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An Overview of the Cultural Aspects of Mauritius. 

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An Overview of the Cultural Aspects of Mauritius. 

Posted by: Órama Corporate Services
Category: Blog

Mauritius boasts a rich and diverse cultural tapestry, shaped by centuries of influences from various corners of the globe. The island’s cultural mosaic reflects the contributions of its original inhabitants, the Dutch, French, and British colonizers, as well as the diverse waves of African, Indian, Chinese, and other immigrant populations. The fusion of these influences is evident in Mauritius’ music, dance, cuisine, food, and religion. The culture of Mauritius is a tapestry woven from the encounters of successive waves of travellers, traders, colonizers, and immigrants. Let’s take a shallow dive in to the history of Mauritius to give us an overview of how the nation came about. 


Mauritius’ history involves early Arab awareness in the tenth century, Portuguese exploration in the 16th century, and subsequent Dutch settlement in 1598, named after Prince Maurice of Nassau. The Dutch utilized Mauritius for trade with India, discovering resources and introducing slaves. In 1710, the Dutch left for South Africa, and France claimed Mauritius in 1715, renaming it ‘Isle de France.’ French Governor Labourdonnais initiated economic development, but the Seven Years War marked a decline. In 1810, the British seized Mauritius, allowing the French to remain under British administration. The abolition of slavery in 1835 led to an influx of Indian workers, fostering population growth and a thriving sugar trade. Despite conflicts and economic decline, World War I brought a resurgence. The Mauritian Labour Party advocated for Indian workers, leading to universal suffrage in 1958. Independence was granted in 1968 under Seewoosagur Ramgoolam’s leadership, bringing prosperity. The Republic of Mauritius was proclaimed in March 1992. 

Population and Language 

The Arrival of Arbuthnot’s Indentured Labourers in Mauritius in November 1834 is a day that is often remembered in honour of the ancestors of Mauritius as they commemorate the making of history each 2nd November. The arrival of the first Indian labourers, the pioneers of a migration which will eventually transform the character of Mauritian life and industry. A day which Indian and non-Indian indentured workers reached Mauritian shores and they forever transformed the country’s demography, economy, society, and politics. Between November 1834 and May 1839, around 25,468 Indians were introduced into this small Indian Ocean Island. In general, by 1910, more than 462,800 Indian and non-Indian indentured workers reached Mauritian shores. 

Fastforward, as at the year 2022, there were 1,235,260 (608,090 males, 627,170 females) people living in Mauritius according to Statistics Mauritius. The majority of them being of Indian, Creole, and Chinese descent, with smaller populations of Africans, Europeans, and Asians. According to the latest figures, the literacy rate in Mauritius stands at 91.9%, indicating a strong emphasis on education in the country. The population continued to age as indicated by an increase in the median age of the population from 34 to 38 years. Although English is the official language in Mauritius, multilingualism is quite common. A large population of Mauritians speak Creole (which borrows heavily from French) is an essential aspect of the country’s culture). French is also commonly spoken while Indian languages are also present including Bhojpuri, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu as well as Chinese languages. Despite the different languages spoken, most widely practiced languages are Creole, French and English. 

People and Religion 

Mauritians are generally very calm and friendly people. Religion plays a significant role in the social and cultural fabric of Mauritius. The small island nation, located off the southeast coast of Africa, is known for its diverse population and religious pluralism. The various religions practiced in Mauritius include Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. 

Approximately 68% of residents are of Indian origin with roots in Bhojpuri, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, Telugu. 27% are Creoles, either Franco-Mauritian or from Rodrigues. Added to that 3% are Chinese and 2% of European descent. In terms of religion, Hinduism is the primary religion in Mauritius with around 52% identifying as Hindu. Christians make up about 28% of the population (26% Catholic, 2% Protestant). 16.6% of residents are Muslim. One of the most notable features of religion in Mauritius is its harmonious coexistence. In fact, the constitution of Mauritius guarantees freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. People from different religious backgrounds often participate in each other’s cultural festivals, indicating a high level of religious tolerance and understanding. Another interesting feature of religion in Mauritius is the growing trend of secularization. More people are becoming less religious and more secular in outlook. 

Festivals and Celebrations 

Mauritian culture is typically marked by its various modes of celebration, which usually involve colourful clothing, food, music, and dance. The most significant cultural events in the country include the annual Festival Internationale Kreol, which celebrates the harmonious blend of cultures in Mauritius, and Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the most amongst the most celebrated religious festivals. It is a public holiday and is celebrated throughout the island with beautiful lighting, feasts, and firework displays. 

While March 12 is celebrated as a national holiday (Independence Day), there are several other national holidays and celebrations of festivals which are mostly religious and reflect the diversity of the population of the islands. Some other festivals include: Thaipoosam Cavadee, Thimithi (Tamil holidays), Chinese New Year, Abolition of Slavery, Maha Shivaratri (Hindu festival), Ougadi (Hindu festival), Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu festival of Ganesh’s birth), All Saints Day, Arrival of indentured labourers, Eid Ul-Fitr, end of Ramadan and Christmas. To touch on a few, the abolishing of slavery took place in 1835 in Mauritius, making it the final British colony to enforce the abolition of slavery. Despite the British Empire’s earlier enactment of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, Mauritius delayed compliance for several months, relenting only after the implementation of the apprenticeship system persuaded slave owners. Consequently, on February 1, 1835, Mauritius officially abolished slavery, and each year on the same date, the nation observes Abolition Day, a designated national holiday commemorating this significant historical event. 

Christmas, originally a Christian festival, is joyously celebrated by people of all religious backgrounds. This festive season is characterized by a nationwide shopping extravaganza, substantial discounts on products, and widespread decoration of the country with vibrant lights. The festivities extend throughout the night, creating a festive atmosphere embraced by diverse communities. 

End of Year Celebrations, the conclusion of the year is celebrated uniquely in Mauritius. Practically every household in the country prepares fireworks on their roof or in a clear space within their homes, aiming to welcome the new year precisely at midnight, bidding farewell to the old one. As the fireworks are ignited, the entire sky is illuminated with breathtaking and unimaginable displays. Families gather outside to witness and experience these moments, with children expressing their excitement through their bright eyes. Even the elderly and physically challenged find ways to observe the spectacle, whether by peering through windows or door outlets. This tradition is considered a ritual to warmly embrace the new year while gracefully bidding farewell to the one that just passed. 

Pilgrimage to Grand Bassin 

Maha Shivaratri, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, holds significant religious meaning. Devotees in Mauritius observe ten days of abstinence before the celebration, refraining from meat, alcohol, and worldly pleasures while engaging in daily prayers. Prior to Maha Shivaratri, devotees embark on a pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, dressed in white, to collect sacred water from the lake believed to originate from all corners of the island. The journey includes walking through mountainous areas, sometimes in adverse weather conditions. Devotees carry Kanwar’s on their shoulders, and tents along the way provide refreshments. Upon reaching Ganga Talao, devotees pray at the lake’s banks, collect sacred water, and bring it back to their localities to pour on the Shivalingam at the Mandir they frequent. 

The Arrival of Arbuthnot’s Indentured Labourers in Mauritius in November 1834. A day to remember and honour the ancestors of Mauritius as they commemorate the making of history each 2nd November.  The arrival of the first Indian labourers, the pioneers of a migration which was eventually to transform the character of Mauritian life and industry. A day which Indian and non-Indian indentured workers reached Mauritian shores and they forever transformed the country’s demography, economy, society, and politics.  Between November 1834 and May 1839, around 25,468 Indians were introduced into this small Indian Ocean island. In general by 1910, more than 462,800 Indian and non-Indian indentured workers reached Mauritian shores. 

Chinese Spring Festival in Mauritius 

Sino-Mauritians- people of Chinese origin, make up a portion of that population. The Chinese Spring Festival plays a significant role in Mauritius and this festival is widely and fervently celebrated throughout the island. The first month of the Chinese lunar calendar is marked by the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year. It is the Chinese calendar’s longest holiday, taking place every year between January 21 and February 20. Since the Chinese calendar is lunar-solar, this holiday is also known as the Lunar New Year. It also commemorates the coming of spring after the winter solstice, as its name suggests. The customary practice is to try to start the year off on a new footing after removing the negative effects from the previous year, followed by signs of good fortune. As a result, several days prior to the New Year’s arrival, each family prepares special food, purchases new clothing, and cleans the house from top to bottom. 

The country has a vibrant music scene, with traditional Creole music a popular genre. Sega music, which is the traditional music of those from African descent. African slaves in Mauritius, dating back to the 18th century when slaves arrived on the island from Africa and Madagascar. Life was unbearable on sugar plantations, so slaves devised their own entertainment. Creole songs, folk dancing and homemade musical instruments is a genre that has gained iconic status around the world. Additionally, Mauritian pop music has been growing in popularity in recent years, with rising homegrown talents. Mauritius has been recognized as a cultural centre in the Indian Ocean, with several festivals and cultural events that showcase the country’s diversity. 

Mauritian Cuisine 

The food in Mauritius is a fusion of Indian, Creole, and Chinese cuisine, providing exquisite tastes and an authentic culinary experience. One of the staples of Mauritian cuisine is the use of local seafood, such as fish, prawns, lobsters, and octopus. The most popular seafood dish is the Mauritian seafood curry, which is a spicy and aromatic dish made with a blend of local spices, coconut milk, and tomato paste. Another popular seafood dish is the grilled octopus, which is marinated in a mix of garlic, ginger, turmeric, and chili paste before being grilled to perfection. Mauritian cuisine also features a range of spicy and flavourful meat dishes, which can be traced back to the island’s colonial history. One of the most popular meat dishes is the chicken curry, which is made with a blend of coriander, cumin, turmeric, and other local spices. Another popular meat dish is the Mauritian-style sausages, which are marinated in a mix of garlic, ginger, thyme, and chili paste. The Mauritian style grilled chicken is one of a kind. Others include Rougaille poisson sale, bouillon brede, chatini pomme de terre. 

Vegetarians also have a wide range of options to choose from in Mauritian cuisine. The most popular vegetarian dish is the dholl puri, which is a flatbread filled with a savory lentil filling. Another vegetarian dish is the vegetable curry, which is made with a blend of local spices and coconut milk. Mauritian cuisine is also known for its range of street food, which includes savory snacks such as samosas, spring rolls, and potato fritters. Some of the most popular street foods is the dholl puri, which is a soft bread filled with lentil paste, pickles, and chili paste, biryani, mine bouille(boiled noodles), bol renverse (magic bowl) 

Finally, a discussion of Mauritian cuisine cannot be complete without mentioning the island’s famous dessert, the gateau patate. This sweet potato cake is made with ground sweet potatoes, coconut milk, and local spices, which gives it a unique flavour that is difficult to find anywhere else in the world. 

In conclusion, Mauritius is a vibrant and culturally diverse country, with a rich mix of various cultures that have co-existed and mingled over time. The country’s unique cultural identity is the result of a long history of colonisation and immigration, creating a harmonious blend of diverse people, traditions, and values. It is an incredible country to visit and explore to discover its rich culture and history.