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Celebrating Holi in Mauritius

Holi colours

The major Hindu festival of Holi – otherwise known as the Festival of Colours – will take place on 17 March 2014, and as usual looks set to be one of the most exhilarating events of the year.

The festival primarily celebrates the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil, though it also has a religious significance, symbolised by the legend of Holika.  It’s said that Holika, who was the evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu,  perished in a fire whilst trying to despatch her own nephew, Prahlada. Now, the traditional burning of bonfires on the eve of Holi itself is known as Holika Dahan, featuring straw-and-bamboo effigies of Holika on top of the pyre.

Setting the mood

In the week leading up to the festival, markets and Puja shops (a place to purchase incense and other items to help focus on Puja prayer rituals) are decorated in every colour of the rainbow, setting the mood for the exuberance ahead. Celebrations begin in earnest on the morning of Holi, with people good-naturedly throwing handfuls of ‘gulal’ (brightly coloured powders) and soaking each other with waterjets known as pichkaris, made of local Mauritian bamboo stalks.

Holi - Boy

In Mauritius, Holi is celebrated by nearly everyone, regardless of religion. Anyone out in an open area is fair game, but only dry colours are used inside buildings or in doorways. Traditionally, slightly more muted colours derived from plants were used but the vibrant pinks and neon yellows we’re used to seeing today are water-based commercial pigments.

Life is sweet

A particular treat at Holi is the sweet and moreish ‘gujiya’ - a type of dumpling made with suji (semolina) flour which is roasted in Ghee and stuffed with a combination of nuts, roasted dried fruits, coconut and khoya, a dairy product similar to ricotta cheese.

Another common feature of the celebration is the spirited singing by large crowds of people to the accompaniment of ‘jhal and dholak’ (drums and cymbals), followed in the evening by a thorough wash and scrub, and the uninhibited expression of love and brotherhood between friends and family.

Are you celebrating Holi?

Are you celebrating Holi in Mauritius this year? We’d love to see your photos – you can post them on our Facebook page.

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