After the abolition of slavery in December 1848, the big operators of the island turned to the commitment, which brought a large flow of workers from India (mainly from Tamil Nadu, in the south-east of the continent) to continue the prosperity of the “sugar sector”. This is why we find a large Hindu community in geographical areas with a sugar tradition, that is to say especially the north-east and south-west of the island. Hinduism is the second religion in Reunion, after the Catholic religion.
In Reunion, the great temples, mainly dedicated to the God Muruga, are found in the major coastal towns. The ceremonies are held by “swamis” (Indian priests) from southern India. There are also many religious temples, often called chapels, whose ceremonies are held by a “poussari” (local priest).
The Tamil calendar is a Hindu Lumi-Solar calendar for the year beginning on April 14. The first day of the Hindu calendar would correspond to the birth of Krishna in 3101 BC (example 3101 + 2022 = 5123). On this day, the faithful, dressed in new clothes, thank God for all the graces granted during the year and, through their prayers, also ask him for blessing and happiness for their homes and their families for the new year. On this day, one listens to the reading of the “Pandjangam” (calendar), which reveals the forecasts for the new year.
This Saturday, September 3, was a day of celebration for the faithful of the Tamil temple “Kaali Dan ‘Bois” in La Saline-les-Hauts in the town of Saint-Paul. Since 2020, the place of worship has had its centenary. Hundreds of faithful are gathered on site for the occasion, because for two years, we have not been able to hold this celebration because of the Covid-19.
To celebrate the event, a stele and a pavilion were inaugurated. Such an event does not happen every day because entire generations pass by this temple to discover it and rediscover it.
According to history, in 1873, a wooden statue of the goddess Kaali landed on the island with the indentured Indians and toured the temples of Reunion. Built in 1920 to accommodate it, it will remain on display there for 20 years. For Jacques Mourouguin Allamélou, known as Prayen, owner of the temple and president of the “Kaali Dan’ Bois” association, it is the investment of a lifetime.
The cults that are celebrated each year always pass through the Vue Belle factory. The oldest devotees worked at the factory. Suddenly, they have this sacred link with the latter and the goddess who is always very anchored.
An important event for the district, it symbolizes living together in Reunion. This history must be appropriated in order to pass it on to future generations and for everyone to remember this history. And to celebrate this century-old temple, an exhibition on its history took place in the Serveaux house in Saint-Paul. This Tamil temple is one of the beauties of Reunion where colors, joy and spirituality mix.
Tamils conceive God as the Supreme Being with different forms. But, he is one, immutable, omnipresent and omniscient. To venerate God, they began, from antiquity, to build “kovils” (temples) where they took up residence. With his belief, his prayer, his innate character of non-violence and tolerance, the Tamil believes to bring peace, harmony, knowledge and joy in the world. This is why he adheres to the philosophy that “the world is one and that each man is bound by the bond of brotherhood” (yâdhoum ouré yâvaroum kehlir).
In addition to the places reserved for meetings and social and cultural activities, the Tamils have built the “kovil”, an ideal place to cultivate their spiritual and religious development. “Kovil illâ oûvil koudi iroukka vendham” (do not live in a place where there is no kovil) says Oulagananden in his “Ulaganîdhi”.
The Tamils till date have remained true to this thought, thus safeguarding their religious heritage and traditions through the ages. Reunion is no exception. Do we not see scattered across this intense island so many kovils with structures that meet the standards of marvelous architecture, more or less Dravidian, hence the “balipîdam”, the “kodimaram”, the “nandi”, the different “mourthis” (statues) in massive stone…
Our ancestors used idols because they help in devotion. At the time of prayer God projects his “shakti” (blessing) through the mousthi (idol) thus making it alive so that there is communication between the soul and the Supreme Being. It is a way of practicing concentration in order to Canadian the spirit towards God which resides in the mousthi thus helping us for the meditation. Then, we go through different stages to reach the final stage of spirituality! Aum Shakti!
Gady V. Mooneswawny