A sacred journey to Kaua’i Aadheenam

Since the tours have been paused, I was concerned that my self-guided visit would be too late KauaI Adheenam would hamper the experience. Luckily I couldn’t have been more wrong. After driving inland towards the lush mountains of Wailua, I arrived at the Kauaʻi Hindu Monastery. With a pareo on my shoulders, I made my way to the entrance, breathing in the humid morning air and admiring the special stillness I found further from the coast than I was used to. I arrived for Śiva Puja (in Hinduism, Śiva Puja is the way of worshiping Śiva) at 9:00 am and wanted to walk around the grounds a bit before entering the temple.

Known as one of the holiest sites in the Hindu religion, KauaEstablished in 1970, Aadheenam encompasses 382 acres of gardens, ponds, temples, shrines and opportunities for deep personal reflection while immersing oneself in nature. The monastery is home to a small group of (under 20) monks who have dedicated their lives to the principles of Hinduism. Kauai Aadheenam resembles a traditional South Indian style complex and at times it felt like I had been transported somewhere else rather than the Garden Isle.

Upon entry you will find a beautiful pink granite urn with paper and pens for those wishing to write down problems, confessions or things they wish to release. The practice of burning these personal confessions is called Vasana Daha Tantra, or “subconscious purification through fire,” and is a valuable healing practice. The Pua Kenikeni Mandapam (pavilion) where the urn is located also offers reading material about the monastery and sarongs for visitors to adhere to the dress code. No above-the-knee shorts, tight or revealing clothing is allowed.

cadaver temple

Temple property.
Photo: Courtesy of Kaua’i Aadheenam

Each stop along the self-guided tour has a summary board, as well as a QR code that visitors can use to delve deeper if they wish. Before walking up the path, I stopped to ring the bell next to the Nepalese Ganesha—the remover of obstacles and god of beginnings—and made my way to the temple with his blessings.

Below was a sign telling visitors to remove their shoes before entering the temple. Shoe racks were provided and a devotee pointed them out to me. I walked barefoot down the path to the temple and passed a sixteen-ton Nandi bull carved from a single block of black granite. Watching in every Śiva temple in the world, Nandi represents unshakable faith, his eyes never taking his eyes off his Lord.

A white-robed monk was busy working in the pavilion in front of the temple, and I soon learned that there are three types of monks in Kaua’i Aadheenam. Those dressed in orange are swamis with life vows who are ordained after eight to twelve years of training. Those in yellow have fewer years of training and are called yogis. Monks in white are sadhakas who take vows for two years each. The monks live a celibate life and focus all their energies on worship and service. They share the responsibilities of tending the grounds, growing food, cooking meals, and daily chores, and participate in daily worship, meditation, and yoga.

All monks 2022

The temple houses about 20 monks.
Photo: Courtesy of Kaua’i Aadheenam

When I reached the temple tank—a sacred pool of water—I dipped my feet and prepared to enter the temple. Once inside, I took a pillow to sit on and carefully sat cross-legged on the floor. I was warned not to extend arms or legs to the deities as it is a sign of disrespect. The energy in the temple was electric – and no wonder. According to the monastery readings, the spiritual vibration is kept strong by the constant worship of the monks; as they have performed the Sanskrit puja ritual in praise of the deities every three hours since the establishment of the temple in 1973.

Three main shrines adorn the temple, representing the divine dancer, supreme god Śiva, Ganesha, the elephant-faced deity honored with a bell upon entry, and Lord Karttikeya, the god of yoga and spiritual endeavours. The walls are lined with 108 bronze statues of Śiva in various poses, and finally there is a shrine of Gurudeva, said to honor the founder of the monastery.

Śiva Puja was divided into several parts including a purification of the pujari and shrine, a flower offering and the chanting of 108 names and the concluding arati to Nataraja. The rhythm of the ceremony was gorgeous and when I was given another opportunity to write down my inner struggles to burn, I jumped at the chance.


The room where Siva Puja is performed.
Photo: Kauai Aadheenam

On my reflective walk, I stopped to look at Mt. Wai’ale’ale Viewpoint with a distant view of the Iraivan Temple. Stonemasons in India carved the structure out of granite and shipped it piece by piece to HawaiiʻI in the 90’s and it’s still under construction today. As a last stop I took the I had the opportunity to meditate in a banyan tree and felt – more than ever – rooted to the earth beneath me.

According to the monastery readings, Kadavul represents intense, pervasive energy that breaks old patterns and helps seekers begin new ones. My experience resulted in a much needed energy shift and healing that will last long after the embers of regret have died.

With two entry times, Kaua’i Aadheenam welcomes guests daily from 9:00am to 12:00pm, but asks you to enter a (free) reservation before the visit and contains important protocols that visitors must follow. Follow the road to the other side of the Waiʻaleʻale lookout to trek through Rudraksha Forest, rich in giant ficus trees, a bamboo tunnel, and other sculptures and plants.