About Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao)
Alternatively known as Ganga Talao, Grand Bassin is a crater lake located in the heart of Mauritius. Nestled amidst a splendid scenic surrounding, the wide lake is considered to be sacred by the Hindus residing on the island. The title of ‘Ganga Talao’ literally translates to the “lake of the Ganges”, as the water of the lake is said to have been brought over from the Indian river of Ganges.
The lake premises has a number of statues of various Hindu and non-Hindu deities. The most prominent of these are the massive statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga, each towering at a height of 33 meters. Apart from these, there are numerous other smaller statues, such as those of Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Parvati and Lord Buddha. There are also a number of temples on the banks of the lake. Among these, the most prominent temple is the Lingam Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Lingam temple in Ganga Talao is one of the most sacred temples in Ganga Talao, and attracts a large number of pilgrims every year. Apart from this, one may also find smaller temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Hanuman and also a Sikh Temple. Grand Bassin is especially known for its massive Maha Shivratri celebrations. The celebrations continue for three whole days and attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims from across the world. Grand Bassin is the biggest Hindu pilgrimage site located outside India.
How to Reach Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao)
By Car: The fastest way to travel from Mauritius Airport to Grand Bassin is to drive from the Airport, or to take a cab. The drive takes approximately 23 minutes.
By Bus: Alternatively, one can take a bus from the Airport to Souillac and then take a cab to Grand Bassin from here. This is the cheapest way to come to Grand Bassin from the airport, and takes around one hour.
Best Time to Visit Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao)
The best time to visit the Grand Bassin Lake would be between the months of May and December. During this time, the temperature here remains moderate. The weather remains calm and pleasant, and showers are rare. The best time of the day to visit the lake would be in the early hours of the morning, before the crowds start settling in.
If you wish only to enjoy the natural setting and not visit the temples adjacent to the lake, it is best to visit the temple during the morning or the afternoon, for the lakeside may get chilly towards the evening.
What Not to Miss at Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao)
With its vast stretch of forest cover and its vibrant wildlife, Mauritius offers an exemplary array of natural wonders to explore. Here are some of the most fantastic tourist spots in Mauritius:
1. Black River Gorges National Park: Sprawling across a vast area of 68 kilometers, the Black River Gorges National Park is a scenic wildlife abode boasting of several species of endemic plants and animals.
The rich forested areas comprise of both lowland and upland forests, vast picnic areas, and walking trails for visitors that span across 60 kilometers. The park was built to protect the remaining rainforest cover of Africa, and houses several native species of birds such as the Mauritius bulbul, Mauritius fody, Mauritius kestrel, Mauritius parakeet and the pink pigeon.
Location: B103 - Plaine Champagne Road, Mauritius
Timing: 07.00AM-04.00PM on weekdays.
09.00AM- 05.00PM on weekends.
Entry fee: No entry fee required.
2. Bois Cheri Tea Factory and Tea Museum: Boasting of a tea plantation that spreads across a massive 250 hectares, Domaine de Bois Cheri is the largest tea plantation in Mauritius. The Bois Cheri Factory offers guided tours of the plantation, detailing its history and methods of work. The plantation also has a museum, a gourmet restaurant and a lodge of its own. Bois Cheri also offers free tea samples for its visitors.
Location: Bois Cheri Road, Bois Cheri, Mauritius
Timings: 09.00AM-05.00PM on all days of the week.
Entry Fee: Rs. 12 for adults, Rs. 8 for children above the age of 3. Free entry for children below that age.
3. Casela Nature Park: Built atop the sugarcane fields on the west coast of the island, Casela Nature Park was initially opened as a bird sanctuary with a view to preserve the natural flora of the place. With time, the sanctuary grew into the Casela World of Adventures, the most visited amusement park in Mauritius.
The Park offers a number of adventure options, such as wildlife safaris, Dry Toboggans, Alpine Coasters and ziplines. It also allows visitors to connect with the natural world by swimming with the dolphins, riding on camels, feeding giraffes and hippos or evening walking with lions during the safari!
Location: Royal Road, Cascavelle, Mauritius
Timings: 09.00AM-05.00PM on all days of the week.
Entry Fee: The entry fee to the Park is Rs. 100. The individual activities opted for will require their own separate fee.
3. Seven Coloured Earth: One of the most iconic tourist destinations in Mauritius, Chamarel Seven Coloured Park is a natural geopark where one can witness the wonders of nature firsthand. The Seven Coloured Earth refers to the various sand dunes in the region, which exhibit all seven colours of the visible spectrum.
This unique, multicoloured phenomenon is to be found nowhere else in the world, making the geopark a must visit for anyone coming to Mauritius. The geopark also houses a Tortoise Park within its premises, that features 5 giant tortoises in their natural habitat.
Location: 7 Colored Earth Road, Chamarel, Mauritius
Timings: 08.30AM-05.00PM on all days of the week.
Entry Fee: Rs. 225 for adults, Rs. 75 for children.
4. Chamarel Waterfalls: Standing among towering trees at a height of 272 meters, the Chamarel Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Mauritius. Fed by the water of three streams, the waterfall gushes down at a speed of over 40,000 kilometers per hour, into an oval pool below. The location, with its splendid beauty, also offers stunning trekking trails, which take around three hours to scale.
Location: Chamarel, Mauritius.
Timing: 08.30AM-05.00PM on all days of the week.
Entry Fee: No entry fee required.
5. Curious Corner of Chamarel: Operating on ‘trick-eye’ illusions, Curious Corner of Chamarel is a 3D art museum featuring interactive paintings and exhibitions working on the basis of optical tricks. The museum has a number of different rooms and exhibits that spectators can enjoy with.
If you have a penchant for photography, Curious Corner offers fantastic photographic opportunities, providing unrealistic 3-dimensional settings. This fun, family oriented arthouse also has a café of its own, known as The C3 Bar and Garden Café, which is especially known for its wood fired pizzas.
Location: Baie du Cap Road, Chamarel, Mauritius
Timings: 09.30AM-05.30PM on all days of the week.
Entry Fee: For local visitors: Rs. 275 for adults, Rs. 150 for children.
For international visitors: Rs. 375 for adults, Rs. 225 for children.
Other Essential Information About Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao)
Location: Savanne District, Mauritius.
Timings: The lake is open for public visit at all times of the day. However, the Ganga Talao temple remains open between 05.00AM-12PM and 01.00PM-06.00PM.
Height from sea level: 550 meters above sea level
Best Time: The best time to visit Ganga Talao in Mauritius is between the months of May and December. During this time, the weather remains dry and sunny. Temperature remains moderate, allowing one to enjoy the open lakeside.
Distance from Mauritius city centre: Grand Bassin is located approximately 35 kilometers away from Mauritius City Centre. It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive between the two places.
History of Grand Bassin
Grand Bassin Lake was discovered by the Hindu priest Pandit Jhummon Giri Gossagne Nepal, who lived in the northern part of the island of Triolet, in 1897. The priest had a prophetic dream which told him about a sacred lake that was connected to the Indian Ganges. The priest scoured the country in search of the lake and finally identified Grand Bassin to be the lake from his dreams. News of the holy lake soon spread, and pilgrims from across the world started arriving at Grand Bassin to visit the site. Much later, in the year 1972, a Hindu priest from India brought holy water from the Ganges and poured it into the Grand Bassin Lake. From there on, the lake derived its nickname of Ganga Talao.
The religious history of the place however, cannot be fully grasped without taking a closer look into the socio-cultural background of Mauritius. During the colonial era, several underpaid Indian labourers were brought to Mauritius by the British colonial masters with the promise of a better quality of life. However, these same illusioned labourers found themselves inhabiting an island with harsh, unsustainable living conditions, and had to work twice as hard to eke out a bare minimum living. Under such circumstances, the workers turned to spiritualism and worship, and Ganga Talao became the center of their religious beliefs.
Cultural Importance of Grand Bassin
The Grand Bassin lake is considered to be sacred in the Hindu faith. According to popular belief, the water in the lake is said to have originated from the Indian river of Ganga. Moreover, adjacent to the lake stands erected a 33 meter tall statue of Lord Shiva. Grand Bassin is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus from across the world. In fact, it is the largest Hindu pilgrimage site that lies outside India.
The Maha Shivratri pilgrimage takes place every year between February and March. The pilgrimage takes place over 3 days and 3 nights. The pilgrims walk to the lake carrying mobile altars on their backs, which represent different deities. Once at the edge of the waters, the pilgrims perform their own private ceremony to the deities with incense, flowers and other offerings.
Hindu Gods and Giant statues at Grand Bassin
1. Mangal Mahadev: Standing tall by the entrance to the Grand Bassin is the Mangal Mahadev, a magnanimous statue of Lord Shiva. The statue is 33 meters tall, and portrays Shiva standing erect with his Trishula or trident in his hand. The statue is a replica of the Shiva Statue in Vadodara, Gujarat. It is the largest statue to be built in Mauritius. The building of the statue was completed in the year 2007, and the inauguration was held during the Maha Shivratri festival in 2008.
2. Maa Durga Murti: A comparatively newer addition to the banks of the Ganga Talao, the Maa Durga Murti is a 33 feet tall statue of Durga, the Indian Goddess of war. The bronze statue displays the deity standing erect before a golden lion. The magnanimous statue took 6 years to be completed, and was finally inaugurated in the year 2017.
3. Lord Ganesh statue: The Lord Ganesh statue is a comparatively smaller statue on the banks of the Ganga Talao. The statue portrays Lord Ganesha, the Elephant God, standing on a lotus by the edge of the lake water. The statue is situated beside the Ganesh Temple, which is one of the many temples on the Ganga Talao Premises.
4. Lord Hanuman Statue: The Lord Hanuman statue at Grand Bassin is seen standing on a floating platform towards the edge of the Grand Bassin Lake. The statue portrays Lord Hanuman carrying Mount Dronagiri in one hand, and his Gada in another. According to the Indian epic Ramayana, Lord Hanuman had carried the entire mountain on his hand just to deliver the medicinal herb Sanjivani to Lakshmana, who had been grievously injured in a battle against Ravana.
5. Lord Buddha Statue: The Lord Buddha statue is one of the many statues in Ganga Talao dedicated to a non-Hindu deity. The statue is built entirely of white stone, and portrays Lord Buddha sitting in a meditative position. It is much smaller compared to the other statues in its surroundings.
Traveler's Tips for visiting Grand Bassin
Being the largest Hindu pilgrimage site located outside India, Grand Bassin is an extremely popular attraction among tourists visiting Mauritius. Owing to its religious and cultural background,the Grand Bassin temple is visited by thousands everyday. Here are some important tips to keep in mind while visiting the Grand Bassin premises:
1. It is better to arrive at Grand Bassin in the earliest hours of the morning, around 8-9 AM, to avoid the crowds.
2. Make sure to open your shoes before entering any of the temples at Ganga Talao.
3. Female devotees should not touch the Shivling inside the Lingam Temple in Ganga Talao.
4. The temple premises are crowded with monkeys. Avoid carrying any trinkets in your hand while in the proximity of monkeys.
5. Carry change along for temple donations.
6. Parking space is available adjacent to the Grand Bassin premises.
7. The temple complex often becomes extremely chilly due to mist rising from the lake. Make sure you are wearing adequate clothing.
8. Do not feed the fishes and eels that live in the lake.