Maheswarnath Mandir - Temple de Triolet, Mauritius Overview
The Hindu dominant paradise island of Mauritius is blessed with numerous temples all over its landscape. As the unity among all religions is what binds the Mauritians together, the holy sites play an important role both as praying grounds and as a place to find tranquillity.
Locally known as the Grand Shivala Triolet, the Maheswarnath Mandir is one such Hindu temple in Mauritius that can be found in the village of Triolet.
The Temple is the abode of Lord Shiva, and it gets the name Maheswarnath, which means the Great Lord, for that very reason. Pandit Sanjibunlall Ramsoondur founded the temple in 1888. Other than being the biggest and one of the oldest of its kind in the entire island, the Maheswarnath Mandir is also famous for its association with the first pilgrimage to Ganga Talao, which is the sacred lake found right in the centre of Mauritius.
History and Legend
Maheswarnath Mandir is more than 120 years old. The founder of the temple, Pandit Sanjibunlall Ramsoondur, was originally from the state of Bihar in India. He came to Mauritius on 4th April 1866, while travelling from Calcutta. After coming to Mauritius originally as a drug dealer, he became quite healthy because of the great partition that began in 1878. This newfound stature of economic independence earned him the respect of many Mauritians. He was one of the major landowners in Mauritius – with a property of more than 53.70 acres of land at Terminus in the village of Triolet. In 1895, he donated almost 10.13 acres of land to the Hindu society in Mauritius.
Due to the failure of the sugar factory in Triolet, Pandit Sanjibunlall acquired the land of Jules Langlois as well. He even demolished the factory’s chimney, without any knowledge of the laws he was bypassing that were obligated towards the historical monuments of Mauritius. Following this madness, he finally set forth in building Hindu temples by paying all the expenses. He wanted the main temple to be as high as the destroyed chimney was.
The temple of Triolet was built on the ruins of the sugar factory. Tamil artisans under the supervision and guidance of Mr Goinsamy Maestry worked dedicatedly for constructing the temple. These were the very same workers who built the Jummah Masjid in Port Louis and the Sockalingum Meenatchee Amman Kovil, also known as Kaylasson Temple, at Nicolay Road in Port Louis.
The construction of the Maheswarnath Mandir temple began in 1888 and lasted until 1891. All the credit goes to the energetic Pandit Sanjibunlall for his massive contribution to the development of this holy site. The priests and the images of deities arrived from India, and it was Pandit Ramsoondur himself who went to pick them up. A religious procession – Shobha Yatra – was organised from Port Louis to Triolet when he brought a Shiv lingam from Kashi. Post the temple’s inauguration, the management of the temple was handed over to the Hindu society, for which Pandit Ramsoondur donated a lot of money.
According to a legend, a massive pot of gold and silver coins was discovered during the construction of the temple on the very spot where the foundation was being erected. Many believe that the gold belonged to the pirates of the Indian Ocean, dating back to centuries. The pirates attacked the ships that belonged to the East India Company several times and looted all their gold and other precious goods. Nonetheless, the discovered money was later on invested in the construction of the temple.
A significant event organised in Maheswarnath Mandir marks the beginning of the annual pilgrimage to Grand Bassin. It is said that two priests dreamt about the water of Grand Bassin’s lake having a connection with the holy Indian River Ganga. The news of this dream spread like forest fire all across the island, and it created quite a stir among the Hindu community. This news worked as a reassurance for the Indian Hindus in Mauritius, as they were filled with a religious optimism given the sacred nature of this island; returning to India would be nothing but futile. In the year 1898, Pandit Sanjibunlall along with nine other people trekked all the way to Grand Bassin from Triolet to collect water from the holy lake and offered it to Lord Shiva on Maha Shivratri. The lake came to be known as Pari Talao post popularisation of that story, and it became comparable to the Holy Ganges in India. Since then, people from different parts of Mauritius started following this tradition of going on a pilgrimage to Ganga Talao to collect the holy water.
They carry a ‘Kanwar’ with them during the pilgrimage, which is a structure made from bamboo, covered with fabrics and decorated with colourful ornaments. The structure also enshrines the images of different Hindu deities. Once the journey is completed, the pilgrims offer the holy water to Lord Shiva present in the local temples of their respective villages where they hail from. This pilgrimage is a unique tradition of Mauritius and has become an integral part of the Maha Shivratri festival.
Architecture of the Temple
The design of the temple is based on Bengal architecture. The main temple is a variant of West Bengal’s ‘Ratna’ style. The temple is built on a platform, and it follows the structure of a five-flowered temple or the Pancha-Ratna temple. You can find the veranda branching out of the main temple, which is the resemblance of the Thakur-Dalan – an infrastructural characteristic common in the old houses of Calcutta. During Durga Puja in West Bengal, the idol of Goddess Durga is placed on the Thakur-Dalan.
Inside the premises of the Maheswarnath Mandir, you can also find a Vishnu temple to the right that follows similar architectural principles. The main temple building is decorated with floral designs amidst the various images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Since the time of its construction, the temple has remained white in colour while the floral designs and other structures are colourful. It creates a wonderful contrast and gives the temple its distinctive look. Inside the main temple, you can find the Shiv Ling as a representation of Lord Shiva. There are images of Lord Shiva’s wife – Goddess Parvati and their sons – Lord Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha. The temple also houses another form of Shiva – Lord Bhairava. Nandi-bull – the gatekeeper – can be found facing the Shiv Ling.
There are two small temples dedicated to Lord Nataraja and Goddess Lakshmi, right next to the main temple. Other temples in the premises include one for Lakshmi Narayan and his various incarnations, one Hanuman temple, one temple for Lord Jagannath, one for Goddess Kali, one for Goddess Saraswati and one with Goddess Durga and her nine different avatars.
A religious detour during any vacation can be soul-calming. Maheswarnath Mandir is one such spectacle of Mauritius that will make your travel itinerary a unique experience. Visit the mandir early, sing your prayers and be transported into a religious world amidst the land of beaches!