Nearly two-thirds of the population of Mauritius is of Indian origin, all descendants of indentured labourers shipped out by the British colonists to work in the sugarcane fields in the early decades of the 19th century. And a bulk of these labourers came from Bihar and Eastern parts of UP. Through sheer grit they dropped anchor, got rid of their colonial masters and now they rule the country!
Mauritius got independence from the British rule in 1968 under the leadership of Sir Seeoosagur Ramgoolam. (His son, Dr Naveen Ramgoolam is now the Prime Minister of the country) But all through the difficult decades they have preserved the language and culture and religion.
The Hindu Indo-Mauritians are deeply religious. Every village has a Shiva temple (called “shivala” in Hindi). Each house has a Hanuman idol installed at the entrance to protect the residents of the house. The tourist car we travelled in had stickers of Shiva, Durga and Hanuman prominently displayed.
Another striking feature was that all married women wore their sindoor very prominently. Many also wore a mangalsutra in addition. Saree and Salwar-Kameez are the most common dresses there. Women there are active in jobs and businesses but their adherence to the dress and sindoor is nearly complete. Much to the embarrassment to my wife whose chosen symbol of denoting her matrimonial status is the mangalsutra with the sindoor being reserved for ceremonial occasions!
While the common language in Mauritius is Creole (derived from French) and the official language is French, they have kept their mother tongue, Bhojpuri alive all these years. Initially it was pretty amusing for us to hear an Indo-Mauritian toggle between Creole/ French and Bhojpuri, but later we got used to it. And their Bhojpuri is pure, untainted by Creole or French.
The food too has been retained from the old days, right till the combination of spices. (Please see an earlier post “Bhajiyas in Mauritius”)