Hawaii-II: Christian inculturation into Hindu BharatNatyam and Hawaiian Hula

Exposing the Christian inculturation into Hawaiian and Hindu sacred dances

Kali MahaDevi and Devi Pele

Kali MahaDevi and Devi Pele

For Christianity to seep into any non-Abrahamic society, infiltrating a popular art form forms a great Trojan horse strategy. Christian missions have mastered the art of creeping into and chewing away a non-other entity from inside, leaving an empty façade from outside. Inculturation gained momentum with the infiltration of Greek Gnosticism which led to Greece becoming a citadel of Orthodox Christianity and the extinctions of Greek beliefs, Gnosticism, Hellenism or anything else. Most symbols of European Christianity that we see today – like Easter, the mistletoe, Santa Claus, etc. – had a pagan pre-Christian, non-Abrahamic origin. Inculturation has received impetus after the Second Vatican Council.

In this article we shall illustrate two such attempts at Christianisation of two non-Christian cultures by this strategy of inculturation: Hawaii’s traditional folk dance (Hula) and India’s classical Southern dance art form of Bharat Natyam, a very profound component of peninsular Hinduism. Inculturation as a Christian missionary strategy is more insidious and clever in India’s Hindu society which is socially complex, but is more brazen in case of a small vulnerable isolated island culture like the Polynesian culture of Hawaii.


The topic of Christianising of Hindu dances will be dealt with in passing in this blog and dealt with in detail in separate blogs.


Hawaii: birth of a volcanic island ecosystem and islander geoculture:

Clean warm beach tourism, palm groves, lush greenery, girls and men who both show skin while dancing, warm smiles and tattoos, good wine, fruits and seafood, pleasant weather, partying and mixing, great surfing and Americanness… Despite this tourist identity, Hawaii islands actually have a pre-tourist pre-American past…

The Polynesian Hawaii islands formed when volcanic eruptions from the Pacific Ocean bed poured out lava which got cooled by rain, seawater and wind into islands. Cooled lava-rock became mineral-rich fertile soil; rains ensured freshwater. Coconuts and other plants drifted ashore from other islands and took root; animals also arrived by sea creating an ecosystem. Humans, with livestock, reached by canoes and began Polynesian geo-culture. In Hawaii, volcanic soil supports farming. Coconut tree canoes, used for fishing in the surrounding sea, are also the only mode of transport to adjoining islands to expand Polynesian culture, and for emergency evacuation in case of a volcanic eruption. Hawaiians also use surfboards for local transport and sport / festivals, regardless of the ocean’s sharks, whom they consider divine.

While such lava rock islands became platforms for life, if a dormant volcano were to erupt, all the life that formed over the cooled rock would get swallowed back into the lava heat along with the land.

The formation of land from lava, migration of life from one island to another over sea, the sudden end of life with re-absorption of both life and land back into lava, etc. all get depicted in Hawaiian belief systems…

Pele the Volcano Goddess

Reminiscent of volcanic origins: The culture centres on Pele (pronounced ‘Peh-Leh’), the Goddess of the volcanoes… Born as the Volcano-Daughter to the Earth Mother Goddess and with the energy of her Sun Father God in herself, ‘Devi Pele’, as we may call her, has a lover and a family; Pele has long, loose flowing and glowing hair like flows of lava; sparkling eyes, red lips as she depicts volcanoes. It was only natural that the culture of Hawaii would have other Gods and Goddesses representing elements of nature, as an animist pantheon.

Reminiscent of the beginning of life after lava cooled: Pele escaped her sister, the Goddess of the ocean, in a canoe and arrived at Hawaii. Pele then made the earth appear from the ocean. Pele’s other sisters assist Pele in sustaining life by making streams of water and green cover available over the cooled lava. It is worth noting that the Hawaiian pantheon is full of Goddesses and since they help set up life in sync, they are also sisters.

Reminiscent of the unpredictability and finiteness of life: For Hawaiians, volcanoes convey consciousness of the finiteness of land, unpredictability of life and helplessness before the power of the elements. These compel them to live life with passion and enjoyment, enjoying every moment with song and dance, which are both cultural events and rituals to propitiate the Gods (read: the elements). Devi Pele created life through lava but she can also swallow up the island back into herself anytime, again through lava. Devi Pele is also therefore, the regent Goddess of heat, love, life, wind, passion and death!

(In this sense, Pele is like Maa Kali: She who creates outwards and absorbs back…)

Reminiscent of sacred geology and agroecology: Hawaiians have sacred spots with temples. Pele has her sacred headquarters and home in a crater where she is given food offerings (fruit and other food) packed in a bundle of leaves and left at the crater. She is invoked by chants (mantras) and conch blowing, as the devout dance in a beautiful flowing way, like flow lava and sea waves… But this dance, called the Hula, is also performed along the sea shore, next to flowing fresh water streams, in temples, in sacred groves or on hills, and for both: ritual, and festive / social occasions.

Hawaiian beliefs are thus the story of Hawaiian culture and are so organically indigenous that they show how to sustain oneself through the earth (the Sanskrit root ‘Dhru’ leads to both Dharaa and Dhaaranaa; Dhru-Dhaarayati iti Dharmah, Dharaa or Terra Earth being a platform of life Dharaa Dhaarayati); this Hawaiian Dharma, where the female is venerated in multiple forms but with the male energy, is called ‘Kapu’, a cognate of India’s Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism, which has a highly complex pantheon of Devas and Devis, and where life is celebrated to its full… And this shares nothing with the imposed cult of a dangling corpse belonging to a carpenter’s son supposedly born somewhere in Judea.

Celebration of life and commemoration of natural forces: The ‘Hula’:

The Hawaiian dancers wear grass skirts, flowers on their heads and have simple but beautiful, rhythmic steps, with or without pelvic movements. There are academies even today that teach Hawaii’s indigenous dance form of the Hula. Japanese emigrants to Hawaii, integrated into Hawaiian society even as they still speak Japanese, also practice Hula.

Japanese Hawaiians perform Hula

Japanese Hawaiians perform Hula

Americans have made the Hawaii islands a state, and have set up museums on American suffering and valour during the Pearl Harbour bombings (Hawaii) by Japan that drew the US into WW-II. The US made Hawaii the subject of Hollywood films and the venue of popular teleserials like Baywatch, Americanising Hawaii for world consumption. But this completely blanks out the real indigenous, pre-American identity of Hawaii and the memory of the most central, diabolical event in Hawaii’s history – their discovery by Captain Cook in 1778 and subsequent colonisation by first European and later American interests. The subject of genocide (both physical and cultural) is a companion subject to inculturation. Like cultural genocide accompanies and leads to inculturation, materialism accompanies Christianisation. Flippant & hedonistic globalization and commercialisation of everything also desanctified, digested and distorted the completely indigenous traditional pagan art form of Hula. Traditional Hula Dancing which is a Bhakti-Nritya (Devotional dance) is now fast transforming into a Bhoga-Nritya (Hedonistic dance), step-by-step (innuendo intended). So Hula inculturation was executed by changing the Hawaiians from within.

STAGE 1: ‘Dharmic’ Hula: Invoking Gods and Goddesses with music and dance

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPKT_h2jBPg&feature=related  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUvetLdm3Uk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO87RSZp65o


We notice how the rituals and devotion of the dance invoking or dedicated to Pele the volcanic Goddess of Hawaii, immediately remind us of Hindu rites and ritual salutations right before a Hindu classical dance recital. Animism at its best…

STAGE 2: Christianised Hula: The traditional Gods are extracted away from Hula; Jesus is injected; and the converted art form is now employed as an exhibit of loyalty to Jesus; watch Christian Hula.




STAGE 3: Hula on the way towards commercialisation: Hula’s market value in the coterminous US is “tapped”; in the name of “creativity” and “fusion experiments”, Hula is mixed with Jazz and Pop music as also used in Christian Choir – watch it start losing its original character.



STAGE 4: Fully commercialised Hula, nothing to do with Kapu (Hawaiian Dharma) Hula now becomes just another form of commercialized entertainment where natives are exposed to tourists, some of whom can be sleazy- watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_Lq4rAJ1rQ&feature=related

Hedonist Hula

Hedonist Hula

Thus, the Hula dance of Hawaii is now slowly getting transformed from a dance dedicated to a Goddess, to a Christian choir dance or to a dance meant for lustful eyes steeped in materialism and consumerism.

Should every isolated cultural “island” or “mainland” be destined to be flattened by the road-roller of American capitalism hands-in-glove with the Church, to “qualify” to be “globalised”? Should not the indigenous society express resentment?

Hawaiians have started expressing resentment, asking for reparation and even independence. Native resentment gets expressed through protests and through Hawaiian bloggers’ writings and activism.

Big India can learn about resistance to Christianity from her fellow-Pagan culture of Tiny Hawaii, while Hawaii also has a lot to learn back from India.


The phenomenon of inculturation into Hindu society by Christian slyness to win converts, is very much in existence as a strategy many centuries old: from Francis de Nobili, to Bede Griffiths to Barbosa.

Inculturation is used for everything today, from missionary conversion, to selling consumer goods or farmer products in markets (A hypothetical Eg. A brand of American GM seeds can be sold to Hindu farmers better, only if they are marketed with the trade names ‘Mahalakshmi’ or ‘Annapoorna’; may be, the same American seed brand would be sold with Islamic names like ‘Mujahid’ or ‘Muhajir’ in Pakistan…). But when inculturation taps a culture’s identity and chews it out from within, nationalists have to take note.

The scope of mapping everything where Christian inculturation has infiltrated into Hinduism, not just into Bharat Natyam, is too vast to fit into just this one blog, which aims at merely showing inculturation of one aspect of Hinduism, namely Bharat Natyam, as a parallel to Christianisation of Hawaiian Hula. The renowned Hindu writers Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel, as also contemporary author Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan, have all cautioned Hindus about inculturation.

Fatther Barbosa and Christian inculturation of Hindu Bharat Natyam

Inculturation of Kaththak, the North Indian dance form, has also been carried out. The perpetrator is Rina Singha, an Indian Christian NRI from Canada.

In subsequent blogs, we shall see how Bharat Natyam and Kaththak inculturations have been carried out and the solution to this menace to Hindu pride.

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