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.
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.
Pilgrims set off as early as Thursday to walk to the lake where they pray and collect water to bring back to their village.
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.
Some of the structures carried by the pilgrims were amazing. Walking with some of them for a while was a gentle and moving experience.
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.
Every temple was decorated and open to all visitors with lots of chairs to rest on. Incredibly, almost everyone was walking in flip flops.
Even those caught in traffic jams were offered refreshment to take whilst they were delayed.
I was offered enough fruit to open a greengrocery shop when stopping to take photographs in Vacoas.
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.
This was a festival that I found very moving and genuinely happy to have experienced a bit of, what a lovely atmosphere.
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!