One of the most important festivals in North India is the Durga Puja which is celebrated in Autumn during the month of Asvin. In Mauritius till very
recently Durga Puja was confined to a few Hindu homes only. This is because the Mother has been traditionally worshipped in Mauritius in the form of a village goddess. She was and still continues to be the mother or
mistress of specific local villages, as suggested by the appellation ‘amman’, a name popular among Mauritians of South Indian origin, meaning ‘mother’. Devi was formal.ly worshipped in all villages in the form of
‘kalimay’ or ‘Sato devi’ (seven matrikas or mothers). Villagers of Indian origin worshipped their Devi or Devis for good health, prosperity, timely rain, fertility and protection against untimely death.
Durga Puja has now become an important festival in Mauritius where Durga is worshipped in her mighty warrior-goddess form, and the festivities celebrate
Durga’s defeat of Mahisa and the restoration of cosmic order.
Temples are the most common places for worship during Durga Puja. Images of Shri Durga, Shri Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), Shri Saraswati (Goddess of
cultural arts and learning) and of Shri Mahakali are installed in the temple halls where devotees gather for nine consecutive days and nights and worship together. The worship usually consists of Kathas
(story-telling from the Scriptures), pujas (prayers) and religious hymns sung in honour of the Mother.
A favourite exercise of devotion among the Hindus of Mauritius is the practice of Katha, that is story-telling from the Scriptures. As the Scriptures do
not yield their secrets easily, most people prefer joining the community worship to listen to the officiating priest who interprets the meaning of the Scriptures in simple language. The first three nights are
consecrated to Goddesses Durga and Mahakali. The following three nights are dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi. And during the last three nights devotees worship Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning.
These nine nights, known as ‘Navratri’ are strictly a period of austerity and of vigil.