Three and a half acres in Oahu’s Nuuanu Valley that can fly only the Hawaiian flag
My hula Halau ( hula dance studio) had an amazing opportunity to visit MaunaAla, the mausoleum for the royal families of the Islands of Hawaii. This beautiful and peaceful plot of land, on the National Register of Historic Places (which was removed from US public lands in 1900) is just a few minutes from downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. While well known by the people of Hawaii, due to its immense cultural significance, this place does not seem high on the radar sites of visitors and tour guides, like Iolani Palace is – which glorifies the living’ of the past Monarchy of Hawaii. This chapel, crypt, and mausoleum glorify their mana ( spiritual power) of the afterlife.
entering the grounds, the chapel inside and out.
On the day of our visit, our halau was privileged to be given a personal tour and oral history by the grounds keeper of the mausoleum. Later he opened the crypt and we were able to go down deep into the beautiful marble lined burial place. MaunaAla means fragrant mountain’, probably a reference from the wonderful breeze that sweeps down the valley from the Koolau range just up the hill. The original mausoleum was built in 1865 ( same time as the US Civil War – pointing out an interesting historical difference, with the mainland in the midst of secession, while the Nation of Hawaii was burying Kings and Queens.)
The chapel that is open now for visiting was the original mausoleum made of coral brick and mortar. Shaped like a Maltese Cross, it served as a final resting place until the early 1900’s when the crypt next to it was dug and all remains were transferred. The building then was finished inside with koa wood walls and the outside with cement to take its present form you see today. Visitors can come into the building when they view the grounds, but there is no formal tour, and to best take in what you see, a quick internet search on its history on the Hawaiian monarchy would fill in the needed background information. The crypt we were allowed to enter is not often opened, so it was a very special experience.
the key to the crypt & inside, dancing for the kings.
The outlying above-ground stone structures are there to honor other people and alii (rulers) who were close to the ruling class. These are engraved with the names of those who lie there and at the end of our tour we, as a group, with the help of our Kumu (teacher), read the names out loud together, to help bring the past alive by honoring those of Hawaii’s early rulers. In addition, since we are a hula group, it was important and fitting to end the visit with dancing on this special ground, kneading mother earth with our bare feet to the song of the native language. It was an amazing afternoon, and by the time we danced the sun was starting to go down, the wind was blowing through the tall palm trees, and it was such an inspiring time. And although visitors on Hawaii Vacations will probably not be able to experience exactly what our group did, this place is perfect for those who enjoy history, peaceful places, a feeling of ancestry and seeing a place that is completely and lawfully just Hawaiian.
Video: hula dance and chant
Posted by: Bruce Fisher