Mauritius 2: The Indian Diaspora

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!

 

Sir Seeoosagur Ramgoolam's Statue at Caudan Waterfront, Port Louis

Sir Seeoosagur Ramgoolam

 

 

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.

 

Mandir at Belle Mare

Mandir at Belle Mare

 

 

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”)

 

The hobbyist fisherman Sant ji

The hobbyist fisherman Sant ji

 

We found them to be very warm and cordial to us and they took time to chat with us total strangers. The language used was, of course, Bhojpuri. The grocer at Belle Mare who chatted happily with my wife, calling her beti. He even introduced us to his rather large family. The few rupees extra he charged us for the mineral water bottle still rankles my wife, though! One has to pay a price for staying at a Belle Mare hotel, I kept telling her. The hobbyist fisherman Mr Nityanand Sant at the beach who regretted having met us a little too late to call us home for a meal. He did share with me his recipe for mixing a Mauritian “rhum” (add lots of coke and ice!). And the ever-cheerful and nattily dressed young guide of ours, Vikram. More about Vikram in a later post.

 

Familiar hoarding, but at Mauritius

Familiar hoarding, but at Mauritius

 

It is a great feeling to see the 19th century Bhojpuri culture thriving in this beautiful island!
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2 Responses to Mauritius 2: The Indian Diaspora

  1. Bhojpuri says:

    Its a great language. Just love it.

  2. keshava bhat says:

    Really is it very interesting and great !!!!

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