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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

Next Story

A Clean Ganga Not Possible Without Continuous Flow: Green

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made

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The Holy River Ganga in Haridwar, Source: Pixabay

By Bappaditya Chatterjee

The Centre’s efforts to rejuvenate the Hindu holy river have failed to impress environmentalists, who feel a clean Ganga will remain a distant dream due to the Modi government’s failure to ensure the continuous flow of the river.

“Nothing has been done for ensuring a continuous flow of the river and also for its rejuvenation by the Narendra Modi government. Continuity is of supreme importance as the holy river has been admitted in the Intensive Care Unit for many years. But the Centre is trying to treat its teeth,” said Magsaysay awardee and a member of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), Rajendra Singh.

Spending crores of rupees for beautification of ghats has been “wastage of the public exchequer” because “without ensuring a continuous flow, clean Ganga will continue to remain a distant dream”, said Rajendra Singh, who goes by the sobriquet “Waterman of India”.

 

Ganga, travel
River Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in India. Pixabay

Soon after assuming office, the Modi government rolled out its flagship “Namami Gange” mission at an estimated budget Rs 20,000 crore to clean and protect the Ganga.

 

Under Namami Gange, 254 projects worth Rs 24,672 crore have been sanctioned for various activities such as construction of sewage infrastructure, ghats, development of crematoria, river front development, river surface cleaning, institutional development, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, rural sanitation and public participation.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, 131 projects out of 254 were sanctioned for creating 3,076 MLD (million litre per day) new sewage treatment plants (STPs), rehabilitating 887 MLD of existing STPs and laying 4,942 km of sewer lines for battling pollution in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

 

River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.
River Ganga is also the most polluted river.

Till November-end of the 2018-19 fiscal, the National Mission for Clean Ganga released Rs 1,532.59 crore to the states and the Central Public Sector Undertakings for implementing the programme and meeting establishment expenditure.

Rajendra Singh said: “Ganga wants freedom today. There is no need for any barrage or dam. We want building of dams and any constructions on the river be stopped.”

 

Echoing Singh, another member of the now dissolved NGRBA, K.J. Nath, said the flow of the river had been obstructed at many locations and its own space (flood plains) encroached upon at multiple places in the name of riverfront development.

However, Jayanta Bandyopadhayay, a former Professor of IIM-Calcutta and presently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the success or otherwise of initiatives and projects of any government in cleaning the Ganga cannot be judged in a five-year time frame.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge Over Brahmaputra River

Managing a river like the Ganga, the lifeline of a very large number of people, is socio-technically a very complex issue and should be addressed with deep interdisciplinary knowledge, he added.

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made from the one dimensional perspective of rivers by engineers, political leaders, policymakers and others to a multidimensional and interdisciplinary one. (IANS)