Maha Shivaratree or “the great night of Lord Shiva” is a huge celebration which brings together all the devotees of the Hindu population in Mauritius. The worshiping of Lord Shiva provides happiness, protection and prosperity to His devotees.
The festival starts a few days before the Great night, with thousands of pilgrims dressed in white (symbol of purity), going to Grand Bassin. There is Ganga Talao, a volcanic lake in the highlands of Mauritius, which represents, for the devotees, the famous and holiest river of India : the Gange.
As the celebration depends on the lunar calendar, on the moonless day between the month of February and March, the date is never the same each year. If you are in Mauritius during this period, take the time to have a look.
During both days and nights, tireless pilgrims from all over the island start their journey to Ganga Talao, many with “kanwars” ; some kind of mobile altars nicely decorated. On the road, these brave devotees are never alone : hundreds of volunteers offer drinks, food and a rest place to the pilgrims. This solidarity from all Mauritians is beautiful to see and heartwarming.
Walking at night to Grand Bassin is worth trying if you feel to. The atmosphere is magic when you reach Ganga Talao with a huge statue of Lord Shiva welcoming you on the shores of the sacred lake along with tents full of information and food. In the temples overlooking the lake, thousands of pilgrims are performing their prayers, with the nice music of the kirtans in the background, taking the holy water to bathe the “Shivalingam” (sacred stone representing the lord Shiva).
This unique experience is open to everyone who wants to participate. You can start your walk at Henrietta (around 2 hours going and 2 hours coming back) where you can stumble upon some nice volunteers who will surely offer you a good hot tea and some treats. The road, easy to follow and well indicated, will leads you to walk across the Mare aux Vacoas reservoir and some parks and woods before reaching the lake. Once there, you can also offer some water to Lord Shiva in the temples (after removing your shoes) or climb the God Hanuman’s little hill for a stunning and magnificent view of the lake and its surroundings.
This trip is totally worth it, as much on celebrations days than on ordinary ones. During the day you’ll surely find peace and soothing and, if you are lucky, come across some
families of malicious and greedy monkeys who live nearby and often come to feast on the offerings on the shores of the lake (mostly fruits).