In Mauritius, the inhabitants celebrate Divali in the hope of making a fresh start and removing the negative aspects of their lives. If the national holiday is also known as the festival of lights, it is because it alone symbolizes the importance of the phenomenon.
Celebrated between October and November every year, the Divali festival also celebrates the coming of summer in the Indian Ocean. On the first day of the festival, at dusk, coloured garlands and thousands of candles light up the streets and squares of the island, transforming it into a magical and almost unreal place. The subsequent festival embodies the victory of good over evil: the annihilation of the demon Narakasura and the triumphant victory of Lord Rama.
The Divali festival pays tribute to the wife of the god Vishnu, the goddess Luckshmi. She always accompanies her husband when he comes to earth and embodies a human being helping men to fight evil. Rama, Vishnu’s seventh avatar, and his wife Sita, are forced to leave the palace after being victims of perverse intrigues. Completely destitute and rejected, they wander alone in the rainforest. Sita is kidnapped by the demon Ravena while Rama forms an alliance with the monkey army to rescue her. Ravena was killed during the clash. Sita is then delivered and the spouses return together to the palace where they are welcomed by a people so happy that it illuminates the whole city with thousands of lights. Since then, Divali’s feast has celebrated Sita’s return with this sacred formula and symbol of peace: “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Shanti! »
As soon as the sun rises, women and men pray together. All family members are reunited: men and children seek God’s blessing while women do the complete housework. Hindu families then prepare some specialities of sweets and cakes and then go to visit their relatives, regardless of their religion.
Among Mauritian culinary specialities, “gâteau patate” is the essential pastry during the festival of lights. It is prepared in very large numbers and consists of a delicious sweet potato fritter stuffed with coconut and sugar and fried in oil. The Divali festival is above all a time of sharing and unification of all Mauritian communities, whether Muslim, Hindu or Catholic.