Among the many attractions of Mauritius island, one of the most amazing is the Grand Bassin crater lake, which is also known as Ganga Talao. It may happen to you to visit it, when the weather is rainy and misty, that temple and those statues surrounded by a divine atmosphere. You may see young boys and girls from the Hindu community while they offer gifts -flowers and fruits- to the gods.
Located in the district of Savanne, this is the most sacred Hindu place in the whole island and it takes its name from the Indian river Ganga (Ganges). Grand Bassin was discovered in 1897, when the Hindu priest Pandit Jhummon Giri Gossagne Nepal -who lived in the village of Triolet, in the Northern part of Mauritius- together with a ‘pujari’ priest from Goodlands Sri Mohanparsad had a dream in which he saw a holy lake, connected to the sacred Indian river Ganges.
The rumours of the incredible dream spread quickly among the members of the Hindu community and during the following year, many pilgrims trekked to the lake to collect its water and to offer it to Lord Shiva on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri, the annual Hindu festival held in honour of the god Shiva that takes place in late-winter (generally between February and March, as it depends on the lunar calendar). But the lake was still known as the Pari Talao, because only in 1998 it was declared a “sacred lake” and then it was in 1972 that some holy water from the Ganges River was mixed to its water in order to establish a symbolic connection between the two sacred places. At the same time the lake was renamed Ganga Talao.
When you arrive at the lake, the first thing you can see is an enormous statue of Mangal Mahadev, a 33m (108 ft) tall figure of the Hindu god, Shiva the Destroyer, who stands with his trident at the entrance of Ganga Talao. Once you enter the Gran Bassin you can immediately feel the tranquillity and the peace of this site: while you’re admiring the impressive, colorful statues, take a minute to look at the holy water and to think about yourself. Look at the Hindu pilgrims, young and old ones, who carry hand-made “kanwars” -which are some kind of mobile altars decorated- and perform their own private prayer ceremonies with offerings of fruit, flowers, incense sticks and lamps to the deities.
You should show all your respect taking off your shoes just before entering the temple. Being part of this rituals, sharing this holy atmosphere is something unique, an experience you’re really going to enjoy.