religion_tamoule07_cavadee_-_credit_irt_-_serge_gelabert_dts_12_2019.jpgPhotographePhotographe© Serge GELABERT
© Serge GELABERT

Cathedral, mosque, temple, pagoda

All religions are represented on the island

Reunion offers the world a prime example of the harmonious and peaceful cohabitation  of religions and communities within a small territory. Regardless of to whom you are praying: the faith is reverent, the ceremonies attract large numbers of believers… and Saint Expeditus ensures that everyone can reach an agreement.

Hindu temples

The Tamil temples, where the malbar community- formed of the travellers who came from India and were hired in the plantations following the abolition of slavery – practice Hindu rituals are also very much present, and one can but admire their bold colours, the depictions of the divinities and the reverence with which the believers approach. There are eight large temples throughout the island, the most impressive of which is the Colosse Temple in Saint-André, although there are also several small, both private and oratory, in the districts. Here Brahma, the supreme being, the principle responsible for the creation of the universe, Vishnu who is the guardian of this universe, and Shiva the destructor, who personifies renewal, are worshipped. Each is associated with a female principle: Brahma with his wife Sarasvati, Vishnou with Lakshmi and Shiva with Parvati (the benevolent manifestation) or Kali (the destructive manifestation of the same goddess). Ganesh, the son of Shiva and Parvati, with his four arms and the head of an elephant, symbolises knowledge and symbolises intelligence and luck. Several festivals punctuate the Tamil calendar, such as Dipavali in October (Festival of Lights) or Cavadee (in February/March): believers carry heavy wooden structures covered in flowers over long distances, their skin pierced by silver hooks from which sacred lemons are suspended. Finally there are the Pandal festivals, in December or July depending on the temples and the lunar calendar, which are marked by penitent believers walking over burning coals.

Chinese temples

The Chinese community, although mainly Catholic, also includes believers who gather in the pagodas of Saint-Denis and Saint-Pierre to practice a religion combining Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, under the watchful eye of Guan Di. The celebration of the Chinese New year (in January or February, depending on the lunar calendar) is a time for noisy demonstrations: dragons are walked down the streets, offerings are made to the gods, and catherine wheels ward off evil spirits, while creating a great deal of noise !

While the representatives of all of the communities are proud of their festivals and places of worship, which are as much a part of the cultural heritage as the tourist attractions are, the greatest of care should be taken to respect the days of worship and the prohibitions enforced by each religion during visits.

Whatever your religion, if a problem arises it is worth paying a visit to Saint Expeditus: to be found in one of the many oratories that line the sides of the roads – he enables all people to reach agreement !