Celebrating Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights in Mauritius
08th November 2023
One thing that sets Mauritius apart from other idyllic island destinations, is its curious collection of cultures, with people hailing from Africa, Europe (predominantly France), China and India. All the world’s major religions are found on this small Indian Ocean island, and religious festivals are held throughout the year.
One of the most important and joyous of these is Diwali - the festival of lights – celebrated by the Hindu community (which accounts for 52% of the island's population), but open to everyone.
What is Diwali?
The ancient festival of Diwali marks the victory of Rama (an incarnation of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu) and his return to the Kingdom of Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile, as told in the ancient Indian text, the Ramayana. Diwali comes from the Sanskrit term dipavali, meaning ‘row of lights’, and according to the story, as Rama arrived on a moonless night, his people lit the path to his Kingdom with thousands of diyas (oil lamps made of clay) so he could find his way home. The celebration also honours his wife Lakshmi (appearing as Sita in the story), the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
The festival symbolises the victory of light over darkness, goodness over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. It’s always celebrated on the new moon, after the darkest night of the year, which is Sunday 12th November in 2023.
What happens at Diwali
Mauritian Hindu’s spring clean their homes – even giving walls a lick of paint - and buy traditional new outfits to wear, in preparation for Diwali. Devotees also create rangoli (Indian folk art with intricate patterns using coloured grains of rice or rice flour in Mauritius) in front of their door, symbolically welcoming the goddess Lakshmi into their home. You can still see traditional diyas at temples, but these days people typically hang multicoloured fairy lights over their homes, gardens and workplaces.
Diwali is typically celebrated for five days, with different rituals and prayers leading up to the new moon day and a public holiday. Lights are switched on at sunset the night before, to welcome Lakshimi into Hindu homes. On the day, Hindu women traditionally bake (although some now buy) mithai, delicious sugar and milk-based Indian sweet treats. The family holds prayers to bless the cakes as offerings to honour their ancestors, and for Lakshimi, before sharing them with their neighbours, friends and relatives. Hindu temples around Mauritius also hold a grand puja (prayer) in honour of Lakshimi.
Although Diwali in Mauritius is a family affair, the night of Divali is special, as people from other communities and every faith join in, walking around and admiring the lights. Sometimes devotees will hand out sweet treats to passers-by to celebrate their good fortune. Hindu cultural organisations put on public shows depicting the stories of Rama and Lakshmi islandwide, and some people light fireworks, to fend off evil spirits.
Diwali is celebrated all over the island but Triolet in north Mauritius is the best place to experience it. It's home to Maheswarnath Mandir, one of the oldest and largest Hindu temples on the island, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It’s also the longest village in Mauritius and every bit of it is lit up for Diwali.
Celebrate Diwali with us
Diwali calls for a joyous gathering filled with vibrant colours, delectable Indian treats, and the mesmerising rhythms of traditional dances. Our talented chefs will craft a culinary journey that captures the essence of Indian cuisine, offering a delightful array of treats that will tantalise your taste buds. And, as the sun sets, be enchanted by the colourful and captivating Indian dances that will light up your evenings.
Book your stay at any Sunlife resort during this festive season to savour the rich tapestry of Indian culture.