Like everywhere in the world, Mauritius has its own traditions. The culture on the island is so diverse, mainly because of the different ancestors who were brought or visited the island, many years ago.
The different ethnic groups you can find on the island include Indo-Mauritians (Indian descent), Afro-Mauritians (African descent), Franco-Mauritians (French descent) and Sino-Mauritians (Chinese descent). Though Indo-Mauritians make up the majority of the population, each community has their own traditions and festivals.
You will find festivals of all origins being celebrated harmoniously on the island, from Hindu, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Islamic, Buddhist and Christian festivals.
Chinese New Year
The Chinese community also celebrate their New Year which is also known as the Spring Festival. The date is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar which can vary between the years. Families gather together for a feast, where a number of Chinese dishes are made, including mooncake and “gato la cire”. Dragon dances are held in communities for good luck and firecrackers are also lit, so as to ward off evil spirits.
The Mauritian Tamil Community celebrates Thaipoosam Cavadee which is a festival held in devotion of Lord Muruga. 10 days before the actual date, devotees will fast with vegetarian food and prayers will take place, leading to the day. On the streets you will be able to find “Cavadees”, small shrines decorated with flowers, being carried to temples. The famous seven curries are also cooked on this day.
Mahashivratri is the festival performed in devotion of Lord Shiva at the “Ganges of Mauritius”, which is Ganga Talao. It is a very enlightening and colourful festival where, pilgrim dress in white and carry man-made shrines from their locality to Grand Bassin. The shrines can vary from simple structures to elaborate ones, requiring at least a dozen people people to carry it. On pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, pilgrims fetch holy water from the lake.
Ugadi/Gudi Padwa – Hindu New Year
In the month of March and April, the Telugu and Marathi Community celebrate their New Year. The festival is conducted with a morning prayer either at home or at the temple, followed by a cultural programme at a community centre. Also to mark this day, as per the Telugu tradition they make a kind chutney which consists of about 6 different ingredients (though this may vary) and each ingredient used is symbollical to them.
Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary
In August, more specifically, on 15th August, the Christians all around the world, including the Christian community in Mauritius celebrate the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary. This festival was adopted back in the French colonial days. On this day, Mass is held in the church in devotion of Mother Mary.
Following with this festival, between August and September, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by the Marathi Community on the 4th day of the lunar month of the Hindu calendar. This festival marks the birthday of Ganesha, the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles, according to Hindu mythology. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated very grandly in Mauritius, whereby prayer is conducted and the idol of Ganesha is immersed into the sea.
In addition to that, we have one of the biggest celebration in Mauritius which is Diwali. Diwali is also known as the Festival of Light and is one of the most jovial festivals on the island. This festival marks the victory of righteousness over evil as per the Hindu mythology. On this festival, cakes are prepared and distributed among each other as well as clay lamps are lit all around the house. Nowadays, this is replaced by decorative electric lights and houses are extravagantly adorned in these. It is worth going out at night to see these.
Eid-Ul-Fitr is a Muslim festival celebrated at the end of Ramadan to mark the end of the holy month of fasting. However, an exact date cannot be fixed for this festival, as it all depends upon the visibility of the moon. Special prayers are offered at the mosques in the morning and is afterwards celebrated grandly by the Muslim community. Feasts are cooked up, including the famous Briyani and families & friends gather to celebrate this joyous occasion.
In December, as other countries celebrate a “White Christmas”, our tropical island celebrates by decorating their houses with a green Christmas tree and multiple other decorative ornaments. It is an occasion that it celebrated by almost all religions in Mauritius. Those of Christian faith will attend church whereas others will participate in the gift giving nature of this festival. Nevertheless, children rejoice and are delighted to celebrate it, since it is a gift sharing day!
In a nutshell, despite having a variety of religions following different cultures and traditions, each and every community respects these festivals as well as sometimes participates in them. And this is what makes Mauritius one of the most peaceful multicultural societies to live in.