©Photographe|Serge GELABERT

Tamil ceremonies in Reunion Island

The land of living together, Reunion Island is the embodiment of harmony and tolerance where the beliefs of the various communities that inhabit the island coexist. With its intense rituals and colourful festivals, the Hindu religion occupies an important place in the spiritual life of the island. Do you fancy dancing with the Malabars in the Land of Eden to the beat of the drums? Countless Indian celebrations are open to the public all year long. Open your chakras and discover the most beautiful Tamil ceremonies in Reunion Island.

Take part in the Thimithi firewalking ceremony

Firewalking is one of the oldest and undoubtedly most spectacular Tamil rituals in Reunion Island. This ceremony is open to the public but you must be respectful and discreet if you take part. Impressive and painful in equal measures, it celebrates the purity of the Hindu goddess Draupadi, who crossed a field of coals getting burnt to prove her virginity to her future husband.

The ceremony generally takes place at the start of the year and devotees test their faith by proving that their mind is stronger than their body. After 17 days of eating only vegan food and a long procession through water, it is a profound and mystical experience for participants and an impressive spectacle for observers.

When we arrive we realise that the public has a part to play in the ritual. The Thimithi is a kind of communion, a challenge which has to be shared. The beating drums, the shouting and the dance of vibrant colours gradually give way to a strange trance-like sensation. The experience is intoxicating for the senses and totally fascinating as the faithful devotees calmly cross the coals in bare feet. Sometimes there are rituals at the end of this enthralling Tamil ceremony in Reunion Island.

Celebrate Diwali, the festival of light!

Diwali is the most popular Indian festival in Reunion Island. It celebrates the victory of the god Krishna over the demon Narakasura who terrorised both heaven and earth. Light triumphed over darkness, a metaphor for knowledge triumphing over ignorance.

You have to wait for the darkest night of the year, in October or November, to take part in the Diwali festivities. During the day, neighbours and friends give each other sweet treats in honour of Lakshmi, the goddess of light and prosperity. The faithful gather inside Tamil temples while laymen marvel at their gorgeous exteriors. We try to recognise the multitude of deities up on the stepped roofs and this brightly coloured pantheon is like an exotic journey in itself. As twilight falls in the city, the faithful fill their windows with candles all the better to chase away the darkness.

The highlight of Diwali is most definitely the parade through the city’s streets. It’s like Bollywood on wheels as the floats enter the main roads of Saint-André, the city which traditionally plays host to the biggest Diwali parade. The faithful wear their traditional Indian clothes and march to music alongside the creatively made floats that light up the night and bring it to life.

The sky shines even brighter with the fireworks that bring the festivities to a close. With its spirituality, tradition, friendliness and festive feel, Diwali sums up the values of Reunion Island.