What is Diwali?
Diwali, pronounced Divali in Mauritian creole, is the Hindu festival of lights celebrating the victory of light over darkness, or good over evil. According to Hindu mythology, the lord Rama and his wife Sita were exiled from their kingdom for 14 years. While they were living in exile in the jungle, a demon named Ravana kidnapped Sita. Rama, along with the help of Hanuman and an army of monkeys, defeated the demon and rescued his wife. They returned to their kingdom on the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu month Kartika and on their way back, they were welcomed by rows of oil lamps that illuminated their way back home. This tradition continues today in places like India, Mauritius, and other places where the Hindu diaspora has settled.
How do Mauritians celebrate Diwali?
This year Diwali will be celebrated on Wednesday 11 November, which is also a public holiday in Mauritius. However, Diwali preparations start well before the day of the festival. Mauritians, mainly of hindu faith start by doing a thorough clean of their house. They then decorate their homes with strings of lights, similar to Christmas lights. They buy new clothes to wear for this special occasion and start preparing the traditional Diwali sweets.
On the night of the festival, people light small oil lamps to welcome good fortune into their homes. Families pray together, at home or at the temple, to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. And of course, Diwali is never complete without sweets and fireworks. In my opinion, the best part of Diwali is the sharing of delicious homemade sweets with friends and neighbours, regardless of religion and participating in lighting firecrackers during the night.
How can tourists participate in the Diwali festivities?
Diwali is a great opportunity to discover the richness and diversity of Mauritian culture, so while your hotel may have their own celebrations planned, here are four other things you can do on Diwali to take part in the Diwali celebrations in Mauritius:
- Walk or drive through the villages and towns to see the beautifully decorated and illuminated houses: The most popular village to visit on the night of Diwali is Triolet, located in the North of the island. It is well known for its elaborate decorations and fireworks. Make sure you anticipate being stuck in traffic, it’s that popular!
- Feast on the traditional Diwali sweets: Mauritians are warm people who love to share, and it is very common for them to share their homemade sweets with tourists too. If you didn’t get a chance to befriend a Mauritian yet, don’t despair, you can buy these sweets in stores too! Make sure to ask for the gateau patate, the most popular treat, made with sweet potatoes and coconut; your sweet tooth will relish this moment.
- Light firecrackers: Head to your nearest supermarket or corner store and stock up on firecrackers and fireworks and spend a memorable evening lighting them up with everyone else. Our favourite activity is going to the beach to light them up. We’d like to remind everyone to be careful when lighting firecrackers to avoid any incidents.
- Visit a temple: Many temples have special prayers on this occasion, so it’s a great cultural experience to participate in them. Please make sure to wear appropriate clothing when entering temples.