When in Mauritius one cannot miss the temples, both literally as they are everywhere and because missing their stunning beauty and colourful iconography would be a crime. Generally everyone is welcome at the temples any time of the day; we have never been turned away. All they ask is for you to be respectful of others and occasionally for a donation when leaving, but this can be as small or big as you wish.

If you are sincerely interested in learning about the religions and the many stories about the equally numerous gods, I would recommend finding a guide to assist you. Or even better make friends with some locals and ask them instead. I find it quite hard to keep all the facts straight as there are just so many gods in the Hindu and Tamil traditions but it’s lovely hearing the locals explain each of the Gods attributes and how their stories weave together.

The temples themselves are a feast for the eyes even if you lack the knowledge of the gods so I can recommend visiting purely for aesthetic appreciation. The colours, the scents and the icons are all spectacular.

‘The temples themselves are a feast for the eyes even if you lack the knowledge of the gods’

The Sacred Lake

The temple around Ganga Talao, the sacred lake, was the first we visited and where we learned to remove our shoes before entering the building, and to back out as one should never to turn ones backs on the gods. The temple, or temples really as there are many buildings around the area, are Hindu and considered their most holy place in Mauritius. Therefore every year in February almost half the island makes a pilgrimage up the mountain in the honour of Lord Shiva. I have not witnessed this myself but it’s meant to be an incredible event.

Lord Shiva’s importance is clear as one nears the lake. A giant bronze statue of him has been erected and my impression is that many stop there before heading to the lake’s temple where one can find yet another, smaller, Shiva sitting on top of a block in the water. You can also find his wife Parvati and son Ganesh in the water, and the two times I have visited the lake they have always received much attention.

The sacred lake is not solely dedicated to Lord Shiva and his family, however and you can find many icons scattered around the lake and they all have visitors daily bringing them offerings in the form of fruit and flowers. All of the statues are ornate pieces of art in a stunning setting.

‘every year in February almost half the island makes a pilgrimage up the mountain in the honour of Lord Shiva’

Hindi and Tamil

There are two religious strands in the Indian-Mauritian community, people characterise themselves as Hindu and Tamil. I realised the traditions are different and they also traditionally speak different languages but I cannot, at this point, tell you in depth about these as my experience is limited. What I wanted to mention though, is what I was told about the temples of the different communities. I have been told that one can distinguish between them, as the Tamil temples have many small religious figures on the outside, from my experience often on the roof, whilst Hindu temples don’t.

The images in this post are from various temples in Mauritius and you can see that they are a little different from each other. To our surprise, one of the Hindu temples we visited had Jesus and Buddha along with figures from other religions all gathered in one room, under one roof, all being honoured. In my experience the Mauritian people are highly respectful of others beliefs and differences, it is one of the many beautiful things about this country. The man at the temple told us ‘why pray to one god when you can pray to all’, and at least to me that makes sense.

 ‘why pray to one god when you can pray to all’

Road Temples

As many temples as there are in Mauritius I think the motto probably goes ‘you can never have too many’. Driving in Mauritius you can see small cave like temples, or as you can see below Christian stone temples on the road side. Pulling in you can take a moment, leave an offering and light candles for someone you love. I myself have not been brought up with religion but I can completely appreciate the act of lighting a candle and sending a thought to someone you love. And I admit that I enjoy the beauty of the icons and the offered fruits and flowers and I enjoy taking time to appreciate them too.

There is something truly compelling about the accessibility and seemingly relaxed attitude religion is on the island, and even though most people have a small temple at home, you can still find them everywhere in one shape or another. Whilst it might seem relaxed it also has a serious note, and the people I have met and spoke to are true believers and live their lives more or less according to their religious ideals.