Subukia shrine attracts visitors from far and wide

Pilgrims fetch "holy water" at the Subukia Shrine. The shrine, located in Nakuru County, has become famous and attracts people of faith and others from all over Kenya and beyond. It was named the Village of Mary Mother of God in 1984 by the late Michael Cardinal Maurice Otunga. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION

What you need to know:

  • The name "Subukia" is derived from the Maasai word "isupuku," which means "higher grounds."
  • The shrine is now known as the Village of Mary Mother of God, or the National Marian Shrine.
  • Pilgrims come to pray and fetch water from a spring at the shrine.
  • The water is believed to have healing powers and many who come here carry some home.

Many who visit this place know it as the Subukia National Shrine.

Its name has since changed to the Village of Mary Mother of God, or the National Marian Shrine.

It is still a famous shrine in Nakuru’s Subukia Sub-County that attracts many visitors daily.

"Subukia" is a Maasai word pronounced "isupuku," meaning "higher grounds."

The name aptly fits the location of this famous shrine, which is 210 kilometres west of Nairobi and 40 kilometres from Nakuru.

The shrine, which has attracted both Christians and non-Christians since it was started in 1985, is owned by the Kenya Episcopal Conference and managed by the Franciscan Friars.

NAMED BY CARDINAL OTUNGA

The shrine was named the Village of Mary Mother of God in 1984 by the late Michael Cardinal Maurice Otunga.

The fact that Subukia is geographically at the centre of Kenya makes it suitable for bringing together people from all parts of Kenya and beyond.

Subukia is also a meeting place of two hemispheres, as the equator runs through it.

On a Sunday morning, we arrive at the foot of the hill heading to the shrine, where a little chapel is erected.

Here we find several other pilgrims, Christians and non-Christians included, all in a subdued mood heading to the shrine.

We are told this is where people confess their sins regardless of their religious denomination.

RECITING ROSARY

We join a group of pilgrims on a little climb up the hill. All the way, the pilgrims recited the rosary. As we are told, the climb up the hill symbolises the way of the cross. It recounts the time Jesus carried the cross as he was taken for his crucifixion.

This leads us to another chapel with a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus and the spring water that is believed to have miracle cures.

It is at this point when I realised that almost everyone who visited the place had a jerrycan for carrying the "holy water."

According to the history of the shrine, the spring that is widely believed to produce water with healing powers started flowing since December 1991 and has since never dried up.

On the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 1991, it is said that while clearing the thick bush where the shrine was to be erected, a supervisor, Henry Muthuku, came across a wet patch on the ground that had a small spring of water.

SPRING WATER

The discovery of the spring has, however, been of great significance to the history of the shrine, with many believers taking it as a form of blessing. This explains why many pilgrims to this shrine fetch water from the spring.

As we discovered, many tourists and people from different religious denominations fetch the water believed to give both spiritual and physical healing.

At the centre of the compound is a new church under construction, designed in the shape of the crown of Mary the mother of Jesus.

It has 12 corners, symbolising the 12 stars in Mary’s crown, and 12 pillars, symbolising the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

When it is completed, the church is expected to host more than 4,500 congregants.

For those who visit this religious shrine in a scenic area, it is always convenient to carry packed meals.

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