Religion in Mauritius
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Mauritius is a religiously diverse nation with Hinduism being the largest religion. Statistics on ethnicity are not available because such questions were removed from the population census. The people of Indian descent (Indo-Mauritian) follow mostly Hinduism and Islam. The Franco-Mauritians, Creoles and Sino-Mauritians follow Christianity. A minority of Sino-Mauritians also follow Buddhism and other Chinese-related religions. According to the 2011 census made by Statistics Mauritius, Hinduism is the major religion at 48.5%, followed by Christianity 32.7%, Islam 17.3% and Buddhist 0.4% in terms of number of adherents.
Christianity first came to Mauritius with the first inhabitants, the Dutch. However, the Dutch abandoned the island in 1710. The French brought Christianity again when they arrived in 1715. From 1723, there was a law whereby all slaves coming to the island must be baptised Catholic. This law does not seem to have been strictly adhered to. After they had taken Mauritius from the French during the Napoleonic Wars, the British tried to turn Mauritius Protestant during the 1840s and 1850s.
Franco-Mauritians, usually having the same religion and denomination as the Creoles, have sometimes emphasised their differences from the Creoles by practising more traditionally, for instance celebrating Mass in Latin. In contrast to the situation in other African countries, Christianity is not seen in Mauritius as being an African religion. Today Christianity is practiced by 32.7% of the total population.
Islam is practiced by 17.3% of the Mauritian population. Approximately 95 percent are Sunni Muslims, having an understanding of the Urdu language. Within the Muslim community, there are three distinct ethnics that exist, notably the Memons and the Surtees (who are rich merchants who came from Kutch and Surat province of Gujarat in India), then the "Hindi Calcattias" who came to Mauritius as indentured labourer from Bihar. Humeirah, a novel by Sabah Carrim is a story about the Memons and the "Hindi Calcattias". It is set on the island of Mauritius.
Other languages include Bhojpuri, Gujarati, and Tamil. Among the Shi'a minority, some have their origins in different parts of South Asia, while others are adherents of the Shia Ismaili sect from East Africa. The majority of Shias are Ithna 'ashariyah with small Ismaili sect.
The first purpose-built Mosque in Mauritius is the Camp des Lascars Mosque in around 1805. It is now officially known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Jummah Mosque in Port Louis was built in the 1850s and is often described as one of the most beautiful religious building in Mauritius by the Ministry of Tourism's guide. There are many smaller mosques in the towns and villages. The highest concentration of Muslims is found in the capital Port Louis, predominantly in the Plaine Verte, Ward IV, Valle Pitot and Camp Yoloff neighborhood.
Most people of the Muslim community follows the Sunni Belief. However, there are also the Shia, Tablighi Jamaat, and a minority of Wahhabi and Ahmadi. The Islamic Authority recognized by the Government is Jummah Mosque Port Louis.
Hinduism originally came to Mauritius with Indians who worked as indentured servants of European settlers of the island. Today, Hinduism is a major religion in Mauritius, representing 48.5% of the total population of the country according to the 2011 census made by Statistics Mauritius, while other sources give a lower estimate of 48%. This makes Mauritius, the country having highest percentage of Hindus in Africa and third highest percentage of Hindus in the world after Nepal and India, respectively.
One of the biggest festivals on the island is Mahasivaratri, "Siva's Great Night." During this annual Hindu celebration, which takes place in the months of February and March, four to nine days of ceremony and fasting lead up to an all-night vigil of Siva worship and Ganesha worship.
There is also a significant migrant population of Bhumihar Brahmins in Mauritius who have made a mark for themselves in different fields and they are still in touch with their family members in India and there are instances of marital relations between them to keep their cultural identity intact.
- "Resident population by religion and sex" (PDF). Statistics Mauritius. p. 68. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
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