Ganesh Chaturthi: religious festival of Mauritius
Ganesh Chaturthi is the most famous national religious festival for both locals and visitors to the West Coast of Mauritius. Celebrated by the Marathi community on September 1 this year, this festival honours Ganesh, one of the most important gods of the Hindu pantheon. A unique opportunity to share fervour in a dazzling display of colour. Do not miss it! It’ s also a great time to capture some wonderful shots and bring back amazing memories!
Ganesh Chaturthi: A ten-day celebration in Mauritius
The Marathi community of Tamarin celebrates this important festival of their calendar with great devotion. The festivities begin with every household placing a clay statue of Ganesh in their home ten days before the final ritual, which consists of immersing it in the rivers or the sea. This period is devoted to fasting, prayers and the observation of rituals such as Vedic incantations in groups and the practice of the “jhakri“, a traditional dance native to the Indian region of Konkan accompanied by the “dholak“, an Indian drum.
A visit to the pink temple on the main road to Tamarin village is a good opportunity to learn about the symbolic importance of the sacred site.
Ganesh Chaturthi procession in Mauritius
This procession signals the beginning of the festivities before its climax, the immersion. The Marathis depart from the temple in a joyful din of cymbals, music, prayers and the scent of incense and head towards Tamarin Bay. Beautifully dressed in saris or shimmering traditional outfits, women sing fervently, accompanied by young girls who dance with sticks that they clash in a twirling choreography. Men carry the statues of Ganesh that are to be immersed. The whole village gathers on the beach, near the boat landing, to join in the ceremonies.
The immersion ritual
After the traditional prayers, the men carrying the statues step into the water. Sometimes struggling against a rough sea, they hold the statues firmly and proceed into the water almost to the point of losing contact with the bottom. On the beach, songs and prayers intensify, everybody’s eyes glow. The statues are delicately placed on the bottom and some men do not hesitate to dive to make sure that they stand perfectly straight. Made of clay, they will gradually dissolve in the ocean. If you explore the bay with a snorkel, you may find traces of them.
Part of the final ritual is to throw the traditional coconuts used for prayers towards the statues. Some are plain, others are beautifully painted in bright colours representing female or male figures. After the festival in Tamarin, for four or five days, they may be found along the shore of the bay. As the sun sets, families gather to enjoy a traditional meal.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated late afternoon. Park at the bay and head to the temple if you wish to watch the whole procession. Otherwise, join the spectators near the boat landing and feel free to chat with members of the Marathi community to learn more about their religious practices.