Port Louis: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Mauritian capital Port Louis on Wednesday after completing the Seychelles leg of his tour. The Indian Prime Minister has been invited as the guest of honour by the Mauritian government for the National Day celebrations tomorrow. This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in over three decades.
From 1810 to 1968, Mauritius was a British colony. In 1968, Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam became the first Prime Minister of a free country. As a tribute to Gandhiji who is said to have helped the Mauritian Indian community to organize themselves, Mauritius celebrates its National Day on March 12th, the date of the launch of the Dandi March. Prime Minister Modi will be paying floral tributes at the Gandhi statue at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute as well as attend a civic reception there tomorrow. He will also be visiting Ganga Talao, the Grand Basin...a theme close to the Prime Minister`s heart.
Though Ganga is a river in India, here in Mauritius it is a lake....a talaab. The lake is about 1800 feet above sea level and considered auspicious by the people of Indian origin here. A temple dedicated to various Hindu gods at the lake front draws the faithful who especially come here to perform penance on auspicious days like Shiv Ratri and Dussehera.
The majority of population of Mauritius is of Indian origin. As per estimates more than 450,000 Indian indentured labourers were brought into Mauritius from 1834 onwards. They came from Bihar, Eastern UP, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Today 68 percent of Mauritius`s 1.2 million population are of Indian origin. It is no wonder then that the country is affectionately referred to as Chota Bharat. Former Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam remarked "Mrs Gandhi had a special love for Mauritius and affectionately referred to it as `Chota Bharat` where she occupies a place of choice in the hearts of Mauritians."
Relationship with India rests easy with the political leadership and civil society. Women have not abandoned their saris and wear it with as much pride and aplomb as their mothers and grandmothers. They are also terribly proud of their religion. At the airport today, Hindu groups had proudly displayed religious icons on their T-shirts and arm bands, happy and in sync with the pro-Hindu image of the ruling party in India today. In a way it was quite natural for Mauritius to have invited Narendra Modi as chief guest for its national day celebrations...even though many of its leaders had close relations with the Gandhi family. By Smita Prakash.