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Make a Pilgrimage to a Hindu Temple

Believe it or not, a sacred Hindu temple is being carved out of rocks from India on the banks of the Wailua River. The San Marga Iraivan Temple was built on the 458-acre site of the Saiva Siddhanta Church monastery. Well past its initial estimated completion date of 2010, the Chola-style temple is the result of a vision by the late Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, known to his followers as Gurudeva, the founder of the church and its monastery. He specifically selected this site in 1970, recognizing that the Hawaiians also felt the spiritual power of this place. The Hawaiians called it pihanakalani, "where heaven touches the Earth."

The concrete foundation is 68 feet*168 feet and 3 feet thick, designed not to crack under the weight of the 3.2-million-pound temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Gurudeva wished that the temple be built to last "a thousand years or more." The granite for the temple was hand-quarried by some 70 stonemasons in India, then shipped to Kauai for final shaping and fitting on the site. The center of the temple holds a 700-pound crystal, known as the Sivalingam, formerly displayed at the monastery's smaller temple on the grounds.

Hindu pilgrims come from around the globe to study and meditate at the monastery. The public is welcome to the monastery temple, open daily from 9am to noon. There also is a weekly guided tour of the grounds that includes the San Marga Iraivan Temple. Note that tour times are based on the moon calendar and the retreat schedule at the monastery. You must register for a tour by calling tel. 888/735-1619. For more information, visit www.saivasiddhanta.com.

A few suggestions if you plan to visit: Carry an umbrella (it's very rainy here), and wear what the Hindus call "modest clothing" (certainly no shorts, short dresses, T-shirts, or tank tops); Hindu dress is ideal. Also, even though this is a monastery, there are lots of people around, so don't leave valuables in your car.

To get there, turn mauka (left, inland) off Kuhio Highway (Hwy. 56) at the lights, just after crossing the bridge, onto Kuamoo Road (btw. Coco Palms Hotel and the Wailua River). Continue up the hill for just over 4 miles. A quarter mile past mile marker 4, turn left on Kaholalele Road and go 1 block to the end of the road. The Information Center is at 107 Kaholalele. Park on Temple Lane. Enter the open pavilion, where a guide will escort you through the monastery. You can also visit the Sacred Rudraksha Forest at 7345 Kuamoo Road for meditation, open 6am to 6pm, or the Nepalese Ganesha Shrine and Bangalore Gallery, which are located at 107 Kaholalele Rd.

Discovering the Legendary "Little People"

Like many places in the world, including Ireland with its leprechauns, Hawaii has stories about "little people." According to ancient Hawaiian legend, among Kauai's earliest settlers were the menehune, a race of small people who worked at night to accomplish magnificent feats. However, archaeologists say the menehune may not be legendary people but in fact non-Polynesian people who once lived on Kauai. These people, believed to be from the Marquesas Islands, arrived in Hawaii between A.D. 0 and 350. When the Polynesians ventured from Tahiti to Hawaii between A.D. 600 and 1100, they fought the menehune already living in Hawaii. Some scholars claim the Polynesians were more aggressive and warlike than the Marquesans, and in a series of wars the Tahitians drove the Marquesans north through the island chain to Kauai.

Anthropologists point out that the Tahitian word manahune, which means a lower class or a slave, was used to describe the racial hierarchy, not the physical stature of the people already living in Hawaii. In other words, manahune (or menehune) was used to mean small in the Tahitians' strict caste system, not small in size.

In any case, everyone agrees that these people performed incredible feats, constructing elaborate stonework edifices (without using mortar) that have stood for centuries. One example is the Menehune Ditch (Kiki a Ola), along the Waimea River. Only a 2-foot-high portion of the wall can be seen today; the rest of the marvelous stonework is buried under the roadbed. To get here from Hwy. 50, go inland on Menehune Road in Waimea; a plaque marks the spot about 1 1/2 miles up.

Another example lies above Nawiliwili Harbor. The Menehune Fishpond -- which at one time extended 25 miles -- is said to have been built in just 1 night, with two rows of thousands of menehune passing stones hand-to-hand. The menehune were promised that no one would watch them work, but one person did. When the menehune discovered the spy, they stopped working immediately, leaving two gaps in the wall. From Nawiliwili Harbor, take Hulemalu Road above Huleia Stream. Look for the HAWAII CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU marker at a turnoff in the road, which leads to the legendary fishpond. Kayakers can paddle up Huleia Stream to see it up close.

Hollywood Loves Kauai

More than 50 major Hollywood productions have been shot on Kauai since the studios discovered the island’s spectacular natural beauty. Kauai’s most recent star turn was in “The Descendants”; locations included Hanalei Bay, Tahiti Nui in Hanalei, and the breathtaking overlook of Kipu Kai. You can visit a number of Kauai locations that made it to the silver screen—including the settings of such TV classics as “Fantasy Island” and “Gilligan’s Island”—on the Hawaii Movie Tour from Roberts Hawaii (www.robertshawaii.com/kauai/hawaiimovietour.php; tel. 800/831-5541). Offered daily except Sunday, the narrated minibus tour features singalongs, video clips that play between sightseeing stops, and lunch at Tahiti Nui, where George Clooney’s clan dined in “The Descendants.” You’ll likely see more of Kauai on this 6-hour tour, which includes exclusive access to the Coco Palms resort, than you could on your own. Tickets are $116 for adults and $64 for children 11 and under, including lunch and pickup/drop-off ($10 extra for Princeville lodgings). Tip: Book online for a substantial discount ($90 adults, $45 children), and reserve early.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.