By Pashchiema Bhatia
Ganga Talao or Grand Bassin which is also called Ganga Talab (‘Ganga,’ signifies the holy river Ganges and ‘Talao’ means pool) in Hindi, a sacred lake found at about 1800 feet above the Indian Ocean and just 2 km east of Le Pétrin, is one of the most significant Hindu pilgrimage sites outside of India. It is situated in an isolated mountain area in the district of Savanne, deep in the heart of Mauritius and is considered as the most sacred place in Mauritius.
What does the Hindu mythology says?
Many Hindus believe that Ganga Talao, sometimes also called Gana Talao, is linked to the mighty Ganges. According to Hindu mythology, the God Shiva and his wife Parvati were flying around the earth. God Shiva was balancing the sacred river on his head to prevent the earth form floodings. Shiva noticed a beautiful island, Mauritius and decided to land, but accidently he spilled a few drops of the holy Ganges into the crater, creating a small lake. And this is how the sacred lake, Ganga Talao, emerged and became home to the biggest annual pilgrimage of Hindus outside of India.
The Great Pilgrimage
Every year on the island of Mauritius a great pilgrimage takes place when thousands of Hindus, for a touch of spirituality, make the harsh journey to a volcanic crater that houses the Ganga Talao.
On the road from Port Louis to Le Saint Geran, a stretch of about an hour, many Tamil and Hindu temples are seen and during Maha Shivaratri, which is considered as an auspicious time for devotees, many pilgrimages walk bare feet from their homes to the temples.
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Every winter, thousands of Hindus incline upon the lake, to give offerings to Shiva and other Gods including Lord Hanuman and the Goddess Lakshmi. People who are not able to make the pilgrimage also get a chance to feel the touch of sacred water as their family members and friends visiting the lake bottle up the sacred water and bring it for them. It’s one of the most important events on the Mauritius calendar.
Devotees and visitors pay homage, bottle up the sacred water, break coconuts and spill pure milk on the feet of their gods’ idols, leave flowers and coins, gentles kisses before entering the temple for blessings inculcating a meditative and sacred mood. The Mangal Mahadev or the Shiva statue, situated in the middle of the lake and is 108 feet tall, is of immense religious importance and is perhaps the highest statue in the island nation.
For understanding the prominence of celebrations, one has to understand the tough history of hardships of Mauritius’ Indian community. Most of the migrants of Indian origin are the descendants of million indentured laborers who were brought to Mauritius by Britishers in the nineteen century with the promise of a better life. However the lives that awaited them were filled with struggles and hardships which were far from the expectations.
Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication in New Delhi. Twitter: @pashchiema5