Mauritius is a multicultural society, with religious festivals for the different groups held year-round. Dates vary annually depending on religious calendars. Visitors are welcome to attend any of the major public festivals, and it may be worth timing a visit to coincide with one of the more spectacular ones listed below.
January/February. Island-wide. Tamil penitents parade through the capital with their tongues, chests and cheeks pierced with needles in this devout and spectacular Tamil festival.
February. Port Louis. Chinese dragons and lion dances grace Port Louis’ Chinatown when the Chinese–Mauritian community exchange traditional wax cakes, light firecrackers to chase away evil spirits and spread red, a symbol of happiness, everywhere.
February/March. Grand Bassin. The biggest Hindu festival outside India, devotees make a pilgrimage to the island’s sacred lake to leave offerings to Shiva.
March. Grand Bassin and island-wide. People splash each other with coloured water, throw lurid coloured powder and wish each other luck in the Hindu festival of joy.
May/June. Island-wide. A low-key celebration of the Hindu New Year by the Telugu community with prayers and rituals for Brahma, creator of the universe.
August/September. Port Louis. Devout Roman Catholics parade through the streets.
August/September. Baie du Cap, Grand Bassin. Mauritian Hindus take their statues of Ganesh, the God of Wisdom, for a birthday outing, dunking them in the sea or the sacred lake.
9 September. Sainte Croix, Port Louis. Mauritians of all faiths make a pilgrimage to Catholic apostle Pere Laval’s tomb on the anniversary of his death to pray for miracles at his graveside.
23 October. Island-wide. The annual Festival of Light celebrates the triumph of good over evil: fairy lights and candlelight guide good fortune to Mauritian Hindus’ homes and sweet cakes are offered to the ancestors.
6 November. Plaine Verte, Port Louis. Muslims carry brightly lit lanterns or “ghoons” made of bamboo and paper to mourn the martyrdom of the prophet Mohammed’s nephew in Kerbala, Iraq.
November. Island-wide. Hindus bathe at public beaches and offer prayers, fruits and flowers to Ganga, the goddess of purity, during this auspicious month.
28 November–1 December. Le Morne Village. This annual celebration of Creole culture held in Le Morne Village features food and craft stalls, traditional songs and séga dancing (festivalkreol.co.uk).
November/December. Mosques island, wide. The end of Ramadan and fasting for the island’s Muslims is celebrated with prayers and feasting with friends and relatives.
December–February. Temples island-wide. After ten days of purification and praying, Tamil penitents walk across a pit of burning coals in certain temples across the island, before cooling their feet in milk.