Mauritius Travel Guide

The Complete Guide to Mauritius

Festivals and Events

January / February

Cavadee (Kavadi)

This Hindu festival is very important for all the Tamils of Mauritius, and is probably the most spectacular on the island. After a period of fasting and meditation, the devotees, dressed in colourful garments, walk in procession carrying various types of cavadee (burdens). While some people simply carry a pot of milk or their heads, others march with lavishly-decorated canopies or altar-like structures on their shoulders, to which pots of milk are often attached.

Cavadees come in all shapes and sizes, with some even reaching 3 metres in height. They are built during the fasting period using wood and bamboo in the shape of an arch, and are decorated with bells, colourful cloths and flowers, coconuts, feathers, banana leaves, and religious icons.

During the festival there are prayers, offerings, and rituals, all amidst much chanting and drumming. Probably the most striking aspect of the festival is the use of hooks, skewers, and needles to pierce the worshippers’ backs, chests, cheeks, and tongues; others prefer to simply tie a scarf around their face to prevent speaking. Male worshippers also have their head shaved.

Believers walk to the temple where they pray, make their offerings, and have the piercings removed from their body. Finally, devotees (and visitors) are offered blessed vegetarian food served on banana leaves.


Cavadee (Kavadi) Participants in the Cavadee festival in traditional makeup
Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year (also known as Chinese Spring Festival) is celebrated in the month of January or February and, although the Mauritius Chinese community is fairly small, these celebrations do not go unnoticed. Before the festival begins, shops and houses are decorated with oriental ornaments and thoroughly cleaned. The festival begins on the eve of the Chinese New Year with explosions of fire crackers, aimed at chasing away evil spirits.

The main celebrations are centered around Chinatown in Port Louis. Here, the streets are decorated with red lanterns and flooded with people celebrating and processions of lion and dragon dances. Parades are held and fireworks crackle everywhere. People visit pagodas for prayers and then enjoy the day with their family, usually with a rich lunch.

Chinatown in the city of Port Louis is a must for those wanting to experience this festivity and enjoy some delicious Chinese food.

February / March

Maha Shivaratri

The Mauritius Maha Shivaratri festival is the largest Hindu festival outside of India. Around 300,000 devotees from all over the island leave their homes and start their pilgrimage on-foot to the sacred lake of Ganga Talao, also known as Grand Bassin, to celebrate the Great Night of Shiva.

It can take up to three days and even longer for pilgrims to walk to Grand Bassin for the religious ceremony, depending on where they live. All along the way to Grand Bassin, volunteers serve free food and drinks to pilgrims and also arrange medical assistance and shelters for them.


Maha Shivaratri Grand Bassin is a Hindu pilgrimmage site on Mauritius

During the walk the devotees, usually dressed in white, walk while chanting mantras and devotional songs. They carry a type of chariot called a kanwar, made of wood, bamboo or plastic, and decorated with deities, bells, small mirrors and colourful flowers. Kanwars are a temporary shrine to shelter the reproductions of Hindu Gods.

As the procession reaches its destination, pilgrims rejoice upon finally catching a glimpse of the 108-feet Shiva statue. The Maha Shivaratri culminates in prayers to Shiva, ritual washings and sacrifices. Kanwars are immersed in the lake and devotees collect holy water from the lake to take back to their own local temple. The most devout worshippers remain for overnight prayer rituals and fasting.


Maha Shivaratri One of the beautiful Shiva statues in Grand Bassin, where Shiva is celebrated

March

Holi

The Holi festival is a colourful Indian festival that has acquired worldwide popularity in recent years. On the day of the festival, the Hindu population in Mauritius celebrates by splashing each other with coloured water and powder, accompanied by music, singing, and dancing.

The festival has a religious significance, symbolised by the legend of Holika, where good triumphs over evil. However, it also celebrates the arrival of spring. Holi is a happy time when greetings are exchanged and people celebrate loudly and cheerfully; almost everyone in Mauritius participates, regardless of religion.

March / April

Ugadi (Ugaadi)

This festival celebrates the New Year of the Telegu, an Indian ethnic group composed of the descendants of the people from the Indian region of Andhra Pradesh. This event is characterised by big family meals, cultural shows, and prayers; cakes and sweets are distributed between relatives and friends.

August / September

Ganesh Chaturthi

This Indian festival celebrates Ganesh, one of the best-known and most widely-worshipped Hindu deities, famous for his elephant head. This ten-day festival starts on the fourth day of the Hindu month Bhadrapada, which typically corresponds to the months of August or September.

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Mauritius are not dissimilar to the ones in India. People clean their house and decorate it with flowers, so that it can welcome the clay statue of Lord Ganesh. The statue is placed on a pedestal and is worshipped with daily offerings of delicacies. Ganesh is dressed and bathed and taken care of like a member of the family. Pujas (prayers) complete the rituals.

After ten days the statue of Lord Ganesh will be taken to the water in colourful processions. The clay effigies will be gently immersed in the sea or river and slowly disappear.

During the festival you’ll come across these processions of devotees happily dancing and chanting on the roads, carrying the colourful effigies of Lord Ganesh on small platforms. People come from homes and temples, from different towns and villages, all to join the procession before gathering along the beaches and rivers of the island to take part in the immersion ceremony.



September

Père Laval Day (Father Laval Day)

Between the 8th and 9th September, Mauritians of all faiths make a pilgrimage to the Church of Sainte Croix. Here is the shrine of Père Laval, a French missionary and doctor who arrived in Mauritius in 1841 to spread Christianity across the island. However, his legacy extended far beyond that and today Pere Laval is seen as the man who contributed to ending slavery, bringing about the racial harmony and integration that can be seen on the island today. His life was devoted to caring for those in need such as the sick and the poor, which is why is now known as the ‘Apostle of Mauritius‘.

The shrine contains a picture of father Laval and it is usually adorned with garlands of flowers. Many people flock to his tomb in hope of a miracle healing. At the back of the church there is also a small museum dedicated to Laval.

October / November

Divali (Diwali)

Divali is the Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the victory of light over darkness; of good over evil. Before the day of the festival, homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with strings of lights, similar to Christmas lights, while people prepare traditional Divali sweets. If you wish to try them, you can also buy them in stores!

On the night of the festival, people light small oil lamps to welcome good fortune into their homes. Cities and villages are illuminated with thousands of lights creating a magical atmosphere. People pray together, share the delicious homemade sweets with friends and neighbours, and participate in lighting firecrackers during the night.

On the night of the festival, people light small oil lamps to welcome good fortune into their homes. Cities and villages are illuminated with thousands of lights creating a magical atmosphere. People pray together, share the delicious homemade sweets with friends and neighbours, and participate in lighting firecrackers during the night.

November / December

Ganga Asnan

This Hindu festival is inspired by the age-old tradition of washing away sins in the River Ganges. Mauritians head to the seashore and bathe in the sea to gain purity and new strength.They usually bring items like coconuts, bananas, camphor that they use as part of the religious rituals and prayers. Beaches like Albion, Belle Mare, Baie du Tombeau, Blue Bay, Flic-en-Flac, Mon Choisy, Pereybere, Pointe aux Roches, Pointe aux Sables and Tamarin are popular places for people to converge.

Teemeedee

Teemeedee is a Tamil ceremony in honour of various gods. It occurs throughout the year, but mostly from November to February. During the festival, celebrants run over hot, glowing coals scattered along the ground. The Hindu temples at are famous for this event.

Feasts with varying dates

Eid al Adha

This Islamic celebration honours the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God's command. After prayers in the Mosque, a lamb is symbolically sacrificed. In the international (Gregorian) calendar, the date of the celebration varies from year to year, moving approximately eleven days earlier each year.

Eid Ul Fitr

Ramadan is the month of fasting for the Muslim community, during which they do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. Eid Ul Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan. People go to the Mosque and a exchange gifts, food, and cakes. It is also a time where donations are made to the poor.


Eid Ul Fitr The impressive Jummah mosque in Port Louis

Public Holidays 2018

New Year
1 & 2 January
Thaipoosam Cavadee
31 January
Abolition of Slavery
1 February
Maha Shivaratree
13 February
Chinese Spring Festival
16 February
Independence and Republic Day
12 March
Ugaadi
29 March
Labour Day
1 May
Eid Ul Fitr**
16 June
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15 August
Ganesh Chaturthi
14 September
Arrival of Indentured Labourers
2 November
Divali
7 November
Christmas
25 December
** The exact date of this festival is subject to confirmation as its celebration depends on the visibility of the moon