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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE MAHA SHIVARATRI PILGRIMS
“In each of us dwells a wanderer, a gypsy, a pilgrim.”
PHIL COUSTINEAU (The art of pilgrimage)
Located in the centre of the island, Grand-Bassin is a crater lake, surrounded by a rich and verdant nature. Its waters abound with fish and eels. Fringed by whitewashed Hindu temples, it attracts thousands of pilgrims in the month of February each year during the festival of Maha Shivaratri.
Maha Shivaratri, the night of Shiva is a Hindu festival to honour Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism. Shiva is also believed to be the energy in every living being. The celebration is preceded by a few days of fasting, thought to detoxify the body and aid meditation. It is interesting to note that fasting in Hinduism is referred to having a plant-based diet for each meal.
Pilgrims often carrying the Kawars, cross the length and breadth of the island to reach Grand-Bassin. For a week or so, the Kawars offer a spectacle of colours dotting the main streets around the island.
Participating in the pilgrimage is a unique experience. One can easily slip into meditation while listening to the chants. A sense of oneness and peace can be felt during the festival. Volunteers set up tents in their yards or by the roadside and invite the pilgrims for a meal or for tea and some even provide an area to rest. Trays of food and drinks bring people of all faiths together in laughter, joy and spirituality.