The Indian immigrants who came to Mauritius were a heterogeneous lot. They came in great waves from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, in the North of India. A
good few came from the South of India, from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Yet others came from Maharashtra and Gujerat.
If they had been dreaming of a Promised Land, they soon woke up to a living nightmare. Slavery was dead. But theirs was slavery under the new name of
indentured labour. ‘. . . and, when, on their way to Mauritius, they were sailing down the Ganges, they felt happy and were filled with
hope. But when they reached Port-Louis and after having climbed the steps at Immigration Square, it gradually dawned upon them that they had become the unwilling victims of a system that was devised to stultify
their bodies and stifle their spirit. Yet, they were undaunted and decided to oppose hatred with love, cruelty with forbearance and inhumanity with generosity. They alone could do so because they had poetry in their
veins and music in their soul’. During the darkest nights of their ordeal, they drew comfort and spiritual strength from the light of their religion and culture. Instead of blaming the darkness, they chose to kindle
a light. Indeed, on the occasion of the ‘Divali’ festival, they light thousands of earthen lamps turning the darkest of nights into the brightest. If they could not go to their sacred Ganges in India, they brought
the Ganges to Mauritius in the form of ‘Grand Bassin’, a jewel of a lake, to which every year they go on pilgrimage on the occasion of the ‘Maha Shivaratri’ festival. Instead of filling the captive air with
lamentations, Hindus joined Muslims, campanions and brethren in misfortune, during the ‘Ghoon’ festival and made the air throb and dance to the rhythm of drums, conjuring visions of Scheherazade and the Arabian
Nights in the ramshackle suburb of Plaine verte.
The majority of Hindu festivals are of a religious character, though a few important ones have agrarian origins. But these festivals have lost their
socio-economic relevance and have become predominantly religious in inspiration. Hindu festivals are generally characterized by fasting, ablutions, prayer, worship, vigils, vows, offerings to the gods and holy
persons and such other activities of piety and devotion.
One needs therefore to be familiar with the nature of Hinduism and some of its fundamental tenets without which it is difficult to understand what the
ceremonies are all about.