The major Hindu festival of Holi – otherwise known as the Festival of Colours takes place today, 21st of March. The festival primarily celebrates the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil, though it also has a religious significance, symbolised by the legend of Holika. It’s said that Holika, who was the evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, perished in a fire whilst trying to despatch her own nephew, Prahlada. Now, the traditional burning of bonfires on the eve of Holi itself is known as Holika Dahan, featuring straw-and-bamboo effigies of Holika on top of the pyre.
Holi in Mauritius
Just as the many other major Hindu festivals, the large Indian majority, (about 63 per cent) celebrate Holi with a lot of enthusiasm in the island of Mauritius. The Holi celebrations last two days and usually start with a bonfire in the evening. There will be lots of singing and dancing with folk songs. The bonfire symbolizes the death of the evil Holika who burned to death and was reduced to ashes after she tried to kill her nephew who was a good god.
The following day those taking part in the festivities throw coloured powder and water at each other wherever they happen to be. The streets, parks, beaches ... Musicians play drums and other musical instruments accompanied by singers.
Setting the mood
In the week leading up to the festival, markets and Puja shops (a place to purchase incense and other items to help focus on Puja prayer rituals) are decorated in every colour of the rainbow, setting the mood for the exuberance ahead. Celebrations begin in earnest on the morning of Holi, with people good-naturedly throwing handfuls of ‘gulal’ (brightly coloured powders) and soaking each other with waterjets known as pichkaris, made of local Mauritian bamboo stalks.
In Mauritius, Holi is celebrated by nearly everyone, regardless of religion. Anyone out in an open area is fair game, but only dry colours are used inside buildings or in doorways. Traditionally, slightly more muted colours derived from plants were used but the vibrant pinks and neon yellows we’re used to seeing today are water-based commercial pigments.
Try and combine your island holiday to coincide with one of our festivals. You are invited to join our celebrations and discover our cultural attractions.