14 Festivals In Mauritius To Experience The Festive Vibe Of The Island Country
Festivals promote diversity. They bring our neighbours into dialogue and improve our psychological well-being as well. During celebrations, all you have to do is wander freely and see what happens. Festivals are fun, be it kids or adults. Festivals form a significant part of traditions. And what about festivals in a country like Mauritius, with multiple ethnicities, cultures and religions? A shared history of that unites the multi-ethnic people of Mauritius began more than 400 years ago. Mauritians have their ancestors originating from three different continents, which in itself is diversity. They celebrate some festivals, which reflect their cultures. Most of these festivals in Mauritius are primarily linked to their religion.
Here is a list of festivals celebrated with much fervour in Mauritius.
1. Thimithi - Walk on Fire
The Tamil community in Mauritius primarily celebrates the Walk on Fire festival. It is observed either in December or February. There is a process of 'purification', which takes ten days. During this time, people meditate, pray and fast. On the 11th day, devotees go to the temple and walk barefoot on charcoal embers. Later, they dip their feet in milk to ease the pain of their burns. It is believed that walking on burning charcoal fulfils the desires of the devotees. At the end of the session, the fire pit is extinguished with milk and water. The legend behind this festival in Mauritius can be traced back to the time of Mahabharata (a Hindu epic). It denotes the victory of Pandavas in the war of Mahabharata, over great Kaurava warriors.
Dates: 18th February
2. Thaipusam Cadavee
Another festival celebrated by the Tamil community in Mauritius, Thaipusam Cadavee is celebrated either in January or February. Considered to be one of the most impressive Tamil festivals, on this day pilgrims walk barefoot carrying the 'Cadavee'. They carry the Cadavee with their bodies, tongues and cheeks pierced with needles and skewers. The 'Cadavee' is a wooden arch which is covered with flowers. Cadavee is supported by wooden rods and is richly decorated with flowers, coconut tree leaves, lime and peacock feather. Devotees also carry milk as an offering to the temples. Ten days before the festival, a flag hoisting ceremony called Kodi Etram is held and celebrated in grand pomp. The flag will float till the end of the festival. The temples in which this festival is celebrated are called Kovils, and they are built on the lines of Dravidian architecture. To implore Lord Muruga's grace; sandalwood, flowers and prayers are offered. During this festival time, families maintain strict vegetarian regimes. People recite prayers and verses from Hindu epics in their homes.
Dates: 21st January
3. Mid-Autumn Festival
Also known as the Moon Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival in Mauritius is celebrated in September. Considered as a harvest festival, the Chinese community in Mauritius celebrates Mid-Autumn festival with great enthusiasm. On this day, mooncakes are made and shared with family and friends. Offerings are made to the moon goddess. Another narrative behind the celebration of this festival says that traditional moon cakes were used to hide and convey messages about the date of the Chinese revolution at the end of the Yuan dynasty against the ruling Mongols.
Dates: 13th September
4. Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Father Jacques Desire Laval
The pilgrimage is held each year on the night in September. On this night, not only the Catholics but also Mauritians of all communities walk up to the tomb of the priest. The shrine of French Catholic priest and missionary Pere Jacques-Desire Laval is something of a Lourdes of the Indian Ocean. Many miracles have been attributed to pilgrimages here. The padre died in 1864 and was beatified in 1979 during a visit by Pope John Paul II. Laval is credited with converting 67,000 people to Christianity during his 23 years in Mauritius.
Dates: 8th September
Christmas is celebrated by the entirety of the Mauritian population, regardless of community and religion. You can find Santa Claus in many commercial centres and public spaces. During the Christmas season, you can come across many tropical fruits like mangoes, pineapples, longans, litchis, and watermelons of all sizes. On Christmas Eve, people set and decorate Christmas trees, which varies from natural pine to artificial trees. Christmas carols are mainly heard on radios or televisions and shopping centres. On this day, Children and young people revive Christmas gifts which are carefully kept under the Xmas tree. Gatherings take place in the grandparents' house, and people spend a day in a beach house. Mauritian families also burn firecrackers at midnight.
Dates: 25th December
6. Maha Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri is one of the most auspicious Hindu festivals celebrated by the people of Mauritius. Maha Shivaratri translates to 'great night of Lord Shiva'. According to the Hindu calendar, this festival in Mauritius falls on the thirteenth night and fourteenth day of Hindu month of Phalguna (February - March). Devotees of Lord Shiva converge near Ganga Talao, the sacred lake.
Ganga Talao is a crater lake in Mauritius, which also hosts a Hindu temple. This place draws hundreds of pilgrims every year. People also visit this place to enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake or to take a walk and play with the monkeys. Entry to this site is free, and there is ample parking space as well. The place is very scared and is of cultural importance, as it resembles the harsh conditions sustained by Indian indentured labourers in Mauritius.
Dates: 21st February
Holi, the celebration of joy and colour is celebrated with much fervour in this island nation. During this Mauritius festival, men, children and women chase each other using coloured water and powders. The festival usually lasts two days and starts with a bonfire in the evening time. People sing and dance in their folk styles. The bonfire is believed to symbolise the death and defeat of evil Holika, who was burned to death and reduced to ashes after she tried to her nephew. Musicians play the drums and other musical instruments accompanied by the folk singers. All streets, parks, beaches and houses look very colourful during the festival of Holi. If you visit Mauritius during the Holi time, you will also get to sweets and other delicacies that are shared amongst families and friends. People also visit the houses of their relatives and friends. Initially, Holi was believed to be an agricultural festival, to commemorate the arrival of spring with her vibrant colours. Holi is also a great occasion for people to get together and spend some valuable time.
Dates: 20th to 21st March
8. All Saints Day
All Saints Day is celebrated by the Christians in Mauritius on 2nd of November. This day is devoted to honouring the dead. It also commemorates the arrival of first Indian labourers in Mauritius. This day is also a public holiday in Mauritius.
Dates: 2nd November
9. The Spring Festival
Often referred to as the Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival in Mauritius is celebrated every year on different dates in either January or February. Fireworks and firecracker explosions accompany the celebration. Red, considered to be the colour of happiness for the Chinese community, is the dominant colour during this festival. Red Envelopes containing money, called Fung Pao, are offered to children and parents of the Chinese community. Traditional Chinese cakes and sweets are distributed among family and friends.
Dates: 25th January
10. Lantern festival
The lantern festival is celebrated 15 days after the Chinese New Year. Lantern festival marks the end of New Year celebrations of the Chinese community in Mauritius. On the streets of the main Mauritian towns, costumed parades and dragon dances are organised during this time.
Dates: 8th February
11. Eid Ul-Fitr
Eid Ul-Fitr is a public holiday in Mauritius. This festival in Mauritius is celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan or Ramzan. The festival involves prayers, exchange of gifts, visits to family and charity to the poor. The festival is celebrated in the mosques with family gatherings and dinners.
The festival of Yam-Un-Nabi celebrates the birth of Prophet Mohamed. Devotees gather at the mosque on this day and listen attentively to the story of Prophet Mohamed's life. At the same time, Eid-al-Adha is celebrated to commemorate the sacrifice of the Prophet Abraham. On this day, animals are sacrificed (which includes sheep, goat or cattle) and this is divided into three parts. The first two parts go for the poor and family, respectively. The last part is given to friends.
Commemorating the martyr of Inam Hussein, this festival in Mauritius is celebrated with vibrancy by a minority of the Muslim community in Mauritius. Inam Hussein was a descendant of the Prophet Mohamed. A parade is held with this regard on the streets of Plaine- Verte, in Port Louis.
Dates: 21st September
14. Ganesh Chaturthi
The Hindu community in Mauritius celebrates the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. It commemorates the birth of God Ganesh. On this day, Hindus visit their temples and go to the river banks or beaches with small replicas of the elephant head God. These replicas are traditionally made of clay and mud. They are immersed in water before sunset. Families cook a variety of delicacies and share them with friends and relatives.
Imagine celebrating all these festivals on this tropical island. It sounds very tempting. Be mesmerised to discover the cultural heritage of Mauritius now!