Tongan religion

Though it is no longer practiced today, Tonga's ancient religion was practiced for over 2000 years. Missionaries arrived and persuaded King George Tupou I to convert to Christianity; he ordered and strictly enforced that all Tongans become Christian and no longer practice the ancient polytheistic religion with its supreme god Tangaloa.[1]


Pulotu was the unseen world, the domain of the god or goddess Hikule'o believed to be reached by sea. Stories told of journeys to Pulotu. Tongans identify Pulotu with the underworld, Lolofonua. Pulotu is also identified with the cemetery or graveyard. Long ago, it was believed that Pulotu could be visited by a man to recover a dead wife. Hikule'o would assemble the spirits so the wife could be found, reanimated and released.

Two entrances are pointed out by Tongans. One is Ahole a deep hole on the island of Koloa, Vava'u. Ahole was the opening from which Maui Kisikisi brought fire from the underworld to this world. The second opening was through the island of Tofua. There are three divisions of Pulotu called Pulotu Tete, Pulotu 'Aka'aka, and Pulotu Tu'uma'u.

Gods and deities


Tangaloa, the sky god, was regarded in Vava'u as the deity who hauled up the islands of the Vava'u group, his fish hook catching in what is now the island of Hunga. The Vava'u people attributed this great act to Tangaloa instead of Maui due to the importance of Tangaloa worship in Vava'u. Tangaloa Tufunga, though said not to be a god in Niuatoputapu, is the patron of carpenters elsewhere in Tonga.


The Maui were special men or demigods; they appeared human. Maui drew up the islands of Ata, north of Tongatapu, as well as Tongatapu with all its associated islands, then Lofanga and the other Ha'apai islands, and lastly the Vava'u.

See also


  1. ^ Gifford, E. W. (1929). "Tongan society". Bulletin. Bernice P. Bishop Museum. 61.
Kingdom of Tonga (1900–70)

From 1900 to 1970, the Kingdom of Tonga was a Protected State of the United Kingdom.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Religion in Tonga

The overwhelming majority of people in Tonga consider themselves Christians, which is dominated by Methodists. The constitution of Tonga establishes the freedom of religion, which is respected in practice by both the government and general society, although there are some laws which restrict commerce and broadcast media in accordance with Christian religious norms.


In the mythology and religion of Tonga, Taufa was a sea god worshipped by chief Tungi of East Tongatapu and by the royal family of Tonga because he cured the Tongan king George I (ruled 1845–1893).

He also protects gardens. In order for a homeowner to gain this protection, they had to braid a coconut leaf into a shark shape.

Taufa is both a sea and a land god. As a sea god he appears as a shark.

Tongan Americans

Tongan Americans are Americans who can trace their ancestry to Tonga, officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga. There are approximately 57,000 Tongans and Tongan Americans living in the United States, as of 2012. Tongans are considered to be Pacific Islanders in the United States Census, and are the fourth largest Pacific Islander American group in terms of population, after Native Hawaiians, Samoan Americans, and Guamanian/Chamorro Americans.

Tongan Australians

Tongan Australians are Australians who are of ethnic Tongan descent or Tonga-born people.

Tongan New Zealanders

Tongan New Zealanders are Tongan immigrants in New Zealand, their descendants, and New Zealanders of Tongan ethnic descent. They constitute one of New Zealand's most sizeable ethnic minorities. In the 2013 census, 60,336 New Zealanders identified themselves as being of Tongan ethnicity with 22,413 stating that they were born in Tonga.

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