Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hawaii's Ancient Temples

From the shores of Kailua Bay to the coast of Kawaihae, ancient temples on the Big Island serve as testament to life in early Hawaii. There are many types of temples — some invoking peace and others invoking war, sacrifice, fishing, harvest time and even surfing.

One of the most important temples in the entire state of Hawaii, Ahu‘ena Heiau stands sentry at Kailua Pier. Dating back to the 1400s, the heiau and its surrounding compound served as a sacred spiritual center for centuries. Once a sacrificial temple, Ahu‘ena Heiau was rebuilt in 1813 by King Kamehameha I, who dedicated it to Lono, the Hawaiian god of peace and prosperity. It was here that Kamehameha established the unified kingdom's first capital during the final years of his life. The compound, called "Kamakahonu," included a royal residence, fishponds, gardens and other important sites now covered in concrete and by the pier. Kamehameha passed away at Kamakahonu in 1819. Soon thereafter, the ancient religion was overturned, and Ahu‘ena Heiau lay in ruins.

The structure that exists today was restored by David Roy in the late 1970s. Stones were retrieved from under water, where they laid for more than a century. The restored heiau displays all the attributes of an important temple, highlighted by the three-tiered oracle tower that resembles a smoke stack. The white fabric covering the oracle is actually made of white kapa cloth, or ‘oloa. The most sacred part of the heiau is the hale mana, a small house thatched entirely of ti leaves. Inside the hale, chiefs would have held council with Kamehameha. The carved images, known in Hawaiian as "ki‘i," represent ancestral gods. A golden plover (bird) is perched atop the highest idol.

Today, traditional practitioners still come to worship at the temple, pay homage and make offerings, but anybody with an eye for history can sense the sacredness of the site.

Guests of Holualoa Inn may take a short drive down the hill to visit Ahu‘ena Heiau in Historic Kailua Village. Our Hawaii bed and breakfast offers an idyllic retreat in Kona Coffee Country,
where tropical flora, flowering trees and verdant landscapes prevail.

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn

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