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Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius

Thaipoosam Cavadee is celebrated by the Tamil Community in Mauritius to pay tribute to the god Muruga (the Hindu god of war). The festival is celebrated in the month of Thai ( in the tamil calendar), usually between January and February in the Gregorian calendar. Devotees would observe a fast of ten days marked by sacrifice and abstinence.

Le Thaipoosam Cavadee à l’Ile Maurice

The Day of the Celebration

On the last day of the festival, devotees attend early prayers at the temple before proceeding to a local river for cleansing rituals and the vow of silence. Sacred piercings are done with vels (small needles shaped like lances) on the tongue and cheeks to help them fulfil the vow of silence that will be observed during the whole pilgrimage. As a sign of penance, piercings are also done on the body (back, arms and legs)  with even smaller needles.

Le Thaipoosam Cavadee à l’Ile Maurice

After the rituals are completed, devotees begin their pilgrimage to the nearest Kovil (Hindu temple for the Tamil community). Pilgrims usually carry two small pots of milk on each side of a cavadee, a wooden structure made of bamboo and rods, adorned with coconut leaves and flowers. This symbolises a mountain of burden that they carry in hope for repentance. 

Marching bare feet under the scorching tropical sun with pierced tongues and cheeks while carrying a cavadee is no easy feat but  the pilgrims are accompanied by religious groups who sing devotional songs to lift spirits.

Once they reach the temple, offerings are made to the god Muruga which is then followed by prayers. It then ends with prasadam, a vegetarian meal offered to pilgrims and visitors. The most common dish served is the  Arusuvai - a vegetarian dish consisting of 4 flavours (sour, sweet, salty and bitter) that represent various human emotions. This dish is offered to remind the devotees that when intertwined, all these emotions make for a harmonious life.

The Origins of Thaipoosam Cavadee

According to legends, the act of devotion of the Cavadee has a special origin. As the story goes, Idumban, a reformed bandit was asked to prove his reform. To do that, he was to carry the summits of two mountains attached to a stick to his guru. On his way, Muruga met him and decided to test him - he disguised himself as a small boy and sat on one of the mountains, thus weighing down the load. Despite the unbearable weight, Idumban didn’t give up and persevered on his journey. In the end, Muruga was pleased with his devotion and blessed him. Since then, devotees perform their pilgrimage in the same way by carrying the Cavadee on their shoulders to obtain the divine grace of Muruga.

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