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 "FESTIVALS OF MAURITIUS"

 

SANKRANTI

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.


CAVADEE

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.

Photography by Natasha Constantinou

The 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 friends.


MAHA SHIVARATREE

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.


HOLI

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.


MEHRAJ SHARIFF

Muslim celebration


OUGADI

Telegu New Year


VARUSHA PIRAPPU

Tamil New Year


SHABBE BARAAT

Muslim celebration


 SEEMADREE APPANA PARSA

Telegu religious celebration


 SITTARAI CAVADEE

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.


CORPUS CHRISTI

Devout Roman Catholics join in a procession through the streets of Port Louis in May or June on the occasion of Corpus Christi.


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.


RAKSHA BANDHAN

Hindu Celebration


FATHER LAVAL

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

Chinese feast


DIVALI

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.


GANGA ASNAN

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.


MUHARRAM

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 prophet.


CHINESE FESTIVALS

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.


FIREWALKING

At the Tamil temple in Terre Rouge and at other temples in predominantly Tamil areas, can be witnessed Teemeedee, or 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.

 

 


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