We have many public holidays in Mauritius – it comes from all the different ethnic groups present on the island: everyone’s belief, traditions and religions must be respected. Thus, all the different communities gets to choose a public holiday. For the Chinese for example it’s Chinese New Year (16 February this year), for the Muslim community it’s Eid-Ul-Fitr (End of Ramadan), the Catholic community this year have chosen the 15 August (Assumption of Mary). etc… You get the picture!
This week Mauritius also celebrates Maha Shivaratri: a Hindu festival observed in reverence of Lord Shiva. I think it is by far one of the preferred and most popular Hindu festivals in Mauritius. Devotees prepare kanwars and walk with them, typically from their homes to the sacred lake in the south of Mauritius, to Ganga Talao in Grand Bassin. On the day of the festival all pilgrims have returned to their homes and will be doing their offerings at their temple.
On Maha Shivaratri (and in preparation of) devotees fast and pray for the forgiveness of their sins.
Read about another Hindu Festival: Ugadi – The Spring Festival.
The festival has been celebrated in Mauritius for many decenies, as people have been trekking to Grand Bassin – known before as Pari Talao, the lake of fairies – to collect water and bring back as offering to Shiva. In 1972, water from the sacred river Ganges in India was poured into the cratered lake to establish a symbolic link in between the two.
According to a Hindu legend, Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati were flying above our earth, noticed a beautiful and untouched island and decided to land. Lord Shiva was carrying the sacred River Ganges on his head. As he touched down, drops fell on the ground and formed a lake that is known today as Ganga Talao. River Ganges was not very happy that some of his sacred water was being left on the island but Lord Shiva replied that one day many Hindus would settle on this deserted island and come to worship her there. Ganga Talao is today one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage outside of India.
I have only been once, many years ago and feel that it is time to go back to Ganga Talao.
Om Namah Shivay! May the blessings of Lord Shiva remain with you throughout your life. Happy Maha Shivratri, 2018!
Greeting from the Indian Express
What is a Kanwar?
For weeks preceding the festivals the devotees prepare Kanwars to be carried on the necks and shoulders of the pilgrims. These have become bigger over the years and now many are on wheels, while some are still carried and are so big they need to be supported by several persons. A Kanwar is a structure traditionally made out of bamboo and colourful paper streamers, flags and other vibrant small decorations. They are transported on the shoulders to symbolise surrender and obedience to Lord Shiva. Here are a few pictures of some we have seen on the roads these past few days.
The driving these past days has been, how can I say: interesting? no, challenging! So many pilgrims walking on the side of the road and resting at temples and tarpaulin shelters set up a little bit everywhere on the island. Yesterday, so the day before Maha Shivaratree it took us more than 2hours to do a 30km trip. Of course there is plenty of entertainment with all these Kanwars to look at. Last year there were many stories of some of them being so big that they couldn’t fit under bridges and were left on the side of the road… This year it seems there was a bit more humility – or maybe I just didn’t hear about it.
There are a few temples really worth to visit in Mauritius. The site of Ganga Talao, of course. But also Maheswarnath Mandir in Triolet and our local one, Sagar Shiv Mandir – I love how it is surrounded by water, on its own little island!
Maha Shivaratri to those who celebrate!
Le Mauricien – picture at Ganga Talao, Featured Image
Picture as mentioned and picture for pin: carrotmadman6