Maha Shivaratri

On a Thursday in early March I noted that Monday the 7th was a public holiday for Maha Shivaratri. I wanted to understand what it was for and its significance. There were signs for it all over the island sponsored by local industries.

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It is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of the God Shiva. There are twelve Shivaratris in the year with the Maha Shivarathri being the most holy.

I was told that in Mauritius Hindus from all over the island will head for the Grande Bassin, the crater, where there is a lake now seen as their major Hindu prayer site.

 

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Pilgrims set off as early as Thursday to walk to the lake where they pray and collect water to bring back to their village.

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Time to carry the flip flops as fresh rain cools tired feet!
Walking during the day was hot work
Walking during the day was hot work

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Many walk in the early evening or at night when it is cooler and even more carry idols of the God Shiva, some blocking the road and causing the odd traffic jam. This could be a 40 mile round trip, and half of it uphill.

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Difficult to overtake on a mountain road !

Some of the structures carried by the pilgrims were amazing. Walking with some of them for a while was a gentle and moving experience.

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This  group had a support car in front playing quite loud music
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Pole essential for moving branches and live cables out of the way of the structure being carried

Along every pavement, through every village, there were people offering food and drink, shelter to sleep, rest, pray or just encouragement to carry on walking.

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Every temple was decorated and open to all visitors with lots of chairs to rest on. Incredibly, almost everyone was walking in flip flops.

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Not a walking boot in sight

Even those caught in traffic jams were offered refreshment to take whilst they were delayed.

 

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Major, minor and village roads were all filled with pilgrims carrying structures to and from the crater

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I was offered enough fruit to open a greengrocery shop when stopping to take photographs in Vacoas.

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What started for some on Thursday finished on Monday night at midnight. Remember, they walked all the way there with their structures and took them all the way back.

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This was a festival that I found very moving and genuinely happy to have experienced a bit of, what a lovely atmosphere.

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Thank you to all the bystanders who gave me food, drink and snacks whilst I watched, photographed and walked. To all those who made it to and from the crater, many congratulations. Next year, I shall walk more, much more… but not in flip flops!

Mountains and Sugar Cane

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Mauritius is surely defined by many as an island with a beautiful lagoon and long sandy beaches but for me it is the people, the lush green sugar cane filled fields and the mountains. Your eye is drawn to the swaying green leaves of sugar cane, growing at up to 2cm per day under the hot sun.

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Every journey taken has a backdrop of the mountains, every swim in the sea has a range to look at. Some islanders take a walk or a bike at sunrise up in the mountains when others are asleep or sweating at the gym. When so many offices and homes are air-conditioned, it is a treat to get out into the fresh air before the day starts to heat up.

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Montagne du Rempart, the Mauritian Matterhorn.
Montagne du Rempart, the Mauritian Matterhorn with the last remnants of a rainbow