In 1990 we (my wife and three children) had the great good fortune to come to Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud). When I came here I knew practically nothing of the cultural attributes that pervaded New Zealand (Aotearoa) other than that I'd heard from my education, that New Zealand was colonised primarily by the British to provide a food supply for the struggling and expanding cities of Europe just prior to, and during the time of the industrial revolution.
We'd had the good fortune to also live and travel extensively in India on several occasions, and so were familiar with the look, physiognomy of what is generally termed the Indo-Aryan physiognomy of peoples. We had learned to distinguish the darker wiry haired Tamils, from the light skinned residents of Uttar Pradesh, the rounded faces of the Bengalis from the slender faces of the Nepalese, or the heavy features of the Punjabis, etc. It becomes quite natural after living in India for a number of years to assess like this. So when we came to New Zealand I was amazed at how much the mass of Maori people looked like those of the Indian subcontinent. When we first came to New Zealand I think the first thing I noticed was that the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Giridhari were very beautiful, Radharani in particular. Actually to confirm my thoughts, one day I was coming back to the temple by public transport and I saw a young Maori girl who looked almost identical to the exquisitely beautiful features of Srimati Radharani - everyone at the bus stop noticed too, I observed.
At the temple at that time there were a number of devotees who had come from the local indigenous Maori peoples, and I was impressed with speaking with them. In particular, one devotee Madhu Pandit prabhu who told me of an oral tradition that his grandfather had told him of, when he was a small boy, before getting involved in Krishna consciousness, that the Maori peoples originated in India. He impressed me, in that he told of the social structure of the Maori having a learned priestly class, a warrior class, as well as those set up for trade, and the workers. In discussing with other devotees with links to the Maori culture it came to the fore that among the people, or at least the elders, this was pretty much common knowledge. Somehow, they had struggled to keep their culture alive in an oral tradition, even against the strong onslaught of the preaching of the missionaries who came to teach Christianity.
These devotee told me of a struggle that had ensued much like that of the devotees in India, who had fought the British Raj to maintain their Vedic culture amid the torrid waves of being called savages, uncivilised, etc. The devotees told me of books that had be written by sympathisers of the Maori, written from a Maori perspective, although written by Pakeha (Europeans).
Today in New Zealand there's a revival of the Maori culture, with bilingual classes in schools, TV programs and government grants for Maori land owners, and book publications, etc. Things never dreamed of before.
Over the past year I've been doing a great deal of research into a subject which although has been around for some time hasn't been exposed to the masses of people in general. Some suggest that suppression of information has been one of the colonialist's and especially the Crowns' major weapons in circumventing indigenous cultures all over the world. Especially in regard to the similarities found throughout the Old World, in favour of what they like to call 'the developed world' of Europe. A few years ago when I did a degree on Social Anthropology, Sociology, Social Policy, Systems of Healing, Social Work Practice, Theory and Ethics, and Counselling, etc., I found myself in a situation where I had to learn about the Maori culture. Having read numerous views on how the various cultures conducted themselves, their beliefs, objects of worship, and practical application through art and symbology, has further endorsed the notion that there is throughout the world a common Vedic heritage.
With so few people on this planet, together, it's not that difficult to appreciate how continents have become populated by travellers venturing out to 'new" or 'unknown places'. In the religious cultures and traditions of the world there are so many historical quests, banishments, and even gifts of tracts of land to sages, kings, and peoples. Unfortunately for us, over spans of time some of the details become obscured for one reason or another. From the view of the Vedantist, truths never stay hidden for long, despite the plans of materialistic man to control what he sees around him.
Some are of the opinion that the Maori originated in South America, while others suggest that they were one of the lost tribes of Israel. Many of the reasoning's for this are based on the looks of the peoples of those areas today, the physiognomy; facial features, lip structure, shape of the fore head, shape of head, cheek bones, chin, nose, - all of which like most races are distinct unto themselves, with obvious influences of inter-breading from other cultures giving variations of the distinctness as in that of the Maori of New Zealand.
However, when we start looking at other indigenous peoples around the world, along with suggested expeditions of discovery that are known to be part of the Maori migration throughout the Pacific region, especially, a slightly stronger case begins to develop for the Maori originating in Northern Asia, and more specifically, what is known as modern day India.
Supporting that theory, recently scientists from Victoria University in Wellington (New Zealand) began to take samples of DNA from women from all areas of the earth. The idea behind this, as suggested in the Srimad Bhagavatam too, is that it is the mother who provides the body for the jivas who are born, while the father (bijaman) is the one who provided the seed. In that way genealogical trees develop and grow.
Origins: "Genes link Maori to Asia" (From TVNZ Six o'clock Newscast)
Research by biological scientists at Victoria University points to Maori ancestors originally migrating from North Asia thousands of years ago.
The research team from the university's biology department has just finished a detailed analysis of earlier studies of the gene patterns of different ethnic groups.
They have found levels of a gene in Maori are similar to those found in many Asian populations and bear a strong resemblance to the gene patterns of indigenous groups such native Malays.
Steven Marshall from the research team says the work also links Maori with a genetic group who migrated from North Asia around 8,000 years ago.
He says this group filtered itself amongst islands in Melanesia, West Polynesia over a period of time before a smaller group travelled to New Zealand. (TVONE Network News. Tue Aug 11th 18:22hrs 1998.)
To me this is a brilliant finding. On the live newscast the reporter mentioned that after examining mothers from all the major continents, i.e. South America, Europe, Africa, and Northern Asia, as well as South East Asia there were distinct similarities in the DNA found in the Northern Asian countries that were totally absent in all the other continents. In some cases where they did find similar DNA it was realised that this DNA structure had developed secondary (through possible inter breading), and not as a primary base through migratory family lineages.
For some time theories were supported by some members of the Maori peoples that their origins was possibly in the South Americas, or possibly even in Europe. However, with today's findings, and the support of conclusive DNA testing there is no doubt to support our theory as being true, and that the origins of the Maori peoples was definitely from the Northern Region of Asian mainland mass. Some speculation is that the origins may be China or that region, but cultural differences, genealogical differences, physical differences, and psychological differences seem to discount this theory entirely. If there is any trace in those regions, then we would say that they are not original, but secondary, through tribes passing through the areas in question.
The strongest similarities are to be found when tracing back the origins of tribes throughout the Northern Indian region. Many of the tribes, like those who the modern day Punjabis descend from, and those of the Assamese resemble the Maori features. While examining the basis of the Maori and Vedic cultures, we find that philosophically and culturally, many similar concepts and views between the two cultures remain. In tracing back cultural links and the obvious distinct similarities, brings us to the only logical and feasible conclusion, that such origins were indeed in that tract of land what we now call the Indian Subcontinent. In this regard, on examining the Maori culture, and its origins we have found some truly amazing comparisons in social structure, physiological (Indo-Aryan) appearance, and standards of sacridity.
When on the newscast some local Maori were approached and asked about what they thought, they were obviously not overtly phased by the finding, and even lightly joked as that being why so many Indians were still coming here.
In any culture, it is apparent where the roots lie when one starts to look at the infrastructure of the way people govern their lives, who is in the centre, the emphasis on religion, the positions taken by the priesthood, the elders, and social and familial structures, as well as the rites of passage, and festivals, etc., that reflect the inner most rhyme and reasoning
It is often not until we start to cross compare, and look for common roots that we find just how intrinsically seamless we are as common sons of the same Universal Father, God. Hopefully these findings will take away much if not all it has been so easy for the past to reveal of the "differences" of man, mostly for political purposes.
The Maori worship a multi-faceted "God", who has numerous names according to the function that He performs. The core of the esoteric theology of the Maori was the concept of the Supreme Io which remained wholly unrevealed to foreign inquirers for many decades after the first contact of Europeans and Maori. The Tohunga (Maori priesthood) protected the worship of Io from the religiously ignorant, and from those who may have blasphemed Him, very much like the Brahmins of Vedic times did by writing in codes, etc. If one enquired about God in a challenging way or obviously ignorant fashion, one would be politely re-directed to another priest way across town, who for his part would in turn re-direct the enquirant on to another priest who too could competently handle the situation, by referral.
"In speaking of the gods of the Maori the first matter calling for attention is that of classification. If we include in our purview all beings termed atua by the Maori, and on whom they relied for help in the crisis of life, then it will, I believe, be necessary to form our atua maori into four classes.
In the first grade, and standing alone in His majesty, comes Io, He who is termed Io the Parent, Io the Parentless, Io the Great, and Io of the Hidden Face. The second class is composed of what may be called departmental gods, as those who preside over war, peace, the forest, winds, ocean, agriculture, etc. Then we come to a third class, whom I term tribal gods, not so widely known as those of the second class, and of a somewhat lower grade. Lastly we come to such as are spirits of the dead forebears, and knowledge of whom is confined to a small area."(Elsdon Best [1856-1931]. R.A. Falla. 1954. Some Aspects of Maori Myth & Religion. page 23.)
In Maori thought there was an esoteric as well as a popular version of creation and God. The one was in the keeping of the tohunga (priests); the other was kept alive as fireside stories of the common peoples. Neither contradicted the other; rather they supplemented and enriched each others presentation with practical faith as well as philosophical and allegorical depiction. This is very much similar to the Sruti (Vedas) and Smrti (Puranas, etc.) of Vedic culture.
"In the beginning, Io existed alone in the realm of Te Korekaore, in His passive sate as Io-matamoe, Io-mata-ane, Io-kore-te-whiwhia (Io of the slumbering countenance, Io of the calm and tranquil countenance, Io the unchanging and unadulterated in whom there is no confusion and inconsistency). Nothing existed before Io, for He alone was the pre-existent as Io-matua-kore the parentless, as Io-matua the first parent, as Io-mau the precursor, as Io-pukenga the first cause, as Io-taketake the foundation of all things."(Michael King. 1992. Te Ao Hurihuri - Aspects of Maoritanga. page 130.)
Similarities in the Hindu / Indo-Aryan / Vedic understanding of God are found with the Creative Lord of the Universe Maha Vishnu rests in Divine sleep - slumbering countenance; tranquil transcendence; who is eternal / unchanging, ever existent; all pure / never adulterated or contaminated; Who is never bewildered; the first primeval Being; is never "Born" as we are, and does not have any actual birth parents - being unborn, although for His loving pastimes selects His devotees to act as His parents to enjoy parental love; He is the original cause of all causes; the strength of the strong, and the thread upon which everything (as pearls) rests.
"'We know', writes J.E. Carpenter in his Comparative Religion, "....that both India and Greece reached the conception of a unity of energy in diversity of operation; 'the One with many names' was the theme of Hindu seers long before AEschylus in almost identical words proclaimed 'one form with many names'."(Elsdon Best [1856-1931]. R.A. Falla. 1954. Some Aspects of Maori Myth & Religion. page 26.)
'The number of men initiated into the cult of Io was but small; only members of the higher grade of priestly experts and men of high-class families, were allowed to learn the ritual pertaining to it. The common folk apparently had no part in it and it is doubtful if they were even allowed to know the name of the Supreme Being. The cult of Io was an esoteric one; that of the lower tribal gods may be termed exoteric. All ritual and ceremonial pertaining to Io was retaining in the hands of the superior priesthood, by no means a numerous body. It may be described as an aristocratic cultus, known only to such experts and the more important chiefs. It is quite probable, indeed, that this superior creed may have been too exalted for ordinary minds, that such would prefer to depend on more accessible and less moral deities.(E.S. Craighill Handy, Polynesian Religion, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 34 (Honolulu1927), pp. 95-6; quoting Edward Treagear, The Maori Race (Wanganui, 1904) pp. 450-2 and Elsdon Best, Some Aspects of Maori Myth and Religion, p.20) From this we can see that they had a strong sense of taratamya (hierarchal worship) and Varna and Ashram too.
"The universe of Io is a well ordered creation. The supreme God has His home in Te-Toi-o-nga-rangi, the uppermost heaven. It is unapproachable by the messengers of the lesser gods, except by special permission, and the only door to it lies through Tawhiri-rangi.
"Only the messengers of Io, who have been purified, can survive the holiness of that heaven. At that place the whatu-kura and mareikura, the attendant of Io, have control over the other denizens of the over worlds, and on His behalf supervise the growth and order of the world. The mana-ariki (overlordship, the power of the highest chiefs) is theirs, and they go to and fro through all the heavens, the world and the underworld's. They are in effect the members of the spiritual body of Io.(A.W. Reed. 1974. Treasury of Maori Folklore - The Maori Pantheon, page 58.)
The similarities here also, with their being a uppermost heaven, reflects the Vedic Vaikuntha or Goloka Dham, where the worshippers of the demigods or unpurified souls cannot approach. There is also a clear indication that the lesser gods (demigods) rule departmental affairs, controlling the worlds on the Supreme Gods behalf, and order. As well as the strong inference that those purified messengers of Io / God are part and parcel of the spiritual body of the Lord / Io. Also the idea of one performing action that is not in line with the desire of the Lord being sinful or bringing about a bad reaction shows the concept of karma, teleological Free Will of the jiva (individual spirit soul), and Dukhalayam asasvatam - that the material world is the source of all suffering, but absorption in the Lord and His spiritual artefacts brings about liberation or release from such suffering.
On the cosmography of the universe and beginning of creation of the material world again there are strong similarities. When we read Sri Brahma Samhita we find lord Brahma, the secondary creator of this material world seated upon a lotus flower, surrounded by waters, alone in the darkness, then he heard a mystical sound Tapah Tapah...(giving direction and inspiration)....! When we look at the Maori cultural understanding of similar events we find that Tane was in a very similar situation, in the waters, surrounded by darkness when he too heard a mystic sound Tapa Tapa!!!
"In the night regions of soft light, Io established the several Hawaiki: Hawaiki Nui (great Hawaiki), Hawaiki-Roa (extensive Hawaiki), Hawaiki-Pamamao (far distance Hawaiki), Hawaiki Tapu (sacred Hawaiki) in which Io chose to dwell with His divine assistants. The Hawaiki became the abode of gods and heroes. But no one, other gods included, could enter Hawaiki Tapu for it was sacred to Io. The other Hawaiki were also sacred and in ancient times were not even mentioned in common talk except by oblique reference as Tawhiti Nui, Tawhiti Roa, Tawhiti Pamamao.
Having created the nights and the Hawaiki, Io brought into being the first gods, Rangi-awatea and Papa-tua-nuku, the male and female principles out of which all things derived. Awatea was the god of 'space and light' (atea and awatea) and the first heaven was created by him on the foundations established by Io. It was known as the heaven of Watea (Te Rangi-a-Watea). But having completed the first heaven, he looked below him and saw the spirit of Papa-tua-nuku (Mother Earth) and descended to cohabit with her. Out of this union sprang their first born, Tane and the other gods after him: Tangaroa, Rongo, Tumatauenga, Haumia-tike-tike, Ru-ai-moko, and Tawahiri-ma-tea.
But Rangi continued to cling to Papa-tua-nuku and gave up his task of completing the heavens. By this act, he doomed his offspring to dwell in perpetual darkness. Io the omniscient stirred his activity and sent the spirit of rebellion to stir the children to revolt. After consultation among the brothers they decided, with the exception of Tawhiri-ma-tea, to separate their parents and allow light into their world. After several abortive attempts, Tane conceived the idea of standing on his hands on Papa and thrusting against Rangi with his feet. His manoeuvre succeeded and Rangi was flung into the skies.
Tane was summoned by Io and after elaborate purificatory rites, he descended to the borders of Hawaiki Tapu where the sacred winds, the mouth-piece of Io, commissioned him to continue with the talks of completing the heavens. So the heavens were completed and became known as the great heavens of Tane (Rangi-nui-a-Tane). At the same time as Tane received the mana (potency) to complete the heavens, Io delegated through Tane various tasks for his brothers. So they became the regents of Io to continue creation in the departments of nature. Thus Tangaroa became the god of the sea, Rongo the god of vegetation, Ru-ai-moko divided the lands asunder, Tawhiri took over the meteorological department and Tu took over the war office. Tane reserved two departments for himself on earth, the forest and the birds, and the creation of man. The first human created was Hine-ahu-one (the maid that emerged out of dust). Tane took clay, moistened it with water and sculptured the form of the female. He then infused the breath of his nostrils (hongi) into her and she came alive. Meanwhile, Awatea had been summoned by Io (prior to Tane's commission), deprived of his mana and banished into the Night Realm. It was the mana from Awatea that was given to Tane."(Michael King. 1992. Te Ao Hurihuri - Aspects of Maoritanga. page 131-132.)
I'm not professing that all of this in every way is the same as the Vedic understandings of creation, etc., but some distinct aspects are very similar. Even when we look through various Puranas, or Ramayanas (Kumba Ramayan, Ananda Ramayan, Valmiki Ramayan, Adyatmika Ramayan) we find different perspective's, according to the vision and the participants there. In the similar way I'm suggesting that the similarities be noted, rather than the differences.
Tane and Brahma were designated as secondary creators, both heard Tapa Tapa, and took it to mean much the same thing; that there is one Supreme Being, who has numerous names; The Supreme God created a male and female principle - much like Shambu and Ramaa mentioned in Brahma Samhita; that various departmental 'demigods' were created to look after the functions of rainfall, vegetation, the sea, mankind, etc.; the infusing of the life air into a form is distinctly Vedic, as in the Pran-pratishta (installation - avahan) of an icon or Deity; the concept of mother earth; the hierarchal accessibility to the higher realms of the universe through (taratamya), gradation of purity in Vedantic theology.
One could argue that these are prominent in other cultures too, to which I would answer, "Yes, it is my proposal that Vedic culture was indeed at one time all over the world!" Those cultures that profess to have no contact with Vedic culture are either in denial, or are simply most unfortunate!!!!
As we mentioned earlier, there are also oral legends going back to claim that the original Hawaiki (home land) was actually referring to the sub-continent of what today we call northern India. The Melanesians talk of an original Hawaiki, and so do the Polynesians, so neither of them are original in themselves. There are several authoritative books that present this, (The Aryan Maori by Edward Tregear 1896; Who Are The Maori by AK Newman 1846.), showing similarities in language, custom, etc., and showing maps of transmigration, with numerous other books including the possibility (some we have cited herein). Other sources show, not only the possibility, but direct reference to names of tribes which are present in both Maoridom and indigenous tribes of India today.
The strength of Maori culture was transmitted orally, through the telling of stories/legends, song (waiata) and the reciting of whakapapa (genealogies). It was also represented in stylised form in carvings and woven panels that adorned whare (meeting houses). When one visits India, and parts of South East Asia some of the most prominent things to catch one are the graphic depictions of the ancient pastimes of the Lord, Sri Krishna, Lord Vishnu, and their pastime expansions, or cultural displays of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, etc., etc., through similar culture symbology.
As far as practical day to day sacred rites, as in the Vedic samskaras, the Maori also have a system of daily rites of passage that mark the maturational development of individuals as they grow, create offspring and pass on. The practical role of the priesthood (Tohungas) are also almost identical in function with those of the Purohits (domestic priests) of India. The Tohunga would be employed to consecrate new buildings, to bless warriors going into battle, to bless new structures or buildings (Marae), performing birth ceremonies, name giving, and last rites, etc. Much of the rhyme and reasoning was the same as ours, the practical application according to linguistics and family tradition is mostly all that differs in the ritual symbolism. The Tohunga's function, like that of the Brahmin's is to serve, support and knit together the conditional stages of the people to directional development towards their constitutional positions as sons and daughters, or servants of the Supreme God - Io and Krishna, through which Varna (social functionality - teacher, administrator/warrior, commerce and labourers work) and Ashram (passage of spiritual shelter - student of te culure, joint family member - householder, retired, and elder/teacher) works.
As with so many other aspects of these two great cultures, likened to distant cousins, the concept of the joint family, whereby grand parents, aunts and uncles enhance the depth of family integrity, identity, moral strength and support looks after the destiny and direction of the people in general under its care. That is very prominent.
The Maori ran their communities in the same way as the Daivi Varnashram system, with the Tohunga giving cultural and philosophical direction, the warriors protecting, and the growing of crops, tending the fields being done by those who were unskilled in trade or priesthood. When the Maori went to war the women folk would also assist their men, sometimes taking up arms to defend their Pa (fortress or village). But as soon as the battle was over, they were again mothers and wives.
I'm not expecting miracles to happen, although certainly they could. But I would like to see that the Maori people, who are in general soft hearted and friendly, understand a little more of what the teachings of, and devotees of the International Society for Krishna consciousness have to offer in making accessible the highest knowledge of the Srimad Bhagavatam, and Bhagavad Gita, the kind of knowledge that formerly only the Tohunga had access to.
As with many of the indigenous cultures that were picked to pieces over the past century or so all over the world by the colonialists, now there is an awakening. The opportunity that Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad has made available to all of us, without exception, and that is now being delivered by his disciples and grand disciples is unprecedented to the disjointed youth of the world today. We have hope that through presenting these multi-cultural view-points of Krishna consciousness, that not only will this affect the plight of individuals by giving them, to the level that they accept it, love of Godhead. It will also affect, on a practical basis; the crime rate, the alcohol and drug use, youth suicides especially among young Maori, but also challenges that face middle aged Maori could be set back, and the cultural legacy be again replenished by their adopting something of the knowledge Krishna consciousness movement has to offer. Let us see what the Lord arranges!!!
In research, as well as presenting, the hardest thing has been to penetrate the wall of propaganda established by the Crowns' missionary arm of the last century's historians, who re-wrote the history of the world and obscured many ancient truths. On a broader scale, this is becoming common accepted knowledge. With the assistance of such favourable winds of change we are well on the way to producing a very informative book that will hopefully enhance empathy and mutual respect for both Maori culture and Krishna Conscious Vedic culture. (A slightly re-edited version of this article appeared in the January/April 1999 edition, Vol 17., No. 4. of Hare Krishna World Newspaper. page 28.)
If anyone has any evidence to support our research I would be very pleased to receive it. In due course of time there will be a book published in this regard - to date we have over 100pages of interesting nectar written down. If your iwi or whenu or friends have some oral history I'm keen to hear it. Please send an e-mail to me informing me of your finds. Kiaora