Mauritius is an island of diversity and consists of a number of different cultures and religions.
It is known to many as a melting pot, and a cultural kaleidoscope!
The Mauritian Culture on the island of Mauritius is beautiful, colourful and harmonious!
The Mauritian Population & Cultural Diversity
The current population of Mauritius is 1,273,732 as of Monday, June 7, 2021, based on the Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data. It’s the most densely populated country in Africa.
The diversity in Mauritius is it’s key strength as all inhabitants of Mauritius live harmoniously.
Mauritius has no indigenous population. Mauritius has been influenced and settled by several world powers like Dutch, French, British, East African and Indian. The people of Mauritius are multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multilingual.
The Languages which contribute to the Mauritian Culture
English is the official language of Mauritius, but while it is a compulsory subject at school and the language of government and business, not everybody feels comfortable speaking it.
French is much more widely spoken and is dominant in the media, although it is the mother tongue to only a small proportion of the population. The language most spoken by Mauritians, however, is Creole (or Kreol).
Originating as the common tongue among slaves of differing origins, and between them and the colonists, the lingua franca of the island is based largely on French with elements of English, Hindi, Chinese and Malagasy.
It is a picturesque language, humorous and very pliable, and unstandardised in grammar and spelling alike. Almost all Mauritians speak 3 languages fluently, English, French and Creole.
Religions that make up the Mauritian Culture
With 87 denominations on the island, religion plays a major part in the island’s cultural activities.
Numerous churches, mosques, pagodas and temples exist, sometimes within very close proximity to each other, bearing testimony to the remarkable level of religious and cultural tolerance.
The vast array of Mauritian religions is one of the country’s most incredible aspects. Interested to know exactly which religions are practiced in Mauritius? Here’s a breakdown of each of them:
Hinduism in Mauritius
Just over half of the population (approximately 52%) of local Mauritians (predominantly the Indo-Mauritians) identify themselves as Hindu, making it the major religion on the island and the biggest concentration of Hindus in Africa.
Hinduism was largely introduced to the island by the Indian population brought over as indentured labourers during British rule once slavery had been abolished.
This beautiful religion is practiced over the island, evident by the gorgeous (and incredibly elaborate) temples, shrines (even small ones in people’s gardens) , vibrant Mauritian festivals, spiritual parks, a 33-foot statue of Shiva and of course, the sacred lake, Grand Bassin (which is also known as Ganga Talao).
Be sure to plan a trip around the annual Maha Shivaratri festival to witness one of the biggest and most important Hindu pilgrimages outside of India—truly a humbling and unique experience that you are bound to remember forever.
Christianity in Mauritius
Another of the relatively popular Mauritian religions is Christianity (with over 30% of the population following this religion), with a staggering 83% of the Christian population being Roman Catholic.
Other Christians on the island include Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostal groups and Jehovah’s Witnesses to name but a few of them.
Christianity was introduced to Mauritius by the Dutch explorers and reinforced by the French colonialists (from 1715) who re-introduced the religion once the Dutch had abandoned the island in 1710.
The French then imposed a law in 1723 that stated that all slaves who were brought to Mauritius needed to be baptised into the Catholic faith (although there is debate around how strict this law was).
Today, many of the Catholics on the island tend to be either Franco-Mauritian, Sino-Mauritians (of Chinese descent) or Creole.
Beautiful Catholic and Christian churches can be seen all over the island, the most iconic of which is probably the church with the red roof situated in Cap Malheureux, in the north of the island.
But for those interested in the oldest and possibly most important church in Mauritius, then the St Louis Cathedral in Port Louis is a must-visit.
This impressive church was first constructed in the 18th century by the French but sustained incredible damage during a cyclone in the 19th century. It was only reconstructed in 1925, with the addition of a twin tower in 1932.
Islam in Mauritius
Another notable Mauritian religion is Islam, with approximately 17% of the population practising this faith.
A huge portion of the Islam community (over 90% in fact) is made up of Sunni Muslims who have an understanding of the Urdu language.
There are three different ethnicities in the Muslim community which are the Memons and Surtees (who are said to have been successful merchants who came from India) and the Hindi Calcatias who were said to have arrived in Mauritius from Bihar as indentured labourers under British rule.
Other Muslim languages on the island are Bhojpuri, Gujarati and Tamil.
A big portion of the Muslim community lives in and around Port Louis, which is also the site of one of the gorgeous mosques in the whole of Mauritius, The Jummah Mosque, which was constructed in the 1850s.
There are many wonderful mosques throughout the island, but another of the most important mosques is located in the Camp des Lascars and is called the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This was the first mosque to be built in Mauritius in 1805.
Buddhism in Mauritius
Buddhism is practised by a mere 1% or so of the Mauritian population.
Those who adhere to Buddhism are said to fall into a minority of Sino-Mauritians. The other 2% or so of the population practice other religions (such as Judaism and Taoism).
Religious tolerance in Mauritius
Mauritius has managed to transition from colonial rule to a democracy, where people are allowed to practice their religion and embrace their unique cultures (each of which has formed part of the unique Mauritian culture) and languages freely.