Diwali…the festival of lights marks the victory of good over evil and is usually celebrated around October/November. Diwali is pronounced Divali in Mauritian creole. Traditionally, clay oil lamps are placed in front of every home turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights. Divali is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Mauritius as this country has a huge Indian diaspora. The Divali celebrations at Mauritius are at par with those in India.
Mauritius is a beautiful landmass full of picturesque landscapes and enchanting spots. Mauritius accounts for a 60% Indian majority of which 80% follow Hinduism. Almost all Hindu festivals are celebrated with grandeur on the island. In Mauritius, Divali celebration is an age-old tradition. Besides celebrating Rama’s victorious return, the little flickering lights also symbolize the beginning of summer in Mauritius. The main day of the festivities is considered auspicious day for merchants to tally their accounts and balances for the previous year…to step into the new year without any financial burden. After the morning prayers, Hindus share sweets prepared specially for the occasion with one and all, in accordance with the multicultural spirit of Mauritius.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama was exiled from his kingdom for 14 years and he went to reside in the forest with his wife Sita. While in exile, a demon named Ravana kidnapped Sita. Rama, along with the help of Hanuman and an army of monkeys, defeated Ravana and rescued Sita. They returned to their kingdom on the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu month Kartika and were welcomed by rows of oil lamps to illuminate their way back home. This tradition continues till date in places like India and Mauritius with a major Hindu diaspora.
MAURITIANS CELEBRATE DIWALI….. HOW?
This year Divali will be celebrated on 19th October, 2017, which is also a public holiday in Mauritius. Divali preparations start well in advance. Mauritians of the hindu faith thoroughly clean their homes. Then they decorate their homes with decorative lights. They buy new clothes for this special occasion and prepare traditional Divali sweets. On the night of the festival, people light small oil lamps to welcome good fortune into their homes. Families pray to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. And of course, Divali is never complete without sharing delicious homemade sweets and lighting firecrackers during the night.
The Ministry of Arts and Culture of Mauritius is organising several concerts during Divali for which they are inviting famous Bollywood singers to perform.
Divali is a great opportunity to discover the richness and diversity of Mauritian culture. Find the must dos on Divali in Mauritius:
- Walk or drive through the villages and towns to see the beautifully decorated and illuminated houses. The most popular village to visit on Divali is Triolet, in North Mauritius. It is well known for its elaborate decorations and fireworks. You can anticipate being stuck in traffic, it’s that popular!
- Feast on the traditional Divali sweets. Mauritians are warm and love to share their homemade sweets with tourists too. If you haven’t had a chance to befriend a Mauritian yet, don’t despair, you can buy some sweets in the stores too! Make sure to ask for the gateau patate, the most popular treat, made with sweet potatoes and coconut; your sweet tooth will relish this moment.
- Light firecrackers! Head to your nearest supermarket or corner store and stock up on firecrackers and fireworks and spend a memorable evening lighting them with everyone else…especially at the beach. Please display caution when lighting firecrackers.
- Visit a temple. Many temples have special prayers on this occasion, so it’s a great cultural experience to participate in them. Please make sure to wear appropriate clothing when entering temples.