We are about to enter the realm of the supernatural, of the miraculous. If seeing is believing, then, the three principal Jamil festivals celebrated in Mauritius must be personally
experienced if only to bring home to us the fact that we are living in a world so full of miracles, that the miraculous has become commonplace. The longest journey starts with the first little step. Experiencing any
one of the three following festivals may jolt us out of our complacency and set us on a long eternal quest . . . who knows?
These Tamil ceremonies are not only awesome to behold, they are also living examples of the physical and spiritual heights Man can reach when forgetting
self, he takes refuge in God.
Of all the festivals which Mauritian Tamils celebrate, Kavadee is the most popular and the most colourful. Kavadee festivals are held several times during
the year, but the most popular one known as ‘Thai Poosam Kavadee’ is held in the months of January and February during which devotees experience moments of glorious spirituality.
This festival is dedicated to Muruga or Murugan, the younger son of Lord Shiva and Uma. It is a solemn occasion on which the entire Tamil community
demonstrates with dignity and fervour their affection and allegiance to Lord Muruga.
The date and time of the celebration is fixed according to the Tamil calendar in consultation with the officiating priest of the temple. The ten days preceding the festival itself are
considered to be sacred. A flag (‘Kodi’) emblazoned with a cock (‘séval’) is hoisted upon the flag-mast (‘kodi maram’) found in front of the sanctum sanctorum. Devotees fast for 10 whole days before Kavadee. Passion
and pride, hate and envy are gradually purged from the soul during the fasting period, leaving the mind and heart purer. Abstinence from sensual gratification leads to the liberation of the self. Devotees have to be
clean in thought, word and deed. Everyday devotees take a bath with more than usual thoroughness. They cannot touch food prepared outside their home. Non-vegetarian food is strictly forbidden. Everyday they go to
the ‘kovil’ (temple) with offerings such as coconut, fruits, camphor, perfumed sticks, perfumed water, saffron water, oil, sacred ash (‘thiruneeru’) which they carry in a clean basket, kept apart for this purpose.
Before hoisting the flag, the devotees wash the deity with water and milk (‘abhishegan’). The deity is then dressed in clothes and bedecked with jewellery, in most cases made of gold and precious stones. When the
deity is ready for worship devotees begin to pray, at first silently as if meditating, then loudly by singing hymns glorifying the attributes of the deity punctuated by shouts of ‘Arogara’ or ‘Arohara’ (Glory to
God). The priest and all the devotees go out into the temple courtyard by the side of the ‘kodi maram’. The ‘kodi’ is at first