The return of the gods
We found the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple at the southern end of a Nadi street filled with hustling handicraft merchants and hot incensed stores selling saris and samosas. It was strange to find men and women kneeling and chanting before pagan gods on an island in the middle of the Pacific in the twenty-first century. A priest from Tamil Nadu rubbed ash into my oldest son's forehead and handed him a sanctified apple.
God was piled on god in the temple's central pillar, and I was reminded of missionary-turned-scholar professor Niel Gunson's claim, in his complex and ambitious essay 'Understanding Traditional Polynesian History', that the old Polynesian cosmos had points in common with the Vedic universe of Hinduism, and that traces of Hinduism might have reached the ancestors of the Tongans via Malay traders.
If Gunson's highly speculative and controversial claim is correct, then perhaps the temple at Nadi represents a curious sort of return of the ancient Polynesian religion. Perhaps Hikule'o, the Western Polynesian goddess of the underworld, lurks behind the sculptures of Kali, and the mighty Tangaloa's shadow creeps over the dancing ecstatic Shiva?