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Mauritius - Religion

There are nearly 90 different religious denominations represented in Mauritius. Since there is complete freedom of religion, new sects or groupings have emerged within the main religions of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Throughout Mauritius there are Gothic-style churches, high-domed temples, minareted mosques and ornate pagodas in the most unlikely places – the middle of a sugarcane field, by the racecourse – testifying to the strong Mauritian belief in religion. It is not fanaticism but an enduring way of life, which Mauritians relish.

About 48% of Mauritians are followers of one of the many Hindu sects, the majority being Sanatanists, or orthodox Hindus.

Devout Hindus proclaim their faith with small shrines and red or white pennants fluttering outside their homes. Several villages have Hindu temples, the largest being at Triolet. Saints of other religions, especially the Roman Catholic Père Laval, whose shrine is at Sainte Croix, are also worshipped by Hindus.

Local Tamils have their own religion which has evolved since 1771, when the French granted permission for a Tamil temple in Port Louis. The reformist movement of Arya Samaj, in which worship is of the spirit Brahma and not of statues or idols, took hold from 1910, when the first ‘Samaj’ was opened in Port Louis. Tamils sometimes indulge in spectacular forms of worship in honour of different deities, such as fire walking and piercing their flesh with enormous needles. As with Christianity, there is a variety of sects including Kabir Panthis, a reformist group, Rabidass, and the Hare Rama Krishna sect.

Christianity was the first religion in Mauritius and is now the religion both of the general population and of more than 80% of the Sino-Mauritians. Roman Catholicism became the official religion of the Ile de France in 1721, spreading with the French conversion of their slaves and still permitted to flourish after the British arrived. There is a Roman Catholic cathedral, St Louis, in Port Louis.

Anglicans, Presbyterians and the evangelical Christian religions such as the Assembly of God and Adventists all play a part in society, as do at least a dozen other denominations including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Methodists and Swedenborgians.

With its various sects, Christianity is the second-largest faith in the country, and over 30% of the population are Christians of some kind. In Rodrigues, 97% of the population is Roman Catholic.

The Muslims of Mauritius form about 16% of the total population. The majority consists of Sunni Muslims and is divided into three subgroups: Sunni Hanfites, Sunni Surtis and Meimons. The Meimons are a small aristocracy with responsibility for the best-known mosque in Mauritius, the Jummah (Friday) Mosque in Port Louis.

The Shi’ite Muslims are very few and are subdivided into groups. One is the Cocknies from Cochin in the southwest of India, who came as boatbuilders to Mauritius. Since intermarrying with Creoles they have created a people known as Creole Lascars.

The Chinese religions are almost dying out since the majority of Sino-Mauritians have embraced Roman Catholicism. However, Buddhism and Confucianism are still practised by around 2% of the population.

The first Chinese temple was opened in Port Louis in 1846. Other temples have since been opened by the Cantonese Nam Shun Fooye Koon society and the Hakka Heeh Foh society.

Mauritius - Religion

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