Religions in Mauritius - A Treasure Trove of Cultures and Legacies

Hinduism is the primary religion in Mauritius, followed by Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Mauritius is the only African nation with the 3rd highest Hindu population. Almost 68% of the Mauritian population has Indian roots and speaks Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Urdu and Bhojpuri. The Creoles, Franco Mauritians and Sino-Mauritians mostly follow Christianity.

Read on to get more information about Religions in Mauritius:

Hinduism in Mauritius

A vast majority of the Hindus are descendants of the labourers brought over to Mauritius by the British during their colonial rule to work on the sugarcane plantations after the abolition of slavery on the island. This makes Mauritius the only African nation with the 3rd highest Hindu population, with Hinduism as the dominant religion after India and Nepal. A significant proportion of the Indo-Mauritian community identifies itself with South India, particularly Tamil Nadu and hence, Tamil festivals are prevalent on the island.

Several ornate Hindu temples have been constructed in Mauritius, which serve as the centres for the community to congregate and celebrate. Ganga Talao in Grand Bassin is considered a sacred lake, the Mauritian equivalent of River Ganga in India. The Hindus widely undertake a pilgrimage to this holy lake on the occasion of Maha Shivratri in Mauritius. Maheswarnath Shiv Mandir and Sagar Shiv Mandir are some of the other famous temples in Mauritius.

Major Hindu festivals such as Maha Shivratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Ougadi and Tamizh Puttaandu are national holidays in Mauritius.

Religions in Mauritius, Hinduism
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Christianity in Mauritius

Mauritius' second-largest religion, Christianity was introduced on the island by the Dutch upon their colonisation of Mauritius in 1638. After the French took control of Mauritius in 1715, they passed a decree mandating all incoming slaves to be baptised Catholic. Christianity (particularly Protestantism) was further reinforced by the British when they established their rule on the Island. Presently, 83% of all Christians identify themselves as Catholics.

The largest faction of Christianity, Catholicism, identifies God as the Holy Trinity, comprising the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Catholic Mauritians abide by the holiness of the Priesthood and the Pope in Vatican City. The liturgy of churches varies significantly across the island, and one can find mass being celebrated in different languages such as Latin, French and English.

The oldest church in Mauritius - Saint Francis of Assisi church, was built in 1756 using Basalt rock and is deeply revered. Notre Dame de l'Auxilliatrice, with its flaming red roof and the azure sea behind it, is another one of the countless quaint old churches you'll find on the island. The festivals of Assumption and Christmas are national holidays and are marked by stunning celebrations. A visit to Mauritius during Christmas and New Year is a great way to herald the onset of a new year.

Religion in Mauritius, Christianity
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Islam in Mauritius 

The indentured labourers arriving in Mauritius brought Islam too, like Hinduism. These people originated in the regions of Gujarat, Pondicherry and Bengal in India. Wealthy Indian merchants who set up their trade in Mauritius also assisted in the propagation of Islam on the island. A lesser-known fact: Muslim Arabs were the first to discover the island of Mauritius and had christened the island Dina Arobi!

Most Muslims in Mauritius identify themselves with the Sunni sect. While well-versed in Hindi, many also speak Urdu, Gujarati and Bhojpuri. The entire Muslim community can be demarcated into three social groups - the Memons, who control some of the most prominent mosques in Mauritius, the Surtees, who are rich Gujarati and Kutch merchants; and the Hindi Calcattias - the indentured labourers from Bihar. The Shia minority in Mauritius traces its roots to South Asia and East Africa.

The Camp des Lascars mosque built-in 1805 was Mauritius' first mosque and is now identified as the Al Aqsa mosque. The Jummah Mosque in Port Louis was built in the 1850s and is one of Mauritius' architectural masterpieces. With its pristine white facade and green trimmings, the mosque is a deeply revered site for all Muslims. Eid-Ul-Fitr is a national holiday and is marked by grand benevolent celebrations.

Religion in Mauritius, Islam
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Buddhism in Mauritius

Less than 1 % of the Mauritian population practises Buddhism. The religion was brought over mostly by the Sino Mauritians (Mauritians with Chinese origins) migrating to Mauritius at the beginning of the 19th century. Being a Dharmic religion, Buddhism derives its principles from the teachings of the Gautama Buddha of India. Two major schools of Buddhism exist - The Theravada and the Mahayana. All Buddhist traditions share the objective to overcome suffering and attain liberation from the cycle of life and death by attaining Nirvana. Devout Buddhists practise the Middle path - a lifestyle characterised by neither intense asceticism nor extravagant luxuries.

The Sino-Mauritian community celebrates the Chinese New Year Festivals and the Lantern Festival, both of which involve visually stunning celebrations. The Dharmarakshita Mahayana Buddhist Center in Quatro Bornes is one of the significant community centres for Mauritian Buddhists.

Religions in Mauritius, Buddhism
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Bahá'ísm in Mauritius

Bahá'ísm though followed by a small number of people in Mauritius, has considerable practitioners nonetheless. Bahá'ísm is the youngest of the world's independent religions. Founded by Bahá'u'lláh, the faith is present in 235 countries and territories around the world.

This religion started gathering followers in Mauritius around 1953 and has ever since professed the message that humanity is one single race and that its unification into one global society is of paramount importance. Bahá'ís work to eliminate prejudice of all kinds and aims to develop a global society characterised by unity, harmony, justice and peace.

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Mauritius is headquartered in Port Louis and oversees the administrative affairs of the Bahá'ís as well as their spiritual and moral development. Ridván, a twelve-day festival that commemorates Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation to be the Manifestation of God is the most significant Bahá'í festival. 

Religions in Mauritius, Bahaism
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Other Religions

Confucianism, Taoism and Jainism are some of the other micro-religions practised by Mauritians.

Mauritius' different ethnic communities co-exist in harmony and conflicts on religious grounds are seldom heard of. If you are planning to visit Mauritius, try arriving during a festival to experience the nation's true colours. Blend in with the locals and celebrate with them to build some sparkling memories that you'll cherish forever!

This post was published by Satyam Saxena

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