Nyasaland. 🔥🔥

In 1629 Kalonga Mavura convinced Kaparadze to join him and attack the Portuguese at Qulimane and drive them away.

Mavura was later defeated by the Portuguese in 1635 and his power declined.🙊

Mavura was succeeded by weaker Kalongas, Kamtukule, Kachepera, Kampini and Sosola also known as Kalonga Kalimkudzuru…. The last Kalonga.🙊🙊

At his peak Lundu and Mbona had taken over the control of Shire highlands establishing Mbona cults at Michiru, Mpemba, Cholo, Morambala, Malabvi and Chiperoni mountain. 🌲🌳🌲🌳

Lundu had risen so powerful than any other subchiefs because of his control of the religious centres which led Kalonga Mavura joining with the Portuguese to subdue Lundu.💥🔫

Lundu controlled Tengani, Mankhokwe, Dobvu,Ngabu, Kamanga, Chibisa, Kabvina.💥

Chibisa, Kabvina and Kankomba were initially under Kaphwiti. Kankomba was the nyanja chief who ruled over Blantyre in 1840s before the Yao chiefs, Kapeni,Somba et al invaded and defeated him.💥

By 1860s the last Lundu was old and frail… Mankhokwe and Tengani had grown big… that Dr Livingstone in January 1859 and the UMCA wrote more about them than Lundu. 🙊

When M’bona at Khulubvi demanded a new wife in 1861, Stewart and Weller of UMCA from Magomero visited Mt Cholo and witness a married woman who was being dragged to be a wife of M’bona at Khulubvi in Port Herald while her husband and children were wailing.🙊

Lundu was finally killed by the Makololos servants who were armed by Dr Livingstone to fight the slave traders….establishing their Kingdoms.💥🔫

The Yao had entered Nyasaland in the mid 1850s and 60s…attacking the Nyanja under the last Kalonga, Kalimakudzuru. 💥

In 1862, Kalonga Kalimakudzuru from Mankhamba at Ntakataka went to meet Chidyaonga the Ngoni chief at Mangochi inviting him to drive the Yao out of Nyasaland.💥

In 1863, the Yao Chief Pemba killed Kalimakudzuru,, the same year that Lundu and Kaphwiti were also deposed by the Makololo marking the end of Maravi Emperors of the Nyanja people.🙊
When Dr Banda came.. he reinstated one of the descendants of Lundu as a paramount chief of the Mang’anja while deploring the Makololos as invaders. 💥

Dr Banda did not go to Ntakataka to find the remnants of the royal family… 1 to 2 generations after Kalonga Kalimakudzuru was assassinated by the Yao.🙊

Dr Banda thereafter deposed Mwase the remaining senior of the Chewa,, the same tribe he elevated as the symbol of the Maravi Empire. 🙊

By leaving the Kalonga seat vacant at Mankhamba, Banda cultivated himself as an invisible Kalonga and the Chewa as umbrella supreme tribe synonymous with the Maravi Empire.💥
The power vacuum after Dr Bandas death led to the growth of Gawa Undi of Zambia claiming the Kalonga title even over the Chewa, Chipeta, Nyanja and Mang’anja of Malawi.🙊

Samuel Josiah Nthara wrote the Chewa history in 1940. 💥

But the Portuguese records now show Nyanja as the original name of the natives who formed the Maravi Kingdom…. and that Undi was not Kalonga but as any other sub chief.. even weaker than Mkanda, Mwase and Lundu.🔥

Lundu still maintains that Gawa Undi is not Kalonga.