Culture of Mauritius
The culture of Mauritius involves the blending of several cultures from its history, as well as individual culture arising indigenously.
Public holidays and festivals
The number and diversity of public holidays and festivals indicate the rich heritage of the island's people and its ethnic diversity.
Public Holidays on fixed dates:
- New Years – 1 and 2 January
- Abolition of Slavery – 1 February
- National day (Independence Day) – 12 March
- Labour Day - 1 May
- Arrival of indentured Labourers – 2 November
- Christmas – 25 December
Public Holidays with varying dates:
The festivals listed below are not celebrated at the same date every year. Therefore, only the months when they are likely to be celebrated is given.
- Chinese Spring Festival (Between January and February)
The Spring Festival, which is the Chinese New Year, is celebrated in January/February, depending on the adjustment of lunar days. Red, symbol of happiness, is the dominant colour. Food is piled up to ensure abundance during the year and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. Firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits.
- Thaipoosam Cavadee (February) Hindu Festival
Cavadee is celebrated in January/February, more precisely by the Tamil community in Mauritius. Along with the fire-walking and sword-climbing ceremonies, Cavadee is among the most spectacular Tamil events. The body pierced with needles and the tongue and cheeks with skewers, the devotee, trance-like and in penance, walks in procession to the temple bearing the "Cavadee", a wooden arch covered with flowers with a pot of milk at each end of its base which he or she places before the deity.
- Maha Shivratree (Between February and March) Hindu Festival
Maha Shivaratree is celebrated in honour of Hindu god Siva (February). Hindu devotees, clad in spotless white, carry the "kanwar" - wooden arches covered with flowers – on pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, to fetch holy water from the lake. The whole scene is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.
- Ugadi (March) Hindu Festival
Ugadi is the Telugu New Year.
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 15 August
The 15 August becomes a public holiday in even years, for example 2006, 2008 and 2010. During odd years (2005, 2007, 2009), it is not a public holiday; instead, 1 November will be a public holiday, in commemoration of All Saints' Day. The decision to alternate between the two dates was a government decision to avoid increasing the number of unworked days after abolition of slavery (1 February) and Arrival of Indentured Labourers (2 November) were declared public holidays in the early 2000s.
- Ganesh Chaturthi (Between August and September) Hindu Festival
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by the Marathi community in Mauritius on the 4th day of the lunar month of the Hindu calendar. It marks the birthday of Ganesha, the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles according to Hindu mythology.
- Diwali (Between October and November) Hindu Festival
Diwali is the most jovial of all Hindu festivals. Celebrated in October/November it marks the victory of righteousness over evil in the Hindu mythology. Traditionally, clay oil lamps were placed in front of every home turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights; these have now been replaced mostly by decorative electric lights.
- Eid ul-Fitr (Any time of year because Islam is based on a non-adjusted lunar calendar) Muslim Festival
The exact date of this festival is subject to confirmation as its celebration depends on the visibility of the moon. Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. It is a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing for Muslims. Special prayers are offered at mosques during that morning.
Mauritius has had strong ties with French culture throughout its history and was left with a very French "savoir vivre". Even today, the popularity of French dishes like the bouillon, tuna salad, daube, civet de lièvre or coq au vin served with good wine show the prevalence of French culture in Mauritius. As years passed by, some have been adapted to the more exotic ingredients of the island to confer some unique flavor.
During the 19th century, after the abolition of slavery, Indian workers who migrated to Mauritius brought their cuisine with them. Those indentured labourers came from different parts of India, each with their own culinary tradition, depending on the region. Traces of both Northern and Southern Indian cuisine can be found in Mauritius. Some common preparations are curry, chutney, rougaille poisson sale (tomato paste that is very popular with fish) and pickles, most of which use local ingredients. The Mauritian versions of those dishes have a local flavour and differ, at times considerably, from the original Indian recipes.
The end of the 19th century saw the arrival of Chinese migrants, who came mostly from the south-eastern part of China. They are largely credited with making rice, the staple diet of the island, and making noodles, both steamed and fried, popular. Chinese appetizers such as hakien (local version of the spring roll with a flour batter replacing the traditional rolled wrapping), crispy chicken and crispy squid have become part of the Mauritian folklore. Furthermore, Chinese and other Asian restaurants are present all around the island, and offer a variety of chicken, squid, beef, mutton and fish dishes, most typically prepared in black bean sauce or oyster sauce. Mauritian families often consider a dinner at an Asian restaurant as a treat.
Along the years, each of the country's communities have adapted and mixed each other's cuisine to their liking.
The production of rum is common throughout the island. Sugar cane was first introduced on the island when the Dutch colonised it in 1638. Even then, the propensity of making rum out of sugar cane was strongly recognised. Sugar cane was mainly cultivated for the production of "arrack", a precursor to rum. Only much later, after almost 60 years, the first proper sugar was produced.
However, it was during the French and English administration that sugar production was fully exploited, which considerably contributed to the economical development of the island. It was Pierre Charles François Harel who in 1850 initially proposed the concept of local distillation of rum in Mauritius. In part due to his efforts, Mauritius today houses three distilleries (Grays, Medine and St Aubin) and is in the process of opening an additional three.
While not as famed as its Caribbean counterparts from Cuba, Jamaica or Barbados, Mauritian rum is slowly gaining exposure on the international stage and is considered by local stakeholders as an area of potential growth.
While kreol morisien (Mauritian Creole) is the most spoken language on in Mauritius, most of the literature is written in French, although many authors write in English, Bhojpuri, and Morisien (Mauritian Creole), and others such as Abhimanyu Unnuth in Hindi. Mauritius's renowned playwright Dev Virahsawmy writes exclusively in Morisyen.
Important authors include Malcolm de Chazal, Ananda Devi, Raymond Chasle, Loys Masson, Marcel Cabon, and Edouard Maunick. Lindsey Collen has been able to carve out a meeting of imaginaries in the unique social setup of this multi-faceted country. Other younger writers like Shenaz Patel, Amal Sewtohul, Natacha Appanah, Alain Gordon-Gentil and Carl de Souza explore the issues of ethnicity, superstition and politics in the novel. Poet and critic Khal Torabully has put forward the concept of "coolitude," a poetics that results from the blend of Indian and Mauritian cultural diversity. Other poets include Hassam Wachill, Edouard Maunick, Sedley Assone, Yusuf Kadel and Umar Timol.
The island plays host to the covetable Le Prince Maurice Prize, a literary award celebrating and recognizing 'writers of the heart'. The award is designed to highlight the literary love story in all its forms rather than for pure Romantic Fiction. In keeping with the island's literary culture the prize alternates on a yearly basis between English-speaking and French-speaking writers.
Due to lack of funding and a local culture that values academic achievement over any other form of activity, Mauritius' national sports teams have been very unsuccessful at a competitive level. However recently, rugby union has rapidly increased in popularity in the small island nation. Football is also popular. Both national teams have very low world rankings for their particular sports.
At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Mauritius has won its first Olympic medal. Bruno Julie a boxer has won the bronze medal.
However Mauritius is quite competitive at the regional level (inter-Ile) in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius collected some golds, silver and bronze medals in the Jeux des Iles de l'Océan Indien (JIOI). The second and the fifth edition were hosted by Mauritius in 1985 and 2003 respectively.
As in countries like Malaysia, football is hugely popular among males, especially England's Premier League. The most followed clubs are Liverpool F.C., Manchester United and Arsenal F.C.. Owing to their recent successes, FC Barcelona have gained significant support.
The national sport, however, remains horse racing, which is part and parcel of the island's cultural heritage. Horse racing in Mauritius dates back to 1812, when the Champ de Mars Racecourse was inaugurated, making it the oldest racecourse in the Southern Hemisphere. Races are widely followed, both in terms of attendance at the Champ de Mars and television audiences. Mauritians of all ages like to discuss races, share tips and place bets.
At an amateur and recreational level there is a growing culture of participation in sport, with Trail Running, Cycling, Mountain Biking and Water Sports becoming increasingly accessible and popular.
- Macdonald, Fiona; Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Elizabeth Paren, Kevin Shillington, Gillian Stacey, Philip Steele (2001). "Mauritius". Peoples of Africa. US: Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 978-0-7614-7158-5.
- Mauritius Society of Authors
- Mauritius Restaurants Guide
- île en île - Literature of the Indian Ocean, biographies, bibliographies, excerpts and links.
- Islam in Mauritius
- Festivals in Mauritius
- Local network of churches
- Mauritius National Holidays and Festivals
- Trianon Conference Centre, Mauritius
- Free recipes of Mauritius
- Mauritius travel guide from Wikivoyage