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Hawaii : Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

On the black lava flats of the southern Kona Coast, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau keeps a taste of the ancient life in Hawaii. The site is split in two parts, the royal grounds - where the ali'i established their residence - and the pu'uhonua - where the defeated warriors, noncombatants in time of war and those who violated kapu could find a refugee.

In the early days of Hawaii (up until 1819), Hawaiian life was ruled by kapu a system of sacred laws that instructed every single step in daily life in a layered society that reminds a lot of the Indian caste system:
· Aliʻi: Chiefs of the realms, who governed with divine power called mana.
· Kahuna: Priests as well as professionals (carpenters, boatbuilders, chanters, dancers and healers)
· Makaʻainana: Commoners that farmed, fished, and exercised the simpler crafts. Of course, they labored for themselves and for the chiefs and kahuna.
· Kauwa: Believed to have been war captives, or their descendants. They worked for the chiefs and were often used as human sacrifices at the luakini heiau.

Marriage between higher castes and the kauwa was strictly forbidden. Changing caste was therefore impossible, for everyone. Kauwa were not the only sacrifices. Law-breakers of all castes or defeated opponents were also fine.

Here's when the Pu'uhonua kicks in. Imagine that you are a maka'ainana who happen to step on the kahuna's shadow. Mistake. Now, you are bound to death unless… After being thrown into the rough sea of sharks (like Hawaii's) you manage to swim through it and reach the Place of Refugee - pu'uhonua - in the bay of Honaunau.

Small temple model, half size of the original.

View of the Pu'uhonau.

Some coconut-palm chairs

Gold Dust Day Gecko. Did you know that the toes of the gecko have a special adaptation that allows them to adhere to most surfaces without the use of liquids or surface tension? Pretty cool animal.

Ki'i or wooden guardian, protecting the Royal Grounds.

Coconut palms gave food and building material.

Heleipalala. There were actually 2 ponds, one with saltwater and one with springwater, where the fish to be eaten by the ali'i (chiefs) were held.

Awaiting the Royal Canoe to land.

This hut kept the dead chiefs, lots of mana here to be protected. Because mana remained in the bones, it was pretty critical not to let these fall in the wrong hand.

The fella below didn't like his job… We can tell by his face!

Path along the old heiau or sacred site.

They did have a nice derrière :P

Guess I never get enough palm trees in the bright sunlight.

Special kind of Hawaiian Duck - probably endemic to the islands.

The Royal Canoe, probably one of the most meaningful symbols of Hawaii. That's the way Polynesians made it to the islands, many canoes, loaded with seeds & pigs. Lot's of hope and courage, just like you need to achieve anything in life.

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