Kauaian Nava Ra-Sa
Rasa is a Sanskrit word that has several meanings. It can mean essence, flavor, quality or even emotion evoking. Ra stands for bestowing and yielding while Sa stands for wisdom and knowledge. The garden island of Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands when maturely viewed, can yield wisdom via Nature and its populace. In classical East Indian Dramaturgy we have nine basic or foundation emotions, the Navarasa. Transient emotions have their play on the stage, springing from the basic emotion , while portraying a character. With that in mind I have collected our impressions as a family of 3 generations when we visited Kauai in August of 2o23. I have grouped them into these nine rasa-s.
SHRINGAARA- Beauty and Love
Once we were out of the compact airconditioned airplane, walking into the airport our bodies reacted instantly with a sigh, while being unnoticeably caressed by the fresh moisture in the air. Stepping into the open, our eyes were greeted by the lush and beautiful greenery of the tall trees and the robust flowering bushes, proclaiming to us the presence of the Hawaiian Goddess Papahaanaumoku. It is this Mother Nature’s presence that we felt throughout our entire visit. The Mother reigns here in all her glory. Scientists have noted that though many of the trees, plants, insects and other creatures have come from elsewhere, once they established themselves thy have developed unique features that make them look so different that you do not see elsewhere.
Day by day as we entered the forests, kayak-ed and waded in her waters, took in the fragrance of her leaves and flowers, and surprised by bursts of rain, we were reminded of a hoary past when man was an integral part of Nature and not its dominant, arrogant ruler.
Bordering the raiment of the steady land was the constantly moving ocean, its blue contrasting in so pleasant a sight with the white sand and dark black boulders. As the rejuvenating fragrance of the plumeria wafted in the breeze, as the bright sunshine beamed on us, a feeling of genuine love was kindled in each one of us. This flame was fed daily by the local folks at the hotel, cafes, stores and during many guided adventures. In retrospect this special kind of love and kindness began at the counters and security at Oakland airport’s Hawaiian Airlines terminal, itself. Respect for elders, a rare quality was experienced here, to my amazement.
Kayaking down the sacred Wailua river, with forests on either side was indeed a treat. We saw two beautiful water falls, the Opaeka and the Wailua from far. Wading through the slushy waters, gingerly, then weaving our way through the tall guinea grass, then ascending slippery hill sides was the only way to our final destination, the purifying Secret Falls. No wonder that four Heiaus, sacred sites of worship, are situated along this river.
VEERA- Courage and Valor
The strength displayed by the powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean as it dashed against the rocks, reminded us, to approach any act of swimming, body boarding or simply wading in its waters, with a sense of respect and awe. The chant of Varuna Gayatri addressed to the deity of the ocean became a daily act for me as I walked along the beach. A strong connection to the ocean was made real this way.
The courageous and plucky act of off roading in an unknown area was done with extreme caution laced with excitement. It was so easy to pray to the land and trees here.
The daily lives of the residents indicated the struggles involved in maintaining a decent life on an island, where many goods and services were more expensive than those on the mainland. Yet the people here went about in their calm and simple way, accepting life and never wearing signs of toil on their faces. I would state that the Kauaian mentality is that of a courageous calm.
Inanana, our young guide led the Wailua river kayaking and exploration trail. I was fortunate to be in her kayak. Throughout the trip in addition to being an encyclopedia of knowledge about the history of the land and the sanctity of the environment, she exuded radiant energy, and was full of humor. She was always alert to the needs of the group and showed much care to all of us. It is in such special youngsters that I vision a beautiful future for this island.
When I misplaced my cell phone one day and was in a state of fear it was Monica, a waitress at the Royal Sonesta Resort Hotel’s restaurant who halted all that was expected of her at her job and instead sat with me, asked critical questions and made connections and phone calls, eventually locating my phone. Even to this day I cannot believe how she operated. What a blessing indeed, a torch to the best of humanity.
I was overcome with deep sorrow and felt very sympathetic to the loss of the core of Hawaiian culture when we made a special visit to their sacred heiau-s. Only boulders and signs remain at each one. As a family we prayed, sang, danced and offered flowers at these sites. These temple and refuge centers at one time provided solace and spiritual meaning to the citizens, who practiced an ancient, nature loving religion.
ADBHUThA – wonder
We stopped at several spots on our trip to the Waimea Canyon. At each look out point, as we looked down in awe, we saw various geological formations. Unlike the Grand Canyon, this was carpeted with vegetation interspersed with areas that revealed the red soil and in some areas the clay. It was fun to trace the winding course taken by the Waimea river.
The historical sight, the Alekoko fish pond created by the Menehune ( 1000-1200 CE), the first inhabitants of this island, is indeed a marvel and a beauty to behold. They were a mysterious tribe known for many an engineering feat that has survived to this day. They created 2,700 ft walls along the edge of the Hule=eia river, and built gates with Ohoi wood to create this large pond. This allowed small fish to enter the calmer waters of the pond. They eventually became too large to exit via the same gates. Fish caught from this pond was exclusively reserved for the royalty.
While driving to various sites, rising to the skies are mountains of this 5 million year old island. Waiale and Kawaikini peaks are the remains of the once 10, 000 ft volcanoes. These peaks are peculiarly shaped as they seem gathered at the slim, jagged tops.
Modern man with all the new age tools conveniently forgets how ancient tribes used what was available in nature, in ingenious ways. From father to son was handed down the well developed art of carving the hard basalt stones with the aid of chipping stones to make adz. Tools were made to fell trees, carve canoes, drums and bowls as well as mallets for pounding bark for clothing and also for building houses.
Coming from the mainland I was amazed to see how the birds here are not afraid of human beings, and folks happily coexist with them. Reminded me of India where birds behave the same way. Tiny zebra pigeons, larger doves, and most of all the broods of chickens that freely roam all over the island, proclaiming that this land is theirs too! The total absence of crows and seagulls was puzzling.
I learned that in ancient days, Hawaiians would trap birds, remove only the colored feathers that they needed for the apparel of the royalty and important personages and then release the birds from captivity.
Nothing gets wasted here for when the family went tubing through the tunnels and were feasted at the end of a picnic, they were surprised to see that all leftover food was given to the pigs that frequent the woods.
Kauai is a melting pot of Polynesians, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Thai and many more. The faces are such that one cannot box them into a specific racial compartment.
Is there a significance with the number 2, here? I noticed that many rivers split into forks, the falls often came down the mountain in two streams. In numerology the number 2 represents balance, harmony and peace.
HAASYA- Contempt Bheebhatsa- Disgust
It is no wonder that native Hawaiians and those who care for the island care not for tourists. We noticed the behavior of mainland tourists, disregarding rules posted at sacred sites and parks. In the pool, young men and women who were visiting were often the loudest and most boorish. The presence of cruise ships with their arrogant solely consumer minded passengers displayed an attitude in stores and restaurants that was indeed disgusting. Somehow traces of colonialism still seemed to linger for they behaved as if the Hawaiians owed the mainlanders!
It is obvious that life in this island that is so blessed by nature, is hanging in a delicate balance. The increasing number of skyscrapers that seem to taunt the trees in vying for sky space, indicate an increasing threat, to the basic and natural foundations of this land. To add to this are the many modern hotels and resorts that tear away at the landscape. The more this island depends on the mainland, backed by lack of self- growth as in local agriculture, the greater the loss of native values that beautifully co exists with Nature.
“Without Hawaiians it is not going to be Hawaii. With no Hawaiians there is no Aloha”, Maui resident Kapono Kong.
A born Hindu that I am and as one who deeply respects and loves ethnic based religions, I can never forget or forgive what the US government did in converting these islands into a state, that it could own and rule. Religious and colonial greed manipulated the minds of the simple minded native rulers, robbed the citizens of their religion, crushed their language and stifled thus their heritage. To me there is a deep meaning as to why these islands are far away from the mainland, separated by a vast ocean. They should have been allowed to develop on their own. In Indian scriptures the term “ mleccha” is used for those who do not follow dharma. Only mlecchas deem fit to encroach, convert, subvert, plunder and replace with adharmic ways. Resisting this onslaught requires courage and conviction, if not we will lose the beauty of various cultures especially languages and customs. The world would then be boring with all speaking only English, wearing pants and tops, mimicking western melodies, eating burgers of all kinds, and most of all polluting Mother Earth in the name of progress.
This garden island yields peace for those who step into the land with respect and love. Her people emanate a calm that is contagious. The visitor can easily benefit the therapeutic effects of Mother Nature, in silence. It is a firm belief here, that everything has ‘Maana”, spirit. There are ever so many legends that weave through the fabric of the Hawaiian islands. Some have to do with the deities and others have to do with nature such as the Ohi’a tree, Maunakapu mountain, naupaka flower and Uluwehi falls. The island itself was named by Hawaii Loa, a fisherman and navigator, after his favorite son. The word Kauai means “place around the neck.” This carries the same meaning as in the Hindi phrase , “galey mey lagaayoon.” This phrase is used to describe the intense love for a young one, meaning precious enough to decorate one’s neck ! Storytelling, songs and hula dancing were all ways that the history and traditions of the people were passed down through the generations.
The pantheon of divinities that guard this land is numerous. There are unseen protectors of water sources, there are fiery gods and goddesses that can take revenge, then there are the ‘aumakas’ that guard families. All are to be honored, feared and respected. They also believe that their ancestors can present themselves as part of nature. In native Hawaiian belief the present is deeply connected to both the past and the future. Clifford Naeola an elder from Maui says “I am who I was, and I will be, who I am.”
Here then is a song that we sang and danced to while visiting the sacred Heaiu-s.
Ey malama i ka Heiau
Ey malama I ka heiau
Ey malama pono I ka Heiau
(Take care of this sacred land
Take care of this sacred land
It is righteous indeed to take care of this sacred land)
Earth and Sky
Sea and Stone
Hold this land in Sacredness