Driving along the coast of Mauritius often feels like a ride on a rollercoaster. You’ve got the view, the curves, but not the cues. Today, however, the road is blocked by a colorful but rather painful festival called Cavadee.
In either January or February, the large Tamil Hindus community of Mauritius celebrate the festival of Thaipoosam – called Cavadee here. Devotees gather in the streets to honor Lord Muruga, son of Shiva and the Tamil god of war. I step out of the car and walk into the labyrinth of pick-up trucks and minivans to try for a better look. It’s the day of the procession, the highlight of the festival. Teens in a trance-like state, surrounded by friends and family, carry a burden to implore their god for help. Some have their bodies pierced ritualistically with hooks or spears, others even drag a richly decorated wooden arch (Kavadis) attached to the piercings. It’s painful to watch, never mind endure.
These rituals started ten days ago with a period of prayers and purifications – meaning among other things no meat, no love, and no conversation. It makes you realize that pain management comes in different forms. On Mauritius, devotion is the medicine.
At first sight these eerie rituals on a faraway island in the Indian Ocean seem part of a different world. But once the procession comes to an end the barriers between their world and mine suddenly fade away. After the piercings are removed by a priest – no blood is shed – Lord Muruga is honored by having milk poured over his statue. Then I am invited to lunch by the locals, with fruit punch included. Sometimes, you can travel the greatest distances in a traffic jam.