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Ganga Talao or Grand Bassin : The Sacred Lake in Mauritius

One of the most sacred Hindu places in the world

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Ganga Talao Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

Ganga Talao Image: Wikimedia Commons
People paying homage at Ganga Talao Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

Related Article: Celebrating the Kumbabhishekam in Mauritius

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.

Mangal Mahadev Shiva Statue Image: Wikimedia Commons
Mangal Mahadev Shiva Statue Image: Wikimedia Commons

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

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Cleaning of Ganga is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The holy river is also one of the most polluted river

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Ganga in Haridwar
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

– Saket Suman

About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.

His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).

“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.

“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.

The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”

The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.

“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.

In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.

Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.

“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”

Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.

“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.

Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.

“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)

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Australian Census of 2016 Reveals Some Captivating Facts about Hindus

As compared to 2016, this year there were more Hindus celebrating the Ganesh festival in Australia

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Australian Census
Hindus in Australia have increased since 2011 Census. Wikimedia
  • As compared to 2016, this year there were more Hindus celebrating the Ganesh festival in Australia
  • The Hindu population in Australia has increased by 60% in 2016 since the Census of 2011
  • The median age of Hindus residing in Australia was calculated to be 31 years

Australia, August 27, 2017: The Ganesh festival of 10 days is amongst the most important Hindu festivals and this year it was celebrated on 25 August. As compared to 2016, this year there were more Hindus celebrating this festival. The Census of Population and Housing conducted in 2016 displayed that in Australia Hindu religion was growing the fastest between the year 2011 and year 2016.

As per the 2016 Census, around 440,300 people in Australia reported that they are Hindus which counts up to 1.9% of the total population. This shows an increase of 60% since the Census of 2011 which represented that the population of Hindus was 275,535.

ALSO READ: Sankashti Chaturthi: Here is Why it is celebrated in Hinduism to honor Lord Ganesha!

New South Wales, Australia’s most crowded state with a population amounting to just under 7.5 million, houses around 180,000 Hindus.The Australian Capital territory had nearly 2.6% of the total population, i.e, 400,000 people reporting Hinduism as their religion.

The Australian suburbs comprising largest amount of Hindus reside in Victoria and New South Wales- Point Cook (VIC), Tarneit (VIC), Blacktown (NSW), Parramatta (NSW), and Westmead (NSW).

The interesting part is that Western Sydney houses the suburbs of NSW containing highest number of Hindus-

Wentworthville (35%), Westmead (41%), Bungarribee (37%), Girraween (43%) and Harris Park (45%).

Hinduism is more prevalent in the younger generation. The median age of people following Hinduism in Australia was calculated to be 31 years which is much lower when compared to the median age of overall Australian population, 38 years.

Only 51% of the total Hindu population living in Australia were India-born. About 27% hindus in Australia speak Hindi, 13% speak English and 12% speak Tamil with these three languages being the most common.

The Census conducted in 2016 made use of the recent approach of “digital first” that used newly built Address Register. On the night of the censes, however, an attack of distributed denial of service from another country occurred due to which the forms available online had to be shut down for longer than a day. This incident led to the generation of an independent panel was established comprising international and australian academics, statisticians and  representatives of state government for reviewing and assuring quality outputs from this census.

David W Kalisch, an Australian statistician said, “The 2016 Census had a response rate of 95.1 per cent and a net undercount of 1.0 per cent, meaning the quality is comparable to both previous Australian Censuses and Censuses in other countries, such as New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.”

He further added, “Sixty-three per cent of people completed the Census online, embracing the digital-first approach and contributing to faster data processing and data quality improvements.”

The ABS conducted a variety of quality checks, which included a Post Enumeration Survey, just to make sure that the data was reliable. “These quality assurance measures, and a range of other factors were considered and verified by the Panel,” he said.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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Rishikesh: The World Capital of Yoga is in India

Many tourists visit Rishikesh every year in search of attaining peace and spirituality

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Rishikesh
Ganges River at Rishikesh. Wikimedia

Aug 12, 2017: Rishikesh, also known to be a holy city is a perfect destination to endeavor spirituality. It is one of the most sacred places in the country and what’s enticing about this destination is its unique charm and religious culture.

Rishikesh is the mother ground for Ayurveda and yoga, not to forget it is being called as “The World Capital of Yoga” Click To Tweet

It is also perceived as a medium to attain moksha while practicing yoga in the embrace of nature in Rishikesh. Many tourists visit here every year in search of attaining peace and spirituality.

Places to visit in Rishikesh: 

  • Lakshman Jhoola
Rishikesh
Ram jhoola bridge over Ganga river. Wikimedia Commons

 It is a famous milestone in Rishikesh which is 450 ft length and connects two districts via the iron bridge over holy river Ganga at Rishikesh. This one is worth a watch!

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  • Ganga Aarti
A night arti click of holly river name as Ganga. Wikimedia Commons

The sight of Ganga Aarti is breathtaking and phenomenal as the holy river Ganga is worshipped at various Ghats. Ganga Aarti is also the heart of Rishikesh.

  • Neelkanth
The photo is of Neelkanth Mahadev Temple near Rishikesh. Wikimedia Commons

Neelkanth is a holy temple of lord Shiva surmounted at the height of 1300 meters. The temple located 32 km far from Rishikesh, is known to be the sacred place where Lord Shiva consumed poison and placed it in his throat at the time of Samudra Manthan.

  • Triveni Ghat
Triveni Ghat view at Rishikesh. Wikimedia Commons

Triveni Ghat is a sacred ghat popular for glimpsing Ganga Arti. Triveni has a spiritual whiff and outlasting ambiance.

Also Read: Yoga empowers People to take control of their Lives and achieve Better Health: UN forum 

  • Parmarth Niketan
Morning Yoga class at Parmarth Niketan, Muni Ki Reti. Wikimedia Commons

It is one of the top yoga centers in the country. Many tourists visit this place for spiritual healing, music therapy, exercises. The ashram is open to all irrespective of the race, color, gender, and religion. It also offers over 1000 rooms equipped with all the modern facilities.

  • Byasi
Village near Haridwar. Wikimedia Commons

Byasi is a village situated on the outskirts of the river Ganga popularly known for adventurous water sport because of the constant flow of river Ganga.

  • Muni ki Reti
Ghats on the Ganges near Parmarth Niketan, Muni Ki Reti. Wikimedia Commons

Muni ki Reti is another known pilgrimage for meditation and yoga. It has a literary meaning “sand of sages”, denoted as a place where sages used to mediate during archaic times.

There is nothing as serene as connecting with the tranquility of Holy River and pilgrimage of Rishikesh to devise spirituality.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.