Mauritius Uncovered

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Mauritius Uncovered
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Grand Bassin Mauritius

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Grand Bassin is a dormant volcano found in the district of Savanne at 1,800 feet above sea level. It is irregular in shape with a lake of 1200 by 500 feet. There is a small islet in the middle of the lake leading to the belief of a once lava producing crater. Springs rise inside the lake itself; mountains lying around the lake provide it with water such that the water level is always constant. While initially the depth of the lake had been difficult to ascertain, new techniques of soundings reveal that the depth of the lake is about 55-60 feet. This lake, also called the Ganga Talao, is of great importance to the Hindu community of the island. The religious story of the lake goes as far back as 1897 when a Hindu priest living in the north of the island at Terre Rouge dreamt that the water of a lake on the island was connected to the sacred river Ganges. The news of the dream soon spread and he set off with some friends to find the lake. The roads at that time were very harsh and it was a very difficult journey as they were on foot. Finally they reached the Grand Bassin and the priest recognised it as the lake of his dreams. He named the lake the Pari (fairy) Talao as he had seen fairies dancing on the water in his dream. The next year, nine pilgrims walked again to the lake; they collected water from it and took it back to their temple in Triolet. The walking and water retrieval from the lake then became a tradition for the Hindus of the island and as such the Maha Shivatri was proclaimed a public holiday. The first temple, Shiv Mandir, which also is the main one, was built in 1966. In 1972, a priest from India ceremoniously mixed some water that he had brought from the Ganges with the lake’s water: it became officially known as the Ganga Talao from then on. As the importance of the lake as worship area gained momentum, more developmental works were undertaken: halls for pilgrims to rest were built, more temples were erected, electricity was supplied and a car park was provided. The place also has the biggest statue of the island namely the Shiva statue which is 108 feet tall; it is expected that by 2011 another statue, the Durga statue which is to be 108 feet as well, will be placed next to the Shiva statue. Today the lake finds itself in an area which still has the sense of the pristine Mauritius with its beautiful scenery, the lush trees and fresh air and the mist that hovers around the place most of the time but a lot of facilities have been implemented to make the journey to the lake more bearable for the pilgrims. The Grand Bassin, as a religious place, has a strong sense of spirituality that is tangible and only a visit to the place can confirm it!
Peaches Published 04 Nov 2010

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