The festival known as the ‘Ghoon’ is to-day observed by a small minority of Mauritian Muslims. It was first celebrated by the Muslim sailors known as ‘Lascars’ who had settled in the
lie de France, as Mauritius was known during the time of the French administration. it was the first public celebration ever held by .non-Whites in Mauritius and was an occasion, in the past, of great pomp and
The festival is held during the first ten days of the month of ‘Mu harram~21 to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, the son of Au and Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. He
was martyred in the year 680 A.D. at Kerbala, Iraq, while attempting to recover the Caliphate from the Ummayads. Muslims specially those of the Shiite sect look upon Kerbala as a sacred place and observe mourning
during the first ten days of the month of Muharram in quite a remarkable way: they assemble to read elegies, beat their chest, lament and enact the sufferings of the martyrs of Kerbala.
The celebrations begin as soon as the slender crescent moon is visible, when small parties proceed to a place on the bank of the Rivière des Lataniers, a shallow stream just outside
Port-Louis close to the Camp des Lascars. This place represents the Kerbala. Here they offer ‘fatihas’ (prayers) and perform the traditional rituals. After this they return to their respective ‘dargahs’ (shrines).
On the tenth and last night there is the brilliant procession known as the ‘lever des ghounes’ (the hoisting of the Ghoons). On the following day, is held the equally impressive procession known as the ‘casser des
ghounes’ (the breaking of the Ghoons), when the parties again return to the bank of the Rivière des Lataniers at Vallée des Prêtres.
Throughout the Muharram prayers are offered incessantly in the ‘dargahs’ (‘shrines’). Small parties of Muslims with drums and tambourines go round the city to collect contributions
to defray expenses of the Yamseh and the construction of the Choons. All the while these fund-raising parties keep up a monotonous throbbing of drums which drifts across the city in scuds filling the evening with
forlorn expectations. The effect is most dramatic. The endless repetition of the same rhythm drawn out over days keeps everybody in a protracted state of suspense. When finally the ‘Ghoons’ roll out onto the street
in all their unearthly splendour amidst a cacophonous riot of sound, music, colour and movement, one experiences a sense of release and liberation
The ‘lever’ and the ‘casser des ghounes’ are the two most important processions. ‘These are glittering and colourful occasions. Huge crowds of people from all over the island
converge on Plaine Verte to participate in the rejoicings that mark the occasion. Muslims who do not take an active part in the celebrations — and they are many — attend as spectators just like the members of the
other sections of the population. Some non-Muslims often take an active part in order to fulfil a vow or promise. They usually do so by going to a “dargah” with offerings of cakes and a certain sum of money. There,
an officiating priest — or a venerable “miajee” takes the offerings and performs the necessary ceremonies, after which he hands back part of the cakes to the offerer’