Shiva Looms at Grand Bassin

Grand Bassin, Mauritius — October 28, 2014

Shiva, the destroyer, loomed above us. Doomed? End of the world? My life passing before my eyes? Wait, no, Shiva was smiling. All 108 feet (33 meters) of Mauritius’ Grand Bassin Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and re-creation, was smiling.

The Shiva statue at Grand Bassin getting a touch up.
The Shiva statue at Grand Bassin getting a touch up.

Across the road from Shiva, a statue of Durga Maa, Shiva’s wife, also known as Parvati, was under construction. She was also smiling.

I should have anticipated the many Hindu temples and shrines on the island. 68% of the people here are of Indian descent and they’ve been here for nearly 200 years. I knew this. Yet, the staccato of bright colors – temples, shrines, spirit houses – against jungle and sugarcane greens were a lively surprise.

Shiva Also Known as Mangal Mahadev

The Mauritian government commissioned Indian sculptor Shri Matu Ram Verma to design the statues of Shiva and Durga Maa. The Shiva statue, named Mangal Mahadev, was completed in 2007 and is a replica of the Shiva statue of Sursagar Lake in Vadodara, Gujarat, India. Durga Maa will also be 108 feet tall (33 meters).

I came across various versions, but, in short, legend has it that Shiva, who was balancing the Holy Ganges River on his head, was traveling around the Earth with his wife Parvati. Shiva decided to rest on Mauritius. While there, some drops of the sacred Ganges River fell into the crater of an extinct volcano and created a small lake, Grand Bassin.

The Durga Maa statue under construction at Grand Bassin.
The Durga Maa statue under construction at Grand Bassin.

The Lake Formerly Known as Grand Bassin

I arranged with Natacha at our guesthouse, Le Domaine de L’Arbre de Voyageur, for a car and driver to take us on La Route du The. Natacha and her husband own and operate L’Arbre de Voyageur, which is located next to the Black River Gorges National Park. Tony, our driver, suggested we stop at Grand Bassin first since it was on our way.

Grand Bassin was discovered around 1897 by Pandit Jhummon Giri Gossagne Nepal, a Hindu priest from the northern Mauritian village Triolet. In a dream, the priest saw a holy lake that was connected to the sacred Ganges River in India. He searched for the lake and eventually came to Grand Bassin where he recognized the lake in his dream.

The following year, Hindu pilgrims started walking to Grand Bassin from all over Mauritius. They still do – by car or bus, and thousands by foot. They go for the annual festival Maha Shivaratri, Great Night of Shiva.

In 1972, a priest from India brought sacred water from the Ganges ceremonially poured the holy water into the lake. The lake was renamed Ganga Talao. Ganga for Ganges and Talao for pool. I found both names used frequently and interchangeably in guidebooks, maps, and online.

This surly macaque monkey perched on Surya, the Hindu sun god, needs to lighten up. Macaques are not native to Mauritius. They hang out at Grand Bassin to munch on offerings, usually plates of fruit, left by pilgrims.
This surly macaque monkey perched on Surya, the Hindu sun god, needs to lighten up. Macaques are not native to Mauritius. They hang out at Grand Bassin to munch on offerings, usually plates of fruit, left by pilgrims.
We strolled around the lake and admired the large eels inhabiting Grand Bassin. admired as in "those are massive and make my skin crawl." Pilgrims and tourists feed them and they just grow.
We strolled around the lake and admired the large eels inhabiting Grand Bassin, as in “those are massive and make my skin crawl” admiration. Pilgrims and tourists feed them and they just grow and grow.
The cluster of temples on the lake shore of Grand Bassin.
The cluster of temples on the shore of Grand Bassin.
Brett by a waterfall in Mauritius!

Thanks for reading. Have you been to Grand Bassin or hope to go there? Tell us about this or any other thoughts you have on this post in the comments section below.

A note on my sources: one of the better descriptions of Grand Bassin's history and temples that I found online was at the website Mauritiusinsideout.com.

Click here to buy the Lonely Planet Mauritius guidebook! Click here to buy the Rough Guides Mauritius guidebook!

I recommend and use the Rough Guides and Lonely Planet guidebooks on Mauritius. You can click on the book cover images or here and here to buy the guidebooks. Thanks much if you do.

Happy wanderings!

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