The annual pilgrimage to Ganga Talao (Grand Bassin) for the festival of Maha Shivratri. The weather conditions were exactly the same as last year, so the photos look very similar.
So last Friday, we left home at 8:45 & reached this road sign at 10:22. The road traffic was relatively fluid, except for a bus breaking down in middle of the main junction at Vacoas. An NTC bus obviously.
Along the way, we saw numerous pilgrims with their kanwars.
Tired pilgrims having a rest at Mare aux Vacoas, which was still very much empty.
People offering food, refreshments and lodging to pilgrims. I find it incredible how everyone, all over island, selflessly contribute to providing these facilities to pilgrims. A uniquely Mauritian trait to be proud of & to be equally ashamed by the subsequent littering. I’m talking about the plastic glasses, bottles and other wastes that are dumped on the road by pilgrims. That’s an absolute disgrace.
Another peeve of mine is the ridiculously large kanwars (not the ones above). This is not a show-off contest, the kanwar is a symbol of sacrifice. I was more impressed by a group of pilgrims where everyone had their own small kanwar. Sadly though, most youngsters consider this pilgrimage to be a fun road trip instead of a penance…
Soon we went by Pétrin where there were more pilgrims going about on the side pavement.
At 10:55, we finally reached Ganga Talao. Surprisingly, there was no traffic jam & ample parking space.
The Mangal Mahadev, the 108-foot statue of Shiva.
All the devotees were converging towards Pari Talao (the original name of Grand Bassin/Ganga Talao).
I’ll come back to the statue later on.
As we moved on, we saw some of the kanwars and the kanwarthees sleeping on the lawn. Once again, I should point out the lack of proper lodging facilities for the pilgrims. Like last time, I saw many of them camping out in the open.
A first look of the mini-Ganges…
These old photos belong to aboutmauritius.co.uk which I think was taken in around the 1990s. What an incredible change!
This one photo is much much older. At a time when Ganga Talao was probably overflowing. When I was a kid, that’s how I remember the lake, always flooded.
Now though, this is how Ganga Talao looks like in a period of severe drought.
Most of the temples were here, except…
… there was no extended pavement.
In place of the Mangal Mahadev statue, there was once an experimental wind turbine, a 100kW Wincon. Eventually, cracks appeared on its blades and it was never replaced. My only memory of it was seeing it lying down, disused.
The Hanuman hill looks exactly the same. & the palm tree on the island is still here.
In 1897, Pandit Shri Gosagne dreamt that Pari Talao lake in Mauritius had a unique connection to the Ganges. The very first pilgrimage started the following year from Maheswarnath temple, Triolet.
It was in 1972 that Pari Talao became Ganga Talao when water from the Ganges was offered here.
Well we’ve come a long way since the dozen or so pilgrims set out in 1898… This year, nearly 400,000 people are expected at Ganga Talao.
Pilgrims offer their prayers to the Ganga Talao by offering fruits, flower, water & milk.
After offering your prayers, it is customary to take the sacred water from the lake and offer it to one of two Shivlings at Ganga Talao. This year, the authorities installed taps to ease the pain of getting the sacred water from the lake. However, no one seemed to know that it was the same water in the pipes.
Devotees offering the sacred water at the upper temple.
You can’t come to Ganga Talao & not climb the hill to the Hanuman temple. That was what we did next.
The lower temple was even more crowded!
Climbing the stairs to the hill, which ended up in a queue.
That meant I had a wonderful view over the lake. That's Mare aux Vacoas out there.
After finishing the prayers, it was time to admire the scenic views.
The islet in the middle with the shore appearing due to the drought.
From above, you get an idea of the sheer size of the crowd. Nearly 5000 people were on the lakeside and some 5000 more on the roads and parking.
Everywhere you could see queues, whether it was for access to the temples or at one of the several places where benevolent organisations were giving away hot meals.
Time to get down…
The view from the other side of the lake.
One pilgrim collecting the sacred water & the other offering water to the lake….
Here’s a video of the atmosphere of Ganga Talao. You can hear the bells ringing. :)
The most interesting aspect of the pilgrimage still remains the various kanwars built by devotees.
Their creativity literally knows no bounds. Wood (bamboo), polystyrene, other plastics and papercraft, it’s a marvel.
Often during the voyage to Ganga Talao, the kanwars are damaged. Which is why this boy was busy applying glue.
Weeks of hard work to achieve these incredible works of art.
It was nearly 13:20 when we decided to leave Ganga Talao, but I had one last thing to do.
The Mangal Mahadev statue, built in 2007, inaugurated in 2008. It’s an exact copy of another statue found in Sursagar lake, Gujrat, India.
Monkeys! That was quite a surprise because I hadn’t seen monkeys at Ganga Talao since a couple of years now. Obviously, they’ve been attracted by the freebies…
How to eat a banana & orange.
These guys looked pleased by the attention given to them & were actually putting on a show…
As I turned towards the parking, to my astonishment, I found that once empty roads were now brimming with pilgrims and vehicles. All the parking slots were occupied!
The people kept coming. & this was only a Friday. Imagine if it had been a week-end.
Ganga Talao, a truly magical place. I should make another trip on a non-crowded & sunny day just for the sake of contemplating the beauty of the place. Have a pious Maha Shivratri. :)
- Maha Shivratri 2012
- Blog – Ganga Talao (2009)
- SouOnline - Mahashivratree Explained
- Pramod Universe - Maha Shivraatree – A Discipline on Pilgrimage
- Bouck Pillay Photography - La fête Maha Shivaratree
- 24 Photography - Maha Shivratree in Mauritius
- Island Crisis – Maha Shivaratri Photos From Mauritius, Mahashivaratri 2012 in Mauritius
- Sparking Dawn – Maha Shivaratri in Mauritius
- YouTube – lexpressmu - Célébration de Maha Shivaratree : reconnaissance, ferveur et prières dédiées au dieu Shiva
- YouTube – mopays2012 - Grand Bassin, the Sacred Lake in Mauritius welcomes 500,000 Pilgrims for Maha Shivaratri
- Wikipedia – Ganga Talao
- Flickr - Maha Shivratree 2012 by curiousEngine
- Flickr – Grand Bassin by darkenscout
- Flickr - Mauritius - Grand Bassin by isla-mauricia
- Flickr – Ganga Talao by Tareq N
- Flickr – Sacred Lake by pascal07081968