Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Afternoon at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau

Directly adjacent to the beach at Honaunau Bay is Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. This is an area of great cultural significance for a couple of reasons. It was a place where the ali'i (royal chiefs) established their residences. It also encompasses a pu'uhonua, a place a refuge for defeated warriors or for those who had violated the kapu, or sacred laws. This area was utilized by native Hawaiians for several centuries until it was abandoned in 1819 after Kamehameha II abolished traditional religious practices. It became a national park in 1961 and was restored to preserve the ancient Hawaiian ways.

At the Visitor Center is a wall that has a tableau depicting life in ancient Hawai'i. There is a recorded narration that describes the arrival of the Polynesians who established the Hawaiian civilization.

After spending some time exploring the tidepools at the beach on Saturday, Jacques and I went over to the park. We have an annual pass for all the national parks on the Big Island and we come here a couple times a month. Jacques loves to play on the lava rocks and to look for turtles.

Here's Jacques sitting at a table used to play a game called konane. Depressions are carved into the playing surface to hold the game pieces which are made of lava and coral pebbles. We don't know how to play but Jacques likes to play a form of checkers with me at the table.

This A-frame work structure is called a halau. This particular halau houses a small collection of outrigger canoes, implements, and a ki'i (more commonly known as a tiki).

Sometimes there is a craftsman at the halau who can be seen carving ki'i or working on the canoes. The canoes are made from koa which is an endemic Hawaiian tree which produces a very hard, durable wood.

The royal grounds are dotted with hundreds of beautiful coconut palm trees.

The focal point of the park is Hale O Keawe, which is a reconstruction of a temple and mausoleum which once housed the bones of 23 ali'i.

Many elaborately carved ki'i stand silent vigil around Hale O Keawe. Offerings are sometimes left in remembrance of the old sacred ways. 

I've been told this ki'i represents a fertility god. I'm inclined to believe it!

I don't think Jacques and I have ever been to the park without seeing at least one green sea turtle. Usually, they're sunning themselves on the sandy beach of the royal boat landing, but this one was resting in a rocky tidepool. 

Jacques practices his limited hula skills in the amphitheater.

There are other interesting structures and artifacts to see at the park but we were only there for a short time on this day. It's $5 a carload for admission to the park and it's open daily. It's a very beautiful area and a great place to learn about the Hawaiian culture.

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