Initially the core of what would become the Lunda kingdom was a simple village called a gaand in the KiLunda language. It was ruled over by a king called the Mwaanta Gaand or Mwaantaangaand.
One of these rulers, Ilunga Tshibinda, came from the kingdom of Luba where his brother ruled and married a princess from an area to the south. Their son became the first paramount ruler of the Luunda creating the title of Mwanta Yaav (1665).
The Lunda Kingdom controlled some 150,000 km2 by 1680. The state doubled in size to around 300,000 km2 at its height in the nineteenth century. The Mwata Yamvos of Lunda became powerful militarily from their base of 175,000 inhabitants. Through marriage with descendants of the Luba kings, they gained political ties.
The Lunda people were able to settle and colonialize other areas and tribes, thus extending their kingdom through southwest Katanga into Angola and north-western Zambia, and eastwards across Katanga into what is now the Luapula Province of Zambia. The kingdom became a confederation of a number of chieftainships that enjoyed a degree of local autonomy (as long as tributes were paid), with Mwata Yamvo as paramount ruler and a ruling council (following the Luba model) to assist with administration.
The strength of the kingdom enabled it to conquer the territory of other tribes, especially to the east. In the eighteenth century a number of migrations took place as far as the region to the south of Lake Tanganyika. The Bemba people of Northern Zambia descended from Luba migrants who arrived in Zambia throughout the seventeenth century. At the same time, a Lunda chief and warrior called Mwata Kazembe set up an Eastern Lunda kingdom in the valley of the Luapula River.