InnerPacific is a collection of posts written over a number of years on topics that we as humans endlessly reflect on: God, life, death, love and justice to name a few. This is what theology is about – reflecting on our own life experience, insights from others over time (tradition), scripture readings along with logic and reason. All of this allows us to go deeper into our own life, helping to inform our spirituality, life choices and decisions.
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While visiting Mauritius, we spent an afternoon at Grand Bassin. This is a sacred space for Hindus including its beautiful Crater Lake. It is most recognized for its the bigger-than-life statues at the entrance to Grand Bassin, as you can see the picture above. It is a place that is sacred but also deeply spiritual. A peace and calm pervades the setting.
Raj and Mira were our escorts and our guides for our visit there. They are Hindu and explained for us that Hinduism isn’t merely a collection of beliefs, rather it is a value system and a lifestyle. The shrines and statues in Grand Bassin depict the many aspects of God. There are many images or faces of God in Hinduism.
This visit sparked my interest to delve more deeply into Hinduism and learn more. Each religious tradition has so much to teach us.
We enjoyed the natural beauty of the lake, the memorable shrines and statues, learning more about Hinduism from our friends – and of course the monkey!
The religions of Mauritius are primarily Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. In the neighborhood where we stayed on our recent visit we notice the Hindu temple, a mosque and St. Anne’s Church all in close proximity. We could hear the call to prayer from the mosque, the bells from the temple and the tolling bell of St. Anne’s throughout the course of any given day.
People of all three religions share a neighborhood, live next door to each other, share in each other’s life events. That is how it happened that we were invited to attend a nearby Hindu wedding by friends of our hosts.
Thanks to the generosity of another friend, Maria, we were gifted with traditional clothes and I also received a beautiful gold and red sari. It has 5 1/2 yards of fabric – but it’s silk – so it was very light and comfortable to wear. I’m not sure I could wrap it up myself – although, Maria did it quickly and easily.
The saris at the wedding were magnificent, with each sari more beautiful and ornate than the previous one. Women wore flowers and jewels in their hair, necklaces that draped down the back as well as in the front. Colors that were spectacular – eye popping – think bright turquoise silk bordered with fuchsia or emerald green rimmed in rich purple! Each woman there looked like a queen. Now imagine hundreds of guests. Live music.
Sit-down tables allowed dozens of guests to be served dinner at one time. As guests arrived throughout the evening they were seated at the tables. Seven different curries were served placed around on mound of rice on a place mat that looked like a banana leaf. Originally they used banana leaves. We used naan bread and our fingers to eat the rice dipped in curry. So different – but yum!
After dinner guests mingled, talked, greeted friends and family. A Hindu wedding is an impressive experience. I’m so glad we that the chance to attend.
One of the most well known vacation spots in Mauritius is the beach town of Flic en Flac. The pastel bungalows in the photos are its calling card.
Our hosts (Marcel and Marceline) rented a bungalow for two nights so that we could spend some time at the beach on the Indian Ocean. Chris, Champa and Rita, friends we met in Mauritius, also had a place at Flic en Flac. They provided an impromptu picnic on the beach for us while we were there! It was an afternoon of fun, delicious food and great conversation.
The beach is great, the water is warm enough that you don’t have to get used to it – you can go right in! We really enjoyed our time at Flic en Flac.
Our visit to Mauritius started with an excursion to the capital city – Port Louis. Mauritius was originally uninhabited. Humans arrived when the Dutch established a small colony in 1638. Mauritius was later controlled by the French and then the British who created their wealth by trafficking slaves (and later indentured servants) to the island exploiting them for free labor on sugar plantations, much like in the United States. Many of the current citizens are descendants of these original slaves and indentured servants (another form of slavery) from India and countries in Africa. Port Louis was the entry port for these slave-filled ships.
Another day we also visited the Aapravasi Ghat Memorial in Port Louis. This is a national monument and memorial site for the travesty of slavery and indentured servitude and its impact on the historical and cultural identity of Mauritius.
Banyan trees from this time still shade the central park of the city today.
We also visited Marie Reine de la Paix – the beautiful Mary Queen of Peace monument overlooking the city of Port Louis.
There is much, much more to see.
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Traveling is always an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. I like to travel – but I prefer travel with a purpose. Almost two years ago I visited Slovenia in order to present a paper at a conference – and to learn about Slovenia and Slovenians. This year I had the opportunity to travel in order to teach and to learn as well.
Recently, we visited the nation of Mauritius thanks to a generous invitation from our good friends, Marcel and Marceline, who live there. Where is Mauritius you might ask? Mauritius is east of Madagascar – the large island off the eastern coast of Africa. Go east of Madagascar to Mauritius – a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Traveling to Mauritius requires two very long plane rides. The first half of the trip is an eight-hour plane ride to Paris (or Amsterdam) and the second is a twelve hour flight to Mauritius.
Situated in the tropics, near the equator, Mauritius was just beginning its winter season when we were there – end of March, early April. Nevertheless, it was quite hot and humid by our standards – although this was relative. It was perceived as cooler by those who live there, compared to the even hotter summer temps.
Our hosts live in the area of Rose-Hill outside of Port Louis, the capital city. This is the northwestern area of the island. Breadfruit, sour sop (tastes like a passion fruit, a very large passion fruit!), bananas and more grew in the courtyard area of their house. In addition, Marceline created a beautiful container garden along the stairway up to their front door.
Come along with me as we explore the country of Mauritius.
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