Hānau ke aliʻi I loko o
Holoholokū, he aliʻi nui
Hānau ke kanaka I loko o
Holoholokū, he aliʻi no
Hānau ke aliʻi mawaho aʻe o H
Holoholokū ʻaʻohe aliʻi
he kanaka ia.
The child of a chief born in
Holoholokū is a high chief;
The child of a commoner born
in Holoholokū is a chief;
The child of a chief born outside
of the borders of Holoholokū
is a commoner.
The traditional name was Ka Lae o Ka Manu, which means the crest of the bird. Holoholokū appears to have been the ancient locality name. (NPS)
Oral traditions tell of the sacred births of Kauaʻinui and Wailuanuihoʻano and the establishment of this area as a birthing site reserved for royalty. It is still considered as one of Hawaiʻi’s most sacred sites. (Wailua Heritage Trail)
Holoholokū at Wailua on Kaua’i was one of two places in Hawai‘i specifically designated for the birth of high ranking children; the other site was Kūkaniloko near Wahiawa on Oʻahu.
Here all the kings of Kauaʻi were born, from earliest times to King Kaumualiʻi. Aliʻi from other islands would also come here to give birth.
Kaumuali‘i was the only son of Kamakahelei and Kāʻeo (his mother Kamakahelei ruled the island when Captain James Cook made ‘contact’ in 1778.) Kaumualiʻi was born the same year at Holoholokū. Kaumuali‘i became ruling chief of Kaua‘i upon the death of his parents.
It is said to be the oldest heiau on Kauaʻi and was named for a foster parent of Kawelo, son of Kauai’s ruling chief Mano-kalani-po and his wife Ka-wai-kini early in the 17th century.
Two boulders are within the heiau; the pōhaku hānau (birthstone) is actually two rocks. Expectant mothers sat on the flat rock and rested her back on the other; when in use, the rocks were enclosed in a shelter and the rocks were covered with mats and kapa.
“… when an expectant mother of royal lineage was about to deliver her child, she would travel to the birthstone and squat on the ledge, leaning back against the upright section of the stone. After the birth, the mother and child were moved into a cave adjacent to the stone …“
“The mother remained in the cave with her child and retinue until she was able to travel; a booth or temporary shelter was built over the place. This was the sacred birthplace of the aliʻi or chiefs.”
“If the child really were a great chief, the heavens allegedly would burst forth with thunder and lightning, and there would be a heavy downpour of rain. A rainbow would arch over the area, with one end indicating the spot where the child had been born.” (NPS)
A tradition describes how the piko (navel cord) of a newborn child was placed in the nearby Pōhaku Piko; if a rat stole the piko it was an omen that the child would grow up to be a thief, and allegedly the child was put to death. (NPS)
Another legend states that the newborn child was carried up a path to a boulder on the ridge, overlooking the river. As the kahuna walked, he chanted of the arrival of the new chief. (Joesting)
Within the walls of the heiau was a grass-thatched house of the kahuna. “Bits of branch coral (indicative of sacredness) are scattered through the walls. Small, water-worn pebbles out on the earthen floor indicate the former presence of a house floor-pavement.”
“The west side of the heiau is bounded by a terrace and at the south end of this terrace, the south-west corner of the heiau, is a great horizontal ledge of stone, called the sacrificial stone.”
“Built out from the north side of this ledge is a little terrace, 9 feet square ….. I am certain the heiau of Ka-lae-o-ka-manu, or Holoholokū served in conjunction with the birth place, and that here the drum which would announce the news would be kept, as the drum of Kūkaniloko was kept in the near-by heiau.” (Emery, 1933)
In December 1933, restoration of the Holoholokū heiau was completed by a team of volunteers led by Grove Farm director Henry Digby Sloggett, with Kapaʻa resident Charles Lono Kelekoma and Honolulu’s Bishop Museum providing technical expertise. (TGI)