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HUNDREDS of virgins converged on the palace of Prince Melizwe Dlamini on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast to attend the rain dance ceremony.
Known as Nomkhubulwane, the ceremony is a prayer to the ancestors and God for rain.
About 800 maidens from around the South Coast and Ama-khosi areas under the Nhla-ngwini Traditional Council participated in the three-day ceremony at the weekend.
Prince Dlamini said the Nomkhubulwane ritual dated back a long time in the history of the Embo-Nguni tribes and was celebrated by the monarchs of the past.
"The significance of this important ritual is that we pray to the ancestors and God so that by the time the rainy season comes we get enough rain, which eventually means more food when the time for tilling land and planting crops comes," he said.
Prince Dlamini said it was important that the ritual was only attended by virgins because they were regarded as pure.
"It is important that we leave no stone unturned when reviving our culture and tradition.
"Also, it is an important culture of preserving virginity, which is a success to any nation," Dlamini said.
Nomagugu Ngobese of the Nomkhubulwane Cultural Group, who was conducting virginity testing, said only those maidens that were "found to be pure" have the right to go to the mountain and pray for rain
"I can assure you that after this ceremony, rain will start coming down.
"Nomkhubulwane was given powers by God to control rain, vegetables, natural disasters, floods and anything to do with the environment, which is why we have to pray to her when we experience drought," Ngobese said.
The ceremony culminated in a large public event where dancing and other performances took place.