There is no doubt that Maha Shivaratri is among the most awaited festivals in Mauritius. Hundreds of thousands of devotees go to Ganga Talao to seek the blessings of the much revered deity of the Hindu trinity, Shiva. I had the opportunity to attend this colorful and evocative festival on Sunday. Sadly though, most of the photos I took turned out to be slightly murky. I’m really sorry for this. Nonetheless, take a cup of tea, chant Om Namaha Shivay and enjoy this post.
Lord Shiva And Maha Shivaratri
An artist’s depiction of Lord Shiva.
In the Hindu trinity, Shiva is said to be the destroyer of pride, ego, jealousy and evil. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in India, Mauritius and throughout the world to honor him. According to some legends, it is believed that Shiva kept the poison from the churning of the ocean in his throat. In order to soothe the pain, the priests and devotees started pouring sacred water. This explains why during Maha Shivaratri we pour the sacred water from Ganga Talao in the Lingam. Other legends relate that the 13th night of the new moon during the month of Maagha is the favorite ritual of Shiva. Thus, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated during this period.
Ganga Talao, Prayers And Religion
Devotees praying near Ganga Talao at late night.
Ganga Talao was discovered in the early twentieth century by Pandit Jhummon Giri Gossagne Nepal who believed that it was a symbolic representation of the Ganges. A few years later, devotees started going to this lake by carrying Kanwars. And since then and till today, each year Mauritians go on pilgrimage to this sacred lake. Truth be told, for me prayers don’t mean going to the temple and chant all night. I do believe in God and respect all devotees but prayers also mean working hard and being the best in whatever you do to become a better person, help others and make the world a better place. I also believe that one should not make religion become a boundary because all of us are human beings. We should all respect the religions of each other. And as Navin Ramgoolam rightly said, let us preserve our unity for the progress of our country.
A Concerted Pilgrimage
A group of women preparing the dough for Puris which will be offered to the pilgrims. This photo was taken near a street in Vacoas.
These days, the world has been witnessing a lot of concerted actions like the upheaval and revolution in the Arabian countries to push away the dictators. Even in Mauritius, everyone work together to make sure that the pilgrims have a good, comfortable and safe voyage. This is so inspiring and sincere that you want to give these people a standing ovation. They work day and night and sometimes even risk their own lives for the sake of others.
Some men filling the Puris with various Indian curries like Rougaille and others.
Serving juice, tea and snacks.
Serving food and juice to those travelling in cars. Well, even in cars the journey is sometimes difficult because of the traffic jams and the long voyage.
A few were even serving Briyani and Coca-Cola.
Various associations constructed tents so that the pilgrims can rest. TVs playing religious films were also placed.
Selling bananas, coconuts and other fruits. These fruits are usually offered to Lord Shiva and then distributed among relatives and friends.
At Grand Bassin. Selling religious CDs and books.
At Grand Bassin. Serving tea. Something funny happened there. Actually, I was busy taking this picture when one of the men serving the tea politely asked me, “S’il vous plait, ki zournal ou travay ou?”.
Two policemen. The policemen and the emergency health services did a great job by assuring the safety of the pilgrims. The cleaners also helped to maintain the sacredness of this place. Cheers to all of them!
The Pilgrimage And Kanwars
A group of pilgrims walking towards Grand Bassin. A walk based on sacrifice and discipline.
Pilgrims who went to Grand Bassin on foot started leaving on Saturday and are expected to arrive today. Most of them carried the beautiful Kanwars which are made up of Bamboo and other decorations. Carrying the Kanwars is a sign of devotion to Lord Shiva. Many also went to Grand Bassin by car or bus … Then, they had to bear the huge traffic jam …
A Kanwar with a Murti or statue of Shiva.
Jeremy Clarkson will love this one. During Maha Shivaratri, one can see hundreds of cars with posters of Shiva playing devotional songs loudly.
A Kanwar in the form of a temple.
Another Kanwar in the form of a temple.
Some carried Kanwars …
While others pushed them …
Surprise, surprise …
Flying high …
A Kanwar with the statue of Ganesha, son of Shiva. Legends reveal that he did the rounds of his parents when asked to go around the world.
Resting. The voyage was really long and tiring. So, the pilgrims stopped at a few places to rest.
A Kanwar in the form of the Swastika.
A Kanwar of rather a statue of Shiva himself. Nice miniature of the gigantic one at Grand Bassin.
A Kanwar with the Trishul and Dumru of Shiva.
A Kanwar in the form of the Taj Mahal or a Mosque. Nice depiction of interculturalism.
Some Kanwars were so huge that they had to be deviated in order not to be entangled with the power cables.
Small Kanwars. People are encouraged to build small Kanwars because they don’t block the road and cause traffic jams. They are also more beautiful.
Huge traffic jam at Vacoas. Lasted hours …
NTC bus conductor taking some fresh air outside and wondering when he will reach Grand Bassin …
Signboard showing the way to Grand Bassin and distance left.
Road leading to Grand Bassin. Can you believe it? Photo taken after midnight.
Parking was not a real problem because more lots were built, just like each and every year.
Ganga Talao And The Prayers
Devotees at Ganga Talao, venerating Lord Shiva.
I arrived at Ganga Talao after midnight. Fog was all around the place, making it look even more scenic.
Ganga Talao is also known as Pari Talao and more commonly as Grand Bassin. Recently, some even decided to call it Ganga Sarovar …
Empty benches in the garden.
Walking towards the lake.
Most probably, these statues depict the servants of Shiva protecting the sacred lake. The sign above is the Om one.
It was really foggy. Really.
Devotees wearing colorful clothes descending to the lake.
Praying. The silhouette and reflection of the temple.
Praying and the lake.
Fruits, flowers and incense sticks.
A man praying.
Coconuts and flowers in the lake.
Pouring water in the lake.
A view of the lake and the devotees from a higher ground.
Resting Outside The Temple
Pilgrims sleeping before taking the voyage to return home.
Outside the temple, tents were constructed and there were places to allow the pilgrims to sleep and rest. This year, a special tent was also constructed for women. Food and tea were also served by various associations there.
Sadly, some people littered the place.
In The Temple
In the temple.
There are dozens of temples at Grand Bassin. They are maintained by various associations and the government. I entered only one of them because it was already late and the crowd was huge.
The entrance of the temple.
Sandals left outside the temple. A sign of respect towards the Gods and the building.
Venerating Nandi, the bull which Shiva rides. In the Hindu mythology, many Gods have their own vehicle and each of them is symbolical. For example, when Ganesha rides the mouse, it symbolizes the conquest of good over evil and also that both the higher and lower caste can live mutually and both are important to each other.
Inside the temple, cutting the coconuts which would be offered to the Gods.
Durga Mata and the Rama Parivara.
Santoshi Mata, Anapurna Mata and Gayatree Mata.
Radha and Krishna.
A huge drum. Most probably, it is used during ceremonies.
Bael leaves. These trifoliate leaves are used while worshiping Shiva. They are symbolical to the trident which Shiva holds in his right hand. In fact, there is a legend which reveals that once a hunter was sleeping on a Bael tree during the Maha Shivaratri period. He didn’t eat and tears were coming from his eyes. Below the tree, there was a Lingam and while sleeping the tears and Bael leaves fell on it. Shiva saw this and was really pleased by his devotion and blessed him. Since this day, Maha Shivaratri was celebrated and water along with Bael leaves were poured on the Lingam.
The Mauritian flag at Grand Bassin.
I spent 9 fantastic hours at Grand Bassin and it took a while to write this post. If you find it to be great, share it on Facebook or Twitter. You can also click the Like button below. Don’t forget to leave your comments too. Happy Maha Shivaratri and Om Naham Shivaya.
Other Bloggers Who Wrote Fantastic Posts On Maha Shivaratri
- Carrotmadman6 - Ganga Talao
- Island Crisis
- Carrotmadman6 - Maha Shivaratri
- Un Expatrié Français
- An Awesome Must-Watch Video
- Ashesh’s Interview
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