The Sun, the solar-deity. He was known under this name almost everywhere in Polynesia, and in many places received worship.

In New Zealand, where adoration proper was not paid to any god by the mass of the people, he was regarded with reverence and the respect that all must feel for the great source of light and warmth. He is said to have been born as the son of Haronga, and his wife Tongo-tongo, his sister being Marama the moon. Hence the proverb: Nga tokorua a Tongotongo ("The two children of Tongotongo"), for the Sun and Moon.1 Haronga was the son of Rangi-pōtiki, one of the props of heaven, and Hine-ahu-papa.

Another tradition says that Rā was the son of Rangi and Wero-wero; that he took as wives Rikoriko and Ārohirohi, and begat Kau-ata-ata, the first woman.2

In the days of Māui, it seems that the sun passed on his daily course across the sky too quickly, and made the days too short, so the hero, with the help of his brothers, caught the sun in nooses, and beat him unmercifully until he promised that for the future he would go more slowly and make the days longer. In order to capture his solar enemy, Māui repeated the karakia, commencing with:

Te Māui-mua, te Māui-roto, te Māui-pae, Māui-taha
Ka notia, ka herea, ka whakamaua.

Having caught the sun, he then repeated an incantation known as a punga, to cause the sun move more slowly through its course:

Te punga, te Kahu-kura uta, te Kahu-kura tai,
Hai kona ra koe, E te Rā! Tu mai ai —
Tu ki tupua, tu ki tawhito, tu ki maneanea.

It was when he was being beaten by Māui, that the sun called out his second name, saying. "Why should you wish to kill Tamanui-te-Rā?" Then was it that men found out that the sun had another name.3 In very old myths the sun is often termed Te Manu-i-te-Rā (the Bird in the Sun).4

On Samoa, the sun is and on Tahiti, Ra'a. In Tongan the sun is La'a; and in Polynesia generally, at death, or the transferance of a king's temporal power, it is said "The Rā has set," the king being called "the man who holds the sun," or "the sun-eater."

As the "eye of day" the sun is alluded to.5 In Mangaia the sun god Rā sinks every night to his home in Avaiki (Hawaiki), the netherworld.

The same punga was also used by travelers in the old days, in order to cause the sun to move slowly, and thus enable them to complete a journey ere the shades of night fell.



  1. Shortland, Edward. (1882). Maori Religion and Mythology. London: Longmans Green, p. 17.
  2. White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, p. 1:7; Grey, Sir George. (1853). Poems of the New Zealanders (Nga Moteatea), p. 153.
  3. Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. London: John Murray, p. 24.
  4. Best 1899, p. 98.
  5. Grey, Sir George. (1853). Poems of the New Zealanders (Nga Moteatea), p. 153; White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, p. 1:43.


  • Andersen, Johannes C. (1928). Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. London: George G. Harrap, p. 199.
  • Best, Eldson. (1899). "Notes on Maori Mythology." Journal of the Polynesian Society 8:93-121, p. 97.
  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, p. 383.
  • Williamson, Robert W. (1933). Religious and Cosmic Beliefs in Central Polynesia. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 97.

This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.