Mauritians are a rich mix of people of African, Chinese, Indian, Muslim and European descent, who together create a colourful, multicultural society. Mauritians work and play together, celebrating each other’s religious ceremonies throughout the year. Together, they form a harmonious society which spills over to create an authentic warm welcome to all visitors.
The religions of Mauritius are Hinduism (52%), Roman Catholicism (31%), Islam (16%) and Buddhism (1%).
Most Mauritian Muslims are Sunnis; a few are Shias and Ahmadis.
Within Hinduism there are many variants, corresponding with variants found in India itself. Low-caste practices of animal sacrifice are common in rural areas. Maratha and Tamil variants of the religion also have their distinctive points, contrasting greatly to the dominant Bihari form of Hinduism.
Syncretist beliefs are common in Mauritius, and traces of heterodox European and Indian dogma and traditional African beliefs can be found within Hindus and Creoles alike – particularly in rural areas. Belief in witchcraft is common, but rarely has an impact on social or cultural life on the island.
The Catholic Church is led by the archbishop of the Mascareignes and the Seychelles – the most powerful religious person in Mauritius. Catholic priests are highly respected and powerful in their local communities. Many are involved in social work.
Hindu pundits and Muslim imams are also powerful, although their religions do not require formal leadership. That said, pundits and imams wield a lot of power in rituals and in the context of Hindu and Muslim youth clubs (baitkas and madrassahs, respectively).
Buddhism is of negligible importance in Mauritius; most of the Buddhists are also Catholics.
The ‘longanis’ (or ‘longaniste’ in French) is a sorcerer who wields considerable power in many locations. His or her magical power consists of the ability to heal the sick, divine the future and influence people's character.
The longanis is used by people of all ethnic groups on Mauritius, although most longanis are Creoles or Hindus.
There are three spectacular annual religious ceremonies. The Tamil festival Cavadi is a rite of passage involving fire walking, although many of the participants nowadays are non-Tamils. In contrast, the Catholic Père Laval pilgrimage is exclusively Christian and the Maha Shivaratri is exclusively Hindu.
All major rituals and festivals of the largest religious traditions, including the Chinese New Year, are celebrated by their followers.
Photo by Bruised Passports