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Hawaiki: The Original Home of the Maori; with a Sketch of Polynesian History



The above is the most ancient land known to the Rarotongans, and under the variation Atia, is the first name that is meutioned in their karakias—reciting the course of their migrations. It can be shown that one meaning of the word vari, which is the descriptive word in the above name, is mud, slime, earth, and the deduction; might be drawn that it meant the origin of the race from the primitive earth. There is, another and very interesting meaning of the word vari, which will be. new to Polynesian scholars, and as it bears intimately on the origin, of the people, it may be here stated. In one of the Rarotongan traditions it is stated that, when living in Atia, the common food of the people was vari, and this continued to be so until the discovery of the bread-fruit and the page 58ui-ara-kakano, the latter of which was discovered by one Tangaroa. The writer of the traditions from which this is taken evidently thought this word vari, referred to mud, as he calls it e kai viivii or disgusting food, evidently not knowing what the other meaning of the word is. Thinking there was a history in this word, and that it might be connected with pari, rice, I asked Mr. Edward Tregear to see what he could make of it, and this is the result: In Madagascar, the name for rice is vari or vare; in Sunda (Java), Macassar, Kolo, Ende, rice is pare: in the Bima tongue it is fare; in Malay it is padi and pari. It is stated that the Arabs changed the original Malay "f" into "p," so that originally the name was fari. It is sufficiently clear from the above that vari means rice, and the Rarotongan tradition is correct, though not now understood by the people themselves. It would seem from this that Atia was a country in which the rice grew, and the name Atia-te-varinga may be translated Atia-the-be-riced, or where plenty of it grew.

De Candolle, in his "Origin of Cultivated Plants," says that rice was known to the Chinese 2,800 years B.C., and that they claim it as an indigenous plant, which seems probable. Rumphius and other modern writers upon the Malay Archipalego give it only as a cultivated plant there. In British India it dates at least from the Aryan invasion, for rice has the Sanskrit name vrihi, arunya, etc. It was used in India, according to Theophrastus, who lived about the fourth century B.C., and it was grown in the Euphrates valley in the time of Alexander (B.C. 400). "When I said that the cultivation of rice in India was probably more recent than in China I did not mean that the plant was not wild there." The wild rice of India is called by the Telingas newaree (in which we recognise the word wari of vari; the Telingas are not Aryans). "Historical evidence page 59and botanical probability tend to the belief that rice existed in India before cultivation," with much more to the same effect.

All this leads to the legitimate conclusion that rice is a very ancient food plant in India, dating certainly from before the time of Tu-te-rangi-marama, which we shall' see was possibly about B.C. 450. I am inclined, therefore" to think that Atia-te-varinga-nui (Great Atia-covered-with-rice) supports the idea that the name refers to India.

As vari has then the double meaning of both rice and mud, it will be interesting to try and ascertain which is the older meaning of the two. As mud must have existed before rice was used, the second meaning is probably the more modern, and the Polynesians, on their first discovery of the rice, applied to it the name of the mud in which it grew. If this is true, it follows that the Polynesians were the originators of this widespread name of vari and its variants, and further, that they gave it this name when living in India, for it has never been attempted to be shown that the name was carried from Indonesia or China to India.

De Candolle and others say that rice is not indigenous in Indonesia, hence it probably came from India, and from what follows as to the discovery of the bread-fruit by the Polynesians, it seems to me a reasonable deduction that this people brought the rice from India and introduced it into Indonesia. Otherwise how could they have discarded rice after obtaining the bread-fruit if they had not brought it with them as it is not indigenous there? The bread-fruit is native to Indonesia, and does not grow in Asia. This shows that they had moved on from India to Indonesia (Avaiki is the place named, which I take to be Java), where they first became acquainted with the bread-fruit. page 60It seem to me that, when the Polynesians left India, they bequeathed—as it were—their word for rice to the Telinga and other peoples they left behind. I claim for the Polynesians that they are the original owners of the name for rice, and that they cultivated it in India before the irruption of the Aryans into that country.

It will not be inferred from what has been stated above, that the Polynesians were the first to occupy Indonesia. It is clear, upon several grounds, that they were preceded there by the Papuans or Melanesians—branches of a Negritto race. It seems probable, from what is known of these people, that they also came originally from India, and it is possible that they may have introduced the rice with them, but until it is shown that they did so, and that they use the word vari for rice, it seems more reasonable to suppose it was the Polynesians—a race of a much higher standard of civilization. Judging from Earle's "Papuans "—a term he applies to all the Negritto people of Indonesia, wherever founds—this people, although fond of rice, do not grow it, or only to a very limited extent; they obtain it now-a-days by trade with the Malays. The inference is that they were not a rice-growing race originally; had they been so, we should find them still cultivating it in parts of Indonesia where they have not been disturbed, such as in New Guinea, or even further afield, in the Solomon and New Hebrides islands. The Polynesians—a superior race—would find little difficulty in expelling the Negritto race, wherever they came in contact with them. No doubt they would often enslave them, and hence, probably, their references to the Manahune people, to be referred to later on. I assume that the Manahune were of the lighter-coloured Melanesians—or Papuans—not the almost black people. page 61It is known that there are degrees of blackness amongst the race.

In connection with Atia, as being a name for India, I would say that, in the very old Maori traditions, is mentioned a name Otia, and Otia-iti, which I take to be variants of Atia. But we can gather nothing from Maori tradition as to the locality of these places.

Ancient stone buildings at Ponape, Caroline Islands. Andrews photo.

Although this ancient Atia was probably India, it is quite clear that it was known also as Avaiki and Avaiki-Atia; and, as in the case of Avaiki, they have probably applied that of Atia to some second country, or used it as a general term for Indonesia. This would seem so from the fact that voyages have been made from Avaiki-runga (Eastern Polynesia) to some place named Avaiki-te-varinga as late as the thirteenth century. We shall see later on that Tangiia, after his expulsion from Tahiti by his cousin page 62Tutapu, went, back to Avaiki-te-varinga to visit Tu-te-rangi-marama,* in order to obtain the help of the gods, who are said to have lived there. Although these are the words used, I am inclined to think he went to consult the priests of the ancient gods and obtain their counsel as to his future course. From that land he obtained a sacred drum, a trumpet, and learned a large number of evas, or ceremonial dances, which he subsequently introduced into Barotonga, besides the mana or supernatural powers specially given to him by the gods. Judging from analogy, the mana would be in the form of potent karakias or incantations. It seems to me that India is too far off for Tangiia to have returned to. There is no doubt he introduced some innovations on previous customs from this Avaiki, wherever it may have been. Possibly the old keepers of legends used Avaiki here in a very general sense, as referring to the remote lands where the ancestors sojourned on their migrations.

In the name of Atia itself, there is a strong temptation to make use of the Tongan, Niuē, and Moriori pronunciation of the t (ch or j), and connect Atia with Atchin (which is pronounced and spelt by the Dutch, Atjeh). But Atchin is at the north-west end of Sumatra, and I think too far to the west for voyages to be made there from Eastern Polynesia. The second Atia is more likely to be the ancient name of some place in the Celebes, or perhaps Ceram. I am not aware if any ruins exist in those islands which might be identified with the Koro-tuatini, the temple built by Tu-te-rangi-marama, as referred to later on. We must not allow ourselves to think that this ancient temple is one of those in Java (also one of the Hawa-ikis), because it is known that they were built by the page 63Hindoos in the sixth century, whereas the Koro-tuatini, if we may trust the genealogies, was created long before that. It may perhaps be suggested that the ancient ruins at Ponape in the Caroline group, so fully described by Mr F. W. Christian in his work, "The Caroline Islands," 1899, and said to have been built by a strange people coming from the south, are possibly the remains of the Korotuatini, built by Tu-te-rangi-marama. But I think there is nothing to justify this idea; the style of building (see illustration) is quite different from that of any of the erections made by the Polynesians.

Wherever this Avaiki-te-varinga may be, it is clearly not Avaiki-raro in the Western Pacific, one piece of evidence of which is, that in returning to Samoa thence, Tangiia the Rarotongan voyager, first made the land (or the land first noticed on his return) at Uea or Wallis Island, directly west of the Fiji group. I have no doubt the country he visited was Java, Celam, or some of the other islands of the Archipelago.

So much for the geographical evidence of the ancient father-land of the Polynesians. We will now proceed to show what some of the best informed have thought on this subject, and amongst them a learned and scientific observer who paid much attention to the question of the origin of the people; and in doing so, I make no apology for a lengthy quotation because the works in which Mr. Logan's papers appear, are extremely rare and indeed appear to have been quite unknown to many writers on this subject, amongst them most of those who are, referred to below.

* There are notices in other legends of a man of this name living at the period of Tangiia, as well as in the ancient days.