Discovering Ganga Talao in Mauritius
23rd September 2022
There are many stunning island destinations in the world; from the phenomenal laidback islands of the Bahamas to the gorgeous Philippines and the ever popular Thai islands, there’s certainly no shortage of unbelievable places to discover that are surrounded by wonderfully clear azure tropical waters. It’s what sets the volcanic gem of Mauritius apart that is so remarkable and makes for a destination that should be on your bucket list; its unusual history which has culminated in its phenomenal diversity and cultural richness.
Under the European colonialists, slavery was brought to Mauritius. The slaves were brought here to fell ebony trees and to work on the sugar and tobacco plantations. These slaves were brought from Africa, India and parts of Asia. They were later joined by half a million indentured labourers from India, who were brought in under the British once slavery was abolished, with the promise that in Mauritius they would find a better life (something that was very far from the truth). The descendants of the labourers, workers and colonialists now make up the main portion of the population in Mauritius and the phenomenal food, languages, festivals, cultures and array of religions reflect this wonderful mix of influences.
One of the most interesting facets of Mauritius is the mix of religions; Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists (among a few others) all coexist harmoniously on the small island, with most of the population (approximately 48% of it) following the Hindu faith. Churches, shrines, prayer flags and temples all stand testament to the wonderful religions on this tropical island. And by far one of the most significant religious places on the island is Grand Bassin, otherwise known as Ganga Talao.
If you are interested in witnessing one of the most exquisite and important sites in the whole of Mauritius, this is what you need to know about Ganga Talao in Mauritius:
It’s a sacred lake
Located in the mountainous southwest region of Savanne in Mauritius, Ganga Talao sits approximately 550m above sea level and is said to have a depth of 18m, its waters teeming with an abundance of fish and eels (but it’s important to note that fishing is strictly prohibited given the spiritual significance of the site).
This interesting lake, which is housed in the crater of an extinct volcano, is not only absolutely gorgeous and serene, it’s considered to be a sacred lake, which according to legend, is connected to the holy river Ganges in India. By far the most important Hindu site in Mauritius, Ganga Talao is a place for Hindus to meditate, chant, make offerings and pray and it serves as an important pilgrim site during Maha Shivaratri. It is, however, open to all who would like to take in its natural splendor, enjoy a (possible) sighting of the monkeys that frequently visit the lake or marvel at the wonderful temples, shrines and colourful statues of Hindu gods as long as it is all done respectfully and in line with the etiquette of visiting religious Hindu sites.
It has a fascinating history
Ganga Talao in Mauritius enjoys a wonderfully mystical and fascinating history according to the local folklore. It is said to date back to 1887 as a pilgrimage site when a Triolet ‘pujari’ (or a Hindu priest) had a phenomenal dream. In this dream, the pujari saw the water of the Ganga Talao springing from the Jahnavi River (which is another name for the Hindu goddess, Ganga) and into a lake in Mauritius.
The news of the dream and the vision quickly spread throughout the Hindu population in Mauritius and the pujari knew that he needed to go in search of the lake he had seen in his dream. When he came across the crater lake of Grand Bassin with a group of other people, he knew he had found what he had been looking for; the lake resembled the one in his vision exactly. And so Ganga Talao in Mauritius, surrounded by lush jungle-like vegetation, became an incredibly special site for the Hindu people from that day forward
Every year since the pujari made the pilgrimage to the lake he had seen in his vision, during Maha Shivaratri (the festival that celebrates the god Shiva, one of the three major deities in Hinduism), pilgrims trek barefoot from around the island to the sacred lake, as other local Mauritians provide them with encouragement and food offerings along the way. When they arrive at the lake, once they manage to find their own little spot next to the water’s edge, they perform private, small ceremonies with offerings of fruit, incense and fire as well and bring with them handmade ‘kanwars’ or shrines dedicated to Shiva.
The “pure”, sacred water of the lake is used in prayer, which ensures that each individual in purified and that the energy of Shiva is transferred to them. Those who are not able to take the pilgrimage themselves often ask their friends and family who are going to bottle some of the water for them. This festival is a time to pray for forgiveness and feel the power of the sacred water.
It makes for a memorable visit
Being a part of the Maha Shivaratri festival is an unbelievably special experience, one in which you will be able to see thousands of Hindus making this special journey to one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites outside of India. However, if you are not able to be there for the festival itself then ensure that you take a trip to Ganga Talao while you are in Mauritius. Here you can enjoy free access to the site so enjoy a leisurely walk around the perimeter of the lake, take in its unbelievable surrounds, marvel at the Hindu temples, shrines and colourful statues and be in awe at the sight of the 33-metre high statue of the god Shiva, which was unveiled in 2007 and is the tallest statue in Mauritius. It’s a beautiful and significant site in Mauritius and definitely warrants a visit.
You can stop off at some other Mauritian attractions while you are at it
Heading to Ganga Talao in Mauritius is truly worth the trek, even if you are literally staying on the other end of the island. But if you want to make the most of the day out, than you can make a couple of stops either on the way to the lake or on the way back from it. You can explore or picnic at the absolutely stunning Black River Gorges National Park and discover the wonders of Chamarel or head in the opposite direction and play a game of golf at the Avalon Golf or taste some Mauritian tea at Bois Cheri Tea Plantation. The exceptional thing about Mauritius is that there’s never a shortage of wonderful unique things to do!
Heading to Mauritius and looking for the ultimate accommodation? Then take a look at the phenomenal offerings at the four Mauritian-based Sunlife. These four- and five-star hotels offer discerning guests luxury accommodation in the most magical settings. From wonderful local and international culinary delights to a wealth of both water and land-based activities, stellar service and unique signature offerings, these hotels ensure that their guests have remarkable stays and leave with special timeless memories.