Mahashivaratri is one of the major festivals celebrated in Mauritius an island nation in the Indian Ocean from the African continent.
The Mauritian devotees celebrate Mahashivaratri by observing ten days of abstinence preceding the celebration. During these ten days the believers will pray daily and will not eat meat, consume alcohol and indulge in other worldly pleasures.
A few days preceding the celebration of Maha Shivaratri, many devotees will start their pilgrimage to the lake of Grand Bassin dressed in white, which symbolizes purity, to collect sacred water. It can take up to three days and even longer for pilgrims to walk to Grand Bassin depending upon where they live.
Grand Bassin also known as Ganga Talao is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne that is considered the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius for the religious ceremony. The water is believed to come from all corners of the island.
Kanwars -an ornamental bamboo pole traditionally carried on the shoulders with water pots balanced at either end - are built for the occasion and many will carry their beautifully decorate kanwars on their shoulders for the march to the Ganga Talao.
Once the devotees reach Ganga Talao, they pray, present offerings at the lakeside shrines, and collect holy water to bring back to their localities. The sacred water will be poured on the Shivalingam -a symbolic representation of Shiva used for worship in temples- at the Mandir the devotees usually visit.
The night of the full moon is spent praying to the god Shiva. According to customs, the faithful remain awake and fast. During this ritual, the Shivalingam is sprinkled with milk, holy water brought back from the Ganga Talao, honey and sugar.