Your Guide for a Mauritian Diwali
October 24 2019
October 24 2019
There are many island destinations in the world. There’s no arguing that. But how many Indian Ocean gems went from being an uninhabited tropical Eden, filled with rare flora and fauna, to a hugely valuable trade port, that was fought over for decades? Let’s go a step further: how many island nations then go from being a colony to an independent nation, and turn into a multicultural wonderland, filled with influences from India, Africa, China and Europe? There’s no other place on earth quite like it, and that’s Mauritius.
Celebrated for its rich history, cultural diversity and a unified people despite their varied heritages, Mauritius is a multifaceted island destination that offers travellers access to a variety of fascinating sites, unparalleled natural beauty and novel experiences that don’t quite exist anywhere else in the world.
Because of the island’s unique cultural mix, there is no one language spoken here or religion practised, but the majority of the population are Indo-Mauritians who observe the Hindu faith. To better understand the island’s Hindu faith, travellers to Mauritius can visit the gorgeous, vivid temples that adorn sacred spaces as well as witness a host of extraordinary festivals throughout the year.
The great news is that one of the most important Hindu celebrations is just around the corner. What better time to experience the magical land of the dodo than when it’s celebrating the Hindu “Festival of Lights”?
If you want to experience a true Mauritian Diwali, then this is what you need to know about this mesmerising annual celebration:
Diwali takes place at the end of October
Those fortunate enough to be in Mauritius towards the end of the month, should make a note of 27 October 2019 and ensure that they witness or participate in some aspect of the island’s Diwali festivities. The “Festival of Lights” is an auspicious celebration, even if you do not practice Hinduism: it’s a beautiful time to be in Mauritius, which is enhanced by all the unbelievable energy that permeates the country and the magical use of ‘light’.
The Diwali traditions observed are rooted in legend
The Diwali festivities actually spans five days and the final day - the 27 October - is considered a public holiday in Mauritius. This light-infused festival is deeply rooted in legend and various beliefs, evident in much of the activities leading up to the public holiday, which is planned to fall on the night of the new moon (so the darkest night) according to the Hindu calendar. Before Diwali starts, Mauritians go about cleaning their houses to get rid of dirt and negative energy and to welcome the deity Lakshmi. The intention is to make their houses as beautiful and welcoming as possible.
During this time, walls are painted, floors, doorsteps and courtyards are decorated with amazing, colourful and often complex designs called ‘rangoli’ which are made with rice flour (and double up as food for the birds and insects), and lights of every variety adorn everything from houses and gardens to businesses. Walkways are also lined with small clay lamps (also known as ‘diyas’) to light the way for the deity.
On the eve of Diwali, Hindus in Mauritius give gifts to loved ones, spend time praying and share food and delicacies. They also burn effigies of Ravana (a mythical king of ancient Sri Lanka who was also a tyrant) to ward off bad spirits. The evening’s celebrations are finished off with an extraordinary fireworks display: there’s no better time to be in Mauritius.
You will be able to witness the splendour of traditional clothing
During Diwali, the Mauritian Hindu population don the absolutely stunning, vivid clothing typical of the festival, which in Mauritius, are actually the same ethnic outfits that are worn in India. Spectacular churidars (a type of trousers worn under another garment), Kurtis (a long dress-like garment) and sarees are worn by women (who also often showcase their finest jewellery and henna artwork), while men dress in Kurtas (similar to long shirts) or sherwanis (a coat-like garment). If you are drawn to the unbelievable, dazzling, bright clothing worn during Diwali, then you can seek out your own at one of the local markets or shops that specialise in Indian clothing for a memento to remember.
Diwali food is well worth trying
Food is such an integral part of the Mauritian culture, and during a celebration like Diwali, there’s certainly no exception to this rule. Special dishes and snacks are created specifically for the festival, and should definitely be enjoyed if you find yourself in Mauritius over the celebration. What’s more, many of the Mauritian Diwali cakes can only be enjoyed here as they are quite different from those prepared and shared in India. The special recipes of such delights have been passed down from generation to generation.
Some of the wonderful Diwali treats include:
These delicious vegan cakes, unique to Mauritius, are seen as a staple in Mauritian households over Diwali. They are made with sweet potato and filled with shredded sweet coconut and then deep-friend. They are a must-try during Diwali.
Rasgullah & Gulab Jamun
Rasgullah is similar to the more traditional Gulab Jamun found in India, made of powdered milk, flour, baking powder and ghee. The dough that is made from these ingredients is then formed into small balls, deep-fried and soaked in sugar syrup.
The Gulab Jamun found in Mauritius are quite different from the Indian version. In Mauritius, the unique versions of these sweet cakes are made with condensed milk and are rolled into cylindrical shapes, deep-friend and dropped into syrup. Both of these varieties are well worth trying, but they come with a word of warning: once you try one, you might find it hard to stop!
Another type of milk-based treat, Barfi, much like the Indian version, comes in a variety of colours and flavours (think pistachios and coconut!). The name draws inspiration from the Persian word barf which translates into ‘snow’. They are quite densely packed sweets often cut into squares, diamonds or circles. Two of the main ingredients are condensed milk and sugar which are enhanced with local fruits and spices, this is a treat for cheat day!
Another sweet, ball-shaped delicacy, laddoos in Mauritius are much like those that can be found in India. The core ingredients include flour, sugar and ghee (or oil/butter), after which a variety of other ingredients can be added to enhance their flavour. The most popular laddoos in Mauritius are those made out of milk and gram (chickpea) flour.
If you find yourself wandering the enchanting streets of Port Louis in search of some of these tasty treats during Diwali, then head to Bombay Sweets Mart. Another fabulous option is Asoka Sweets in Curepipe. Trust us, it’s worth the trip to either town to taste them!
There are incredible ways to engage in this celebration
If you find yourself in Mauritius over Diwali, then there are a myriad of ways to embrace the festival. Here are a few ideas of how you can do just that:
Light a lamp or candle
Being the “Festival of Lights,'' one way to truly indulge in the spirit of Diwali is to light a lamp or candle. Seen as one of the most important traditions of this festival, the lighting of lamps is hugely symbolic, from guiding the deity Lakshmi to a sign of celebration and the symbolism of light over dark (good over evil) and being enlightened (in terms of knowledge), this is certainly one of the most profound ways to engage with Diwali.
Create a rangoli
Rangoli and the making thereof is a spectacular art form, which originates from India. Intricate patterns are created on the floor using coloured rice, dry four, sand or petals (or a combination of elements). Creating a rangoli is seen as an auspicious practice observed during religious ceremonies or special occasions, with a spiritual element to them. The symbols present in each are hugely significant.
Purchase metal (gold or new kitchen utensils)
Just in case you were looking for the perfect opportunity to spoil yourself or a loved one with some gold jewellery or a new cutlery set, one of the important practices during Diwali is to purchase something metal. This is significant to Mauritians during this time (but it must be within budget) because metal is said to attract abundance and good luck while being able to ward off negative energy. If you would like to partake in this wonderful tradition, the day to do it is the first day of Diwali festivities (the 23 October this year), which is also known as Dhanteras.
Visit a Hindu temple
On the 27 October, you could join others at a local temple or head to the sacred lake at Grand Bassin, where there will be special prayers held. This promises to be an amazing cultural experience you will never forget.
Take a walk through Triolet
Another extraordinary way to enjoy Diwali? By visiting the village of Triolet and soaking up the festive atmosphere. This is one of the longest villages in Mauritius and is well known for their grandiose and very elaborate decorations and phenomenal fireworks displays. Keep in mind though, this is a popular place to be during Diwali, so there will probably be heavy traffic leading into the village and it’s best to plan accordingly.
However you decide to revel in this incredible festival, one thing is for sure, a Diwali spent in Mauritius is something you will never forget. Eager to spend some time in this magical tropical destination and make some timeless memories as you go? Then book a stay at one of our tropical hotels, where we will ensure you have the trip of a lifetime.