In the heart of Mauritius lies a cultural and historical treasure. A natural treasure hidden in the country's unexploited forests, far from civilisation. A sacred sanctuary where discovery and spirituality go hand in hand. The Ganga Talao, more commonly known as the Great Basin, is a large lake, the crater of an extinct volcano. This lake is situated at about 1800 feet above sea level.
Mauritius is a volcanic island. Indeed, there are multiple craters scattered all over the country. Grand Bassin is one of the three, located in the centre of the island, along with Bassin Blanc (Trou Kanaka) and Trou aux Cerfs. The Ganga Talao is one of the main attractions of Mauritius. As statistics show, at least 9 out of 10 tourists have visited Ganga Talao at least once during their stay in the island. That's how popular the place is. And it goes without saying that the Ganga Talao is not only a place of worship but also a tourist attraction.
Ganga Talao is considered to be the most visited and sacred Hindu place in Mauritius. This is because water from the sacred Ganges River in India was poured into the lake centuries ago. Today the Ganga Talao is the only place in Mauritius where all Hindu deities are present. You will meet Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesh and the goddess Ganga. You will also see the Goddess Durga, whose statue (the largest in the world) was recently built.
The Ganga Talao, due to its geographical position in the centre of the island, is accessible from three sides. From the south by the tea road through the large tea plantations of Bois Chéri. From the west through the 52 contours of Chamarel or the rise of Bassin Blanc or the town of Vacoas. Every year between January, February and March, thousands of Mauritians and foreigners make a pilgrimage to the Ganga Talao on the occasion of the Maha Shivratree festival. It is mainly on foot, carrying decorated wooden structures, that the devotees go to Ganga Talao.
The Maha Shivratree pilgrimage is a great moment of fervour for Mauritius. Singing, sharing and spirituality are the ingredients of this Hindu devotion to the God Shiva. They converge on Grand Bassin to bring water from the sacred lake to their homes for family prayer sessions. If you wish to experience this great spiritual moment, your trip to Mauritius should be made early in the year.
In 1866, when Pandit Sanjibonlal returned to Mauritius after the end of his first contract, he came as a trader via Reunion and took with him the souvenir of the Ganges and Indian fabrics to sell to the resident workers. With the money he earned, he bought Mr. Langlois' hotel in Triolet and made his dream of making the Grand Bassin a place of pilgrimage a reality. Pandit Sanjibonlal had already acquired great esteem among the French as a landowner (the transcript archives can be visited to see the land transactions). He therefore easily obtained permission to proceed with his project. He converted the existing building into a temple. Some of the craftsmen involved in the construction of Sockalingum Meenatchee Ammen Kovil in Port Louis helped to give the temple its present form.
He went to India and brought back a huge Shivalingam, along with other deities, and had them consecrated in the sanatorium. After the consecration in 1866, he was the first to undertake the pilgrimage to Great Basin.
At that time, workers were not allowed to take time off for religious purposes. By word of mouth, all the workers expressed their wish to participate in the pilgrimage. He activated his contacts and asked permission to organise one. Thus a first delegation, which he led in 1895, following the route he had already taken in previous years, converged on the Ganga Talao. Later in 1972, Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam brought water from Ganges to Gomukh and mixed it with water from Grand Bassin and renamed it 'Ganga talao'.
In 1897, Shri Jhummun Giri Gosagne Napal, a 'pujari' (priest) of Triolet and Sri Mohanparsad of Goodlands, saw in a dream the water of the Great Basin Lake gushing out of the Jahnvi, thus becoming part of Ganga. The news of this dream spread rapidly through the Hindu community. The following year, pilgrims went to Great Basin to collect its water to offer to God Shiva on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. In 1998, it was declared a 'sacred lake'.
On site, you will see two gigantic statues, including the 33-metre statue of the god Shiva, standing with his trident at the entrance of Ganga Talao. Inaugurated in 2007, it is the tallest statue in Mauritius. It is also a faithful copy of the statue of the God at Sursagar Lake in Vadodara, Gujarat, India.