It is said that a long long time ago, the Almighty God Shiva was circling over earth with his wife Parvati and the Ganga River balancing on his head. Shiva noticed a beautiful island and decided to land. As he approached the untouched place, water accidentally spilled from Ganga River and formed a lake. That island was Mauritius. The lake became Ganga Talao – one of the most sacred and largest Hindu pilgrimage sites outside India. Many, many years later – in 1897, a Hindu Priest from the village of Triolet saw the sacred lake in a dream. The priest searched for the holy lake and his walks took him to the south of Mauritius, where he finally recognised the lake from his dream. That is when the pilgrims started to come to Ganga Talao.
Of all the places to visit in Mauritius, a visit in the southern part of the island is not complete without a stop at Grand Bassin – literally meaning the large dipping hole.
If you arrive from the west, it all starts with probably the largest and widest road in Mauritius. 2km of highway and in the distance you already notice the statues. Statues of Shiva and Dargu greeting the visitor and letting him know he has arrived. The statues were comisioned by the Mauritian government and build by the Indian artist Shri Matu Ram Verma – very famous for his large Hindu statues around the world.
Shiva is one of the principal deities in Hinduism. Shiva is the Destroyer of the world, he is the God of the yogis, self-controlled and celibate. He stands on the right of this picture. Parvati, who stands on the left, is Shiva’s wife and Goddess of fertility, love and devotion. The couple are greeting the pilgrims and the curious.
Shiva is easy recognisable with the snakes around his neck. Vasuki, the King of snakes, is a constant companion of Shiva. Lord Shiva is also the God of all creatures and shows among other things the complete power he has over all living beings. Parvati is here represented as Durga Maa – the motherly warrior goddess.
Our Shiva statue in Mauritius, known as Mangal Mahadev, is apparently the third highest in the world, standing at 108feet (33m) – and is from 2008. Durga Maa is just as tall, but she has the record of being the world’s largest statue of her – after years of construction she was presented to the public in September 2017.
You pass a couple of small temples and see the lake spreading out below you. The weather is often overcast, and the atmosphere is very special. It’s really walking into a very unique area, you can feel the spirituality – there are always pilgrims here – Mauritians, but also Hindus from other countries.
Read about Maha Shivarati and discover how this very special Hindu Festival is celebrated in Mauritius and why pilgrims walk through the island to Ganga Talao.
You can walk all around the lake, see monkeys running in the area and taking their part of the offerings. At the other end of the lake is the main temple – where the pilgrims (and tourists as well) come to get blessed and perform different rituals. Many different statues ornate the lake in front of the main temple – they have been donated by different Mauritian families (and probably from abroad as well).
Useful information about Ganga Talao
The entrance to the site is free – there are donation boxes around, if you should feel inclined.
The temple and the area get busy around Hindu festivals – specially the weeks leading up to Maha Shivarati. There are also evening prayers and such if you are interested.
Always be decently dressed when approaching any religious site in Mauritius and respect pilgrims.
There is plenty of parking and you can easily spend a couple of hours walking around and looking at everything – it is not needed though and a shorter stop is very possible.
Other things to around Ganga Talao
- On the Eastern side of the sacred lake you will find the tea plantations of Bois Chéri – you can visit the tea plantation, factory and museum, as well as enjoy lunch at their restaurant.
- On the western side you can drive through the Black River Gorges National Park and end up at Chamarel – the Rum factory also is a very interesting stop – you can read about it here.
- Seven coloured earth of Chamarel
- Curious Corner of Chamarel – gallery of interactive illusions and art
- Chamarel Waterfall
- La Vallée des Couleurs – Nature Park
- Hike of the Peak of Black River – the highest mountain in Mauritius
- a little further, if you have children with you: Crocodile park and St Aubin, another rum factory but they also have a great restaurant, a petting zoo and spice gardens to enjoy.