Thaipoosam Cavadee Festival

Religious festival mauritius

Religious festival mauritius

Religious Tamil Festival Mauritius

Temples Mauritius

Culture Mauritius

Thaipoosam Cavadee Festival

Posted: 10/02/2017

On Thursday 9th of January, Thaipoosam Cavadee will be celebrated across the island with fervour. This festival originates from South India in honour of the greatly adored divinity, Lord Muruga, the son of Shiva and Parvati. The celebration has been part of the Mauritian culture over the past century since the arrival of Tamil workers. Today it is celebrated by all the communities and is almost a national celebration.

A time of devotion and sacrifice

Thaipoosam Cavadee has a strong religious significance, it recalls the birth of Lord Muruga. The festival is preceded by ten days of fasting. Devotees would eat only vegetarian meals on these days and would abstain from carnal pursuits. On the day of the celebration, penitents attend a special ceremony by the side of rivers where they wear silver needles and hooks on their body or through their tongue while priests and elders chant stirring mantras. This fascinating aspect of the celebration is actually  a way to repent.  A paal kodum* filled with milk and covered with a banana leaf, is tied at each end of the wooden structure of the Cavadee and curiously, despite the stifling heat, it doesn’t curdle. This is then followed by a march to the Kovil* with the penitents carrying the Cavadee, the burden that is borne on shoulders to express adoration. They walk barefoot, surrounded by their close relatives, under the scorching sun. On the road side, families offer cups of Panakon, a home-made tamarind and lemon juice, to quench the thirst of pilgrims. The walk is meditative and girls dressed in colourful traditional clothing gather for the folk dances, Kollatam and Kummi. The parade keeps growing as many await the procession to go by their house to join in. The main Cavadee which belongs to the Kovil is very elaborate and would stand in front. On arrival, all needles and hooks are removed after the penitents have gone round the Kovil thrice and sometimes some would do it on their knees. A portion of the milk is then offered to Lord Muruga and the rest is shared among people attending the festival. Prayers are sung and devotees prostrate for blessings and to venerate the deities.

 Among the most impressive processions are those attending the century-old Siva Subramanya temple in Quatre-Bornes as penitents escalate a hundred steps under the weight of their Cavadee to reach the temple located on the mountain Corps de Garde, the famous Sockalingum Meenatchee Ammen Kovil, also known as Kailassum in Port-Louis and the Mariamen Kovil in Rose-Hill. The scene of the devotees converging in hundreds to these places of worship is spectacular.

An evening of profound piety

In the coastal village Bambous, Kalyanee and Ravi are busy organising for the celebration. Friends, neighbours and relatives are gradually crowding the yard, each one giving  a helping hand to hang the coconut leaf garland, to mount the Cavadee and to cut the vegetables for the meal that will be served after the ceremony.

This morning, Ravi went gathering flowers for his Cavadee while Kalyanee ironed their Cavadee clothing and cleansed the sombu with turmeric water.  Bunches of hydrangea, marigold, rose and alpinia await to be thrust by delicate hands, in the layered banana stems that serve as a structure to hold the flowers and other natural decorations on the Cavadee. A spirit of devotion in the sharing of tasks related to this pious moment reigns.

Copyright for 2017

*Cavadee is the festival and is also referred to the decorated wooden structure that devotees carry on their shoulders as a burden to demonstrate sacrifice and adoration.

 *Paal Kodum is the brass container that acts for the same purpose as that of a Cavadee that generally women and children would carry. Paal means milk in Tamil, a Dravidian language spoken by some 120 million people across the world.

 *Sombu is a copper container used to carry water or for religious purposes.

By: A.V.Tayer

Copyright for 2017 

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