Tonga - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefe. Traditional Tongans believed in a multideity world including Tangaloa, who pulled up certain Islands from the sea. There were traditional gods of various trades (such as fishers or artisans) and gods of various ha'a. In observance of the strictures of fundamentalist Christianity, it is written into the Tongan constitution that the Sabbath is a legal day of rest in the Kingdom of Tonga, and no commercial activities or entertainment are officially allowed. It should be pointed out, however, that these legal regulations do not coincide with actual activities.

Arts. In traditional Tonga, tattooing was an important form of ornamentation, but with European contact this traditional art has all but vanished. One of the highest forms of traditional arts that has survived into the twentieth century is tapa artistry. Tapa continues to play an important role in gift giving, being redistributed among Tongans on important occasions. Other forms of the expressive arts in Tonga surviving into the twentieth century include dances and kava preparation.

Medicine. Tongans practiced traditional medicinal techniques, utilizing local products and the assistance of Tongan specialists who interceded with the deities for good health. Today there are modern hospital facilities on Tongatapu.

Death and Afterlife. In traditional times, after a Tongan titleholder died the body would be interred in a royal tomb ( langi ) on Tongatapu Island, and the soul was believed to go to Pulotu, the home of Tongan deities and the location where Tongans were thought to reside with their principal gods in the afterlife. Prior to the introduction of Christianity, Commoners were believed not to have souls, but this way of thinking appears to have changed. Tongan kinship ties are truly demonstrated at times of death, and each individual who is related to the deceased has a specific task to perform during the funeral activities. Black is the color of mourning in Tonga.

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