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Thaipoosam Cavadee Chinese New Year in Mauritius
Diwali Thai Pongal
Thaipoosam Cavadee
In a festival which is an expression of devotion to Lord Subramaniam, the Son of Shiva, Tamil worshippers throughout Mauritius sport anatomy-defying piercings of all kinds, in one of the most notable displays of organised religious fervour in the world.

This festival is impressive: cheeks pierced with needles, weighted hooks hanging from nipples and tongues pierced with giant iron bars are all variations on the theme of religious penance, thankfulness and self-transcendence as expressed by the participants in the medium of their bodies.

These acts are performed as gratitude for all those whose wishes have been granted throughout the year, as well as to show the devotion of those who make Lord Subramaniam their personal deity. Devotees transport containers of milk on flower-adorned wooden yokes: a stricture is that despite the burning sun, the transported milk must not have curdled when it arrives at the temple!

These ascetic practices are devotional, metaphysical and sacrificial, but also display exercises aimed at controlling the mind and transcending physical pain. This aspect of the celebration links into an age-old undercurrent of Hindu religious thinking;

which endeavors to extend consciousness beyond the body, thereby achieving exalted states of consciousness and eventually yoga, or union with the Godhead.

Chinese New Year in Mauritius
Chinese New Year in Mauritius is an impressive event, and intensely symbolic. It is also known as the Spring festival on the island and involves spring cleaning both of the inner and the outer worlds. Arrangements begin long in advance, as foodstuffs of all kinds are bought in and prepared, lanterns and decorations are hung in houses and streets. The traditional colour linked with the Chinese New Year is red, as this is intended to scare away evil spirits.

Families gather together to celebrate the beginning of a new year with vows, fireworks and rich quantities of good food. Among the traditional dishes shared are honey-cakes (also called wax cakes because of their waxy texture), prawns (for liveliness), raw fish salad (for good luck), Angel Hair or dried seaweed (for prosperity) and dumplings (for good luck to the family).

Firecrackers and fireworks are set off to scare off evil spirits at the entrance of the New Year and the customary dragon dance is performed in different parts of the island. Members of the Chinese community often celebrate by going to the beach, relaxing and visiting pagodas for prayers and thanksgiving.

Diwali is one of the most significant festivals of the Hindu year, and Hindus all over Mauritius celebrate this event as devotedly as they do in India. The common name of the festival is a altered form of the Sanskrit word Deepavali - Deepa meaning light and avali, which means row. Beautiful rows of twinkling candles and lamps are lit all over the island to celebrate the return of the hero of the Ramayana, Rama, from his 14 years of exile. The lights represent the rows of light that were lit along the streets upon Rama's return to his home city of Ayodhya.

In addition to celebrating the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, the flickering lights also symbolise the beginning of summer. Many gods preside over this festival, but the most significant is Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and material prosperity. The most important day of the festivities is regarded as a particularly promising day for merchants to consolidate their accounts for the previous year, to go unburdened into the next.

After the morning prayers, Hindus share sweets prepared specially for the occasion with family members, neighbours and friends of any faith, in accordance with the multicultural spirit of Mauritius.

Thai Pongal
Celebrating the end of the harvest season in Mauritius, happy painted cows are served tasty rice pudding in a festival of cleansing, purification and thanksgiving that marks the beginning of the Tamil year. One of the most popular Tamilian festival, it is celebrated on January 14th every year. Falling just after the winter solstice and a bountiful harvest, Pongal marks the season of celebration and joyous activities. Generally a three-day festival, the fourth day after the festival is dedicated to the outdoors and excursions.

In some parts of the Hindu world the festival stretches over several days, with particular practices associated to different days. Common activities include cleaning the house and the burning of rubbish, to symbolise the eviction of old and evil spirits. Gifts are exchanged between family and friends, and there are celebrations within the family. Old vices and past should be abandoned forever on this day as we get ready to start life afresh. The festival covers all living beings including humans, cattle and birds and crops. Even the insects have not been overlooked and are offered rice flour to feed on in the form of 'Kollam' on the entranceway of the houses. Thus, Pongal is a day for peace and happiness for all.