The first of the year's religious festivals. It
is celebrated in the beginning of the Tamil month Thai, and is also know as Thai
Pongal. It is an occasion of thanksgiving for the harvest which is represented
by ceremonial boiling of rice. It is customary to wear new clothes at this time.
This Tamil ritual is
named after the wooden yoke - the cavadee
- decorated with flowers and palm leaves and with a
pot of milk suspended from each end, which a devotee fulfilling a vow carries
across his shoulders in procession to his temple. There it is placed before the
deity when, despite the long, hot ordeal, the milk should not be curdled.
cavadee procession, while
colourful and spectacular, is awe-inspiring because of the penance undergone by
the participants who walk with their bodies pierced with needles, hooks hanging
from their flesh and skewers threaded through their tongues and cheeks.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
This is a New Year's Day and spring-cleaning
combined. The festival begins on the eve of the Chinese New Year with an
explosion of fire crackers to chase away evil spirits. New Year's Day is in
January or February and does not fall on the same day every year due to the
irregularity of the lunar month.
During the week before New Year's Day there is
a thorough spring-cleaning of the home. Traditionalists make visits to pagodas
on New Year's Eve with offerings and prayers of thanksgiving. The Day itself is
a holiday for the Chinese community who celebrate by going to the beach. Neither
scissors nor knives are used on the Day and the colour red, symbolic of
happiness, is flavoured. Food is displayed in an honoured place in the home in
the hope of abundance in the coming year. Cakes made of rice flour and honey,
called Wax Cakes because of their texture, are shared with relatives and
The Great Night of Shiva is a solemn occasion
for Hindus which begins with a night-long vigil in worship of the God Shiva. The
following day, devotees dressed in pure white carry the Kanwar, a wooden arch
decorated with flowers, paper and tiny mirrors, in procession to Grand Bassin.
This lake is in the Savanne district, about five kilometres by motorable road
from the Mare aux Vacoas reservoir.
The lake is holy to Hindus who carry water from
it home to their own temples. Poojas (worship with food) are celebrated that
night in the temples dotting the banks of the lake, the air heavy with the sweet
smell of burning incense sticks and reverberating with prayers broadcast from
loudspeakers. This is reputed to be the largest Hindu festival celebrated
outside India and is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the holy
Ganges. Worshippers believe the lights they launch on the lake on banana leaves
and their offerings of flowers will float somehow to the Ganges.
A happy time for Hindus when greetings are
exchanged and revelry erupts with the squirting of coloured water and the
spraying of coloured powder on one another, and on everyone else the revellers
come across. A noisy and cheerful festival.
Telegu New Year
Tamil New Year
SEEMADREE APPANA PARSA
Telegu religious celebration
Tamil religious celebration ( April / May)
ID EL FITR
The annual month of fasting (Ramadhan) by
Muslims, during which they neither eat nor drink between sunrise and sunset,
comes to an end with this festival.
Devout Roman Catholics join in a procession
through the streets of Port Louis in May or June on the occasion of Corpus
ID EL ADHA
Sheep and goats are sacrificed in ceremonial
slaughter for this Muslim festival and the meat is shared by family and friends.
The day commemorates the sacrifice by Abraham of his son and the events
symbolise the Muslim ideal of sacrifice and dedication.
Throughtout September, but especially on
September 9 which is the anniversary of the death in 1864 of Father Jacques
Desire Laval (known locally as Pere Laval), pilgrims gather at the priest's
grave in St Croix. Father Laval was born in France in 1803 and brought up in a
strict religious atmosphere, qualifying as a medical doctor before becoming a
priest. In 1841 he arrived in Mauritius as a missionary and converted thousands
of recently-freed slaves to Catholicism, becoming known as the Apostle of the
Blacks. He is regarded as the "national saint" of Mauritius, recognised by the
Vatican and venerated by followers of all faiths who attribute miraculous
healing powers to his name.
MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL
Clay oil lamps and paper lanterns with candles
in them are placed in front of every Hindu and Tamil home on this Festival of
Lights. Hills and valleys sparkle in the night as lights burn to celebrate the
victory of Rama over Ravana, and Krishna's destruction of the demon Narakasuran;
the victory of good over evil.
ALL SAINTS DAY
The day on which cemetery cleaning takes place
and flowers are placed by Roman Catholics on the graves of the dead.
YAUM UN NABI
The birth and death anniversaries of the
Prophet Mohammed are commemorated on the Prophet's Day, following twelve days
during which the faithful gather in mosques throughout the island, devoting
themselves to religious study.
For Hindus this is the time of ceremonial
bathing in the sea for purification, since they believe the holy water of the
Ganges will be able to purify them though it. At the beaches of Albion, Belle
Mare, Baie du Tombeau, Blue Bay, Flic-en-Flac, Mont Choisy, Perebere, Pte aux
Roches, Pte aux Sables and Tamarin, special lifeguard units are set up from 1900
to 1700 to ensure the safety of bathers.
An important Muslim
festival known in Mauritius as Yamsey, featuring figures and towers called
ghoons, carried in
procession through the streets in commemoration of the death of the grandson of
The Chinese dragon has been known to make
appearances, a six metre long monster dancing and twisting in a pageant
symbolising peace and prosperity. In March, ritual cleaning of the statues in
Buddhist temples takes place.
At the Tamil temple in
Terre Rouge and at other temples in predominantly Tamil areas, can be witnessed
firewalking, between October and March. Worshippers walk over beds of red hot
embers which represent the outstretched sari of Draupadee. They prepare for the
ordeal by fasting, a ritual bath and a blessing before walking unscathed on the
glowing embers to the accompaniment of chants from supporters.