Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius
February 28 2019
February 28 2019
Mauritius is a destination filled with wonder, with numerous facets that are sure to surprise as much as they delight. From UNESCO World Heritage sites, flawless beaches and mesmerising all-inclusive luxury resorts, set along glistening azure waters, to sacred lakes, bustling cities and an array of religious buildings (from temples to churches), which represent the variety of religions and ethnicities celebrated in Mauritius, there’s no doubt that it’s an extraordinary country.
Along with the fascinating variety of religions practised on the island comes an exceptional range of festivals, and with a largely Indo-Mauritian population, many of whom practice Hinduism, it’s no surprise that many of the celebrations are Hindu. Within this community, there are Tamils, who also have some special beliefs and practices.
One of the most popular and spectacular Tamil festivals is Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius, held in every Hindu temple across the island. Here’s what Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius is all about:
It takes place towards the beginning of the year
Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius takes place in the 10th month of the Tamil calendar which is between January and February on the Gregorian calendar. This year, this unique celebration took place on 21 January 2019, where locals and visitors alike took part or witnessed the sensational festivities. The name “Thaipoosam” is a combination of two words, which directly translate into the “10th month” (Thai or Tai) and the “highest star” (Poosam). “Cavadee” means to “carry a piece of wood”.
The preparations start 10 days prior to the festival day
The Kodi Etram, or flag hoisting ceremony, occurs 10 days before Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius and the flag is only taken down once the celebrations are over. The flag is hoisted as a sign that the festival has begun and takes place to the sounds of devotional music and chanting.
Special rituals are conducted during this time in Tamil temples (or kovils) and these 10 days are used to clean the soul—devotees pray, fast (from meat) and repent their sins. Hindu scriptures are read daily and family members maintain a strict vegetarian diet during this time—it’s about purity, cleanliness and the purging of sins, desire and passion. While this festival shows gratitude to the goddess Parvati, it largely centres on the god Muruga, the Tamil war deity.
The cavadee, or kavadi, is hugely symbolic
The kavadi is a wooden structure that is made from bamboo and rods and adorned with coconut leaves, flowers and peacock feathers (among other decorations). They are finished off with pots of milk attached to either end and are typically made by the devotees themselves. The kavadi symbolises a mountain and is a burden carried by devotees to the kovil to ask Lord Murunga for solace and assistance with any struggles.
The festival takes place in many important stages
On the day of Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius, women are required to be draped in colourful clothing, usually in saffron or fuschia colours, and men are to wear nothing but a loincloth. Devotees then go on a pilgrimage to a river or sea for a cleansing ritual carried out by priests, where they are joined by relatives. Offerings are made of fruit, milk, rose water, flowers, sandalwood and incense, and fires are lit to sanctify the kavadis and to ensure self-purification.
A procession is then led to the kovils, where those carrying the burden of kavadis get into an almost trance-like state and move to the sounds of the devotional music. Women and children typically do not share the same yoke, and instead carry pots of milk (deemed sacred). In this procession, you will also see a chariot with the image of Muruga clearly depicted on it. Many of the devotees, in line with tradition, pierce their tongues and cheeks with spear-like objects called vels, in symmetrical patterns, but having piercings elsewhere on the body (legs, backs, etc.) is also not uncommon. This is meant to further emphasise their devotion.
Those who are not pierced cover their mouths with scarves. This is to ensure that their vow of meditation, devotion and silence is maintained. Once the kovils are reached, the vels are removed and offerings are laid for the deities. Visitors and participants then enjoy a vegetarian meal, known as prasadam.
Join thousands of devotees and spectators in this hugely spiritual festival in Mauritius next year for an extraordinary experience. From throngs of brilliantly-dressed people carrying flowers down the streets and the incredible traditional music to fire-walking and sword-climbing ceremonies, you don’t want to miss Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius.