The Thaipoosam Cavadee

The festival, which is held in either January or February each year according to the Tamil calendar and in devotion to Lord Muruga, is preceded by the kodi etram.

Ten days prior cavadee, a flag hoisting ceremony (kodi etram) is held and celebrated in a grand pomp of incantations and devotional music. The flag will float till the end of the festival.

All around Mauritius, the rituals are performed in temples which are known as kovils and characterized by their Dravidian architecture. Amidst recitation of prayers, flowers and sandalwood are offered alongside burning of camphor to implore Lord Muruga’s grace.

The jaunty ethnic characteristic of Thaipoosam Cavadee may very well impress as much as fascinate the casual onlooker. On that day fervent devotees to the cult of Muruga, accompanied by relatives and friends, will gather near river banks for the ablution rituals or near the sea. Dressed in fuchsia or saffron-colour cloth, they will join the officiating priest in prayers and mantra-chanting. Fruits, incense sticks, rose water, milk and clarified butter are offered as oblations around sacrificial fires for self-purification and sanctifying the kavadis.

Kavadis are arched bamboo structures supported by wooden rods and richly decorated with fragrant flowers, coconut tree leaves, lime and peacock feathers.

The ceremonial procession to the kovils starts by the pulling of a chariot carrying the bronze statuette of Deity Muruga. All along the way many kavadi-bearers will engage in ritualistic gyrating dance tuned to the rhythm of Tamil devotional trance music.

Women and children normally carry brass pots of "sacred milk" instead of kavadis. Mortification of the flesh is very common and most devotees will have their tongue and cheeks ritualistically pierced by small spears known as vels. Men can additionally have their chest, back, abdomen and legs pierced.

Those believers who do not choose to have their body pierced, usually tie a scarf around their mouth as a vow of silence, meditation and devotion.

The kavadi is considered a physical burden which the devotees, at times to the limit of their endurance, religiously carry to the kovils to implore Lord Muruga, the Tamil God of War, for help and solace.

At the temples tasty prasadam (sanctified vegetarian food) are served to devotees and visitors on banana leaves after all vels have been removed and offerings laid down at the feet of deities.