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Maha Shivaratree aka no one said being a pilgrim was easy

Maha Shivaratree is as I have come to understand it a very important religious day for those of the hindu faith. I do not claim to be any kind of an expert on the day, (neither is wikipedia) but I will explain here what I have come to know, love, question and accept about Maha Shivaratree in Mauritius. (no disrespect meant by any of my own ignorance or confusion surrounding this truly fascinating holiday)

  • maha shivaratree is normally spelled mama shivaratri (but mauritians do it their own way)
  • it is a holiday to celebrate the hindu god shiva
  • it is celebrating when shiva drank some poison to save his wife(maybe?) and this poison turned him blue
  • woman are supposed to pray that their husbands are as loyal and brave as shiva, and if you don’t have a husband that when you find him he will embody these qualities
  • a pilgrimage is made
  • in india it is to the ganges river
  • in mauritius it is to grand bassin aka ganga talao
  • water from the ganges has been brought there, which makes it “officially a sacred place” 
  • but there is a legend that says that water that shiva was carrying on his head spilled in the lake while he was flying over, which initial made it sacred.
  • you walk, drive or ride in a bus to get to the lake
  • many people who walk create large structures, covered in flowers and carry them to the lake

traffic jam

  • these structures have become bigger and bigger over the years. some encompass lighting effects, as well as music and sculpture
  • they create unbelievable traffic jams
  • during our journey we were told we would ride on a bus on the way to grand bassin, and would walk back to quatre bornes (a major city)
  • we ended up sitting on a bus in the heat and humidity of a wet mauritian night for 6 and a half hours
  • it was not pretty
  • when you walk, different businesses and homes open their doors to serve juice, water, coffee and food for the pilgrims

food and drink station

  • we had snacks passed to us through the windows of the bus

juice through the window of the bus

  • i started to lose my mind a bit so 
  • we exited the bus for a about an hour and walk around. 
  • the bus inched along and we caught up with it a little ways down the road.
  • we finally arrived at grand bassin at about 1:45 am 
  • the air was thick with incense and music
  • we walked to the ENORMOUS statue of shiva 

huge shiva

  • then to the lake where many offerings were made and prayers were said
  • bananas, coconuts, and flowers are all set on small alters that surround the lake
  • incense is lit and leaves and flowers are set afloat in the lake along with a wish or prayer
  • water from the lake is poured out of metal urns while saying a prayer(that i did not know)

pouring water and prayer

  • offerings are made a shrines to all of the different gods, like goddess lakshmi, lord ganesha and of course lord shiva

ganesha and lakshmi

  • different sects of hinduism follow one deity with more weight than the others. 
  • once all the offering and praying was done, we wandered around looking for food, finally found some curry and rice and headed back to the bus, as now it was too late and we were all to exhausted to walk back.
  • at about 7:30am we arrived back to our friends place, hopped into our car and drove back to our little home by the beach.
  • we slept from about 8:30 until 1:30 in the afternoon… and were basically wrecked for the next 48 hours.

While the pilgrimage itself was an experience, being at grand bassin was incredible. the energy and spirituality was infectious, particularly because i find hinduism so fascinating. it is so completely foreign to us, it seems so mystical and fantastical. walking through thick clouds of incense, watching as people prayed over flowers and fruit was astounding. i have been writing a lot of poetry about the evening, perhaps soon i will post some here. 

it was a trying experience, and a long night. but a night that i will probably never have the opportunity to witness again. and it is experiences like this one that remind me exactly why we adventure to the other side of the world. research is all well and good. but it is the people we meet and the once in a lifetime experiences that we have that make this all worth it.

  1. artisticgrad posted this