Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "Mauritius Taippucam Kavati Festival: a socio-historical perspective"

Sadasivam Reddi (University of Mauritius)

map of Mauritius

Taippucam Kavati, the Tamil religious festival, celebrated in honour of God Murukan, is the most important religious festival of the Tamils in Mauritius. There is no evidence when it was first celebrated in Mauritius, but by the 1890's it was a well-established festival in Mauritius together with timiti (walking on fire) and sankranti. Sankranti is no longer celebrated with fervour as in the past; timiti is still popular but much less than kavati although Govindan has become popular nationwide since the 1960's.

Although the majority of kovils, built by indentured labour were dedicated to Amman the Goddess, and though the worship of Amman is still very popular, as is evident with timiti and canjee, it is Taippucam that has become the most popular, attracting big crowds and is visibly the most well known of Tamil festivals. It receives wide coverage in the media while there is hardly any coverage for walking on fire in the media.

This paper investigates the evolution of kavati in Mauritius to explain its popularity and why it is considered by the Tamils and non-Tamils alike to be the most important Tamil religious festival .Such an investigation will involve looking at changes in the celebration, the relative decline of other traditional religious festivals and the construction of a public image of kavati as a modern religious Tamil festival, distancing it from its folk origins. Finally, an understanding of the socio-economic changes in the community and its impact on religious creed and practice is crucial for explaining the preeminence of kavati for Tamils and non-Tamils.

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Contact the author: Reddi Sadasivam Jaganada reddi@uom.ac.mu