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Honolulu Hawaii History: The Royal Mausoleum at Mauna 'Ala
Mauna 'Ala -- Hawaii's Royal Mausoleum
When travelling, I like to go beyond the beaten path and explore the historical richness of the area. Mauna ‘Ala (meaning Fragrant Hills in Hawaiian) is one such place where the aura of the dead brings the place alive. Mauna ‘Ala is a 3 (plus or minus) acre Royal Mausoleum in Honolulu where most of the Kamehameha and Kalakauna families and close friends rest in peace. The Royal Mausoleum is surrounded by an adorning black gate. Resting majestically on top of the gate pillars is the crown symbol. At the main gate, the Royal crest is prominently displayed. The tranquility of the Mausoleum can bring inner peace. I literally spent three hours sitting by the Kamchameha tomb enjoying the Ocean View and reminiscing what life was like in Hawaii under Royal rule.
Getting to Mauna ‘Ala is quite easy by public transit and only costs $2.50 per person each way. To gain information on how to get to Mauna ‘Ala by bus, go to thebus.org. I must say the bus service in Oahu is excellent and easy to navigate through using thebus.org website. The address of Mauna ‘Ala is 2261 Nu’uanu Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Gates of Mauna 'Ala
A Brief History of the Mauna ‘Ala
Initially, Mauna ‘Ala was going to be purely a burial site for Prince Albert, the only son of Queen Emma and Kamehameha IV. Sadly, Kamehameha IV took ill and died only 15 months after Prince Albert passes on in 1863. Lot Kamehameha (Kamehameha V) continued construction of Mauna ‘Ala under the direction of Thomas Nettleship Staley, the first Anglican Bishop of Honolulu. The Mausoleum was completed in 1865. Over the years, Royal family, friends, consorts were laid to rest at Mauna ‘Ala. The only two kings not laid to rest were Kamehameha I and William Charles Lunalilo. Kamehameha I is buried secretly. William Charles Lunalilo requested to be buried on the grounds of the Kawaiaha’o Church in downtown Honolulu. Kawaiaha’o Church is definitely another must see when you are in Honolulu, Hawaii because of its historical background. If you attend services on Sundays at 9 am, you will be fortunate enough to receive the service in the Hawaiian language.
As Mauna 'Ala was removed as public lands by the United States Congress in 1900, it is the only place where the Hawaiian Flag may fly without being accompanied with the Unitied States Stars and Stripes.
In 1922, the main building on Mauna ‘Ala was converted to a chapel. From talking with the Groundskeepers, the chapel is used on special occasions like Royal Family birthdays.
My son and I were fortunate enough to be allowed into the chapel. When we were there, a groundskeeper was putting up “Do Not Cross” signs at the chapel’s entrance. He says to us as we were admiring the structure, “You know, the last visitors here ripped down the Do Not Cross sign.” I replied, “Don’t worry, we won’t be doing that.” He paused for a minute, smiled and told us we were welcome to enter. I wonder if he was testing us out. Upon entering the chapel, one can see it adorned with beautiful woods. At the back of the chapel is the casket holder of the Kings held up by eight legs. Each leg signifies each major Hawaiian island under the rule of the Kamehameha family. By the alter, there is Hawaiian inscription reiterating the “Royalness” of the place. Two tall plumes, a symbol of importance in Hawaiian culture, are standing proud on each side of the alter. We were able to take pictures inside the chapel. We did ask for permission first from the Groundskeeper to ensure we were not being disrespectful. The pictures are darker due to lack of lighting in the chapel.
The Mauna 'Ala Chapel in the Background
Inside the Chapel at Mauna 'Ala
The Casket Holder in the Chapel at Mauna 'Ala
John Young and the Kalakaua Dynasty
John Young was a British Supporter of Kamehameha I and assisted him with Military strategies to conquer all eight of the major Hawaiian Islands in the early 1800’s. As he was so well respected by the Kamehameha family, he was honoured for his loyalty by being buried beside them.
Directly in front of the chapel is the underground crypt of the Kalakaua family. There are twelve members buried in this crypt. Spend the time reading their history while you are there.
John Young's Grave site at Mauna 'Ala
Beatrice Bishop was the last surviving descendant of the Kamehameha Dynasty and was asked to take over the throne. Beatrice refused as she chose to marry Charles Bishop. Charles Bishop was a wealthy banker in the area. When Beatrice Bishop passed way from cancer, she willed her vast Hawaiian Land holdings to the Kamehameha Schools. Also, there is a Bishop Museum (http://www.bishopmuseum.org) set up by Charles Bishop in honour of his wife’s rich Royal Hawaiian History. The Bishop Museum is definitely another must see when you are in Honolulu. The Bishop Trust holds about 9 percent of Hawaii’s total land holdings with an estimated value of 6 Billion Dollars. Both Charles and Beatrice Bishop are buried at Mauna ‘Ala.
Visiting Mauna ‘Ala will be a memorable and sombre experience while you are in Honolulu. I have always learned that sometimes the best things to experience are free. Understanding the roots of the Hawaiian people clarifies who they are and where they have been. While we were at Mauna ‘Ala, there was an elderly Hawaiian woman praying, laying a lei and a palm candle at the foot of the Kamehameha tomb. Even after the end of Royal rule in 1893, the people still bind themselves to the past. It is this respect for their glorious past that brings Mauna ‘Ala to life for me.
Another good hub to look at
If you type in Hawaiian History, you will find some great hubs covering different angles. The one I like is the hub located at: http://hubpages.com/hub/Oahu. This hub gives a nice overview of what Oahu has to offer.