There is no official religion in the country in order to show tolerance and respect for the wide religious diversity. Indeed, the Constitution of Mauritius guarantees religious freedom. Just under half of the population (48.5%) identify as Hindu. Nearly one-third of the country (26.3%) identify as Roman Catholic while 17.3% identify as Muslim. Of the remaining population, 6.4% identify with some other branch of Christianity, 0.6% identify with some other religion (such as Buddhist), 0.7% identify with no religion, and 0.1% did not specify their religious affiliation.
Tolerance and Syncretism
One feature often identified in Mauritian society is the high degree of religious tolerance and acceptance. Indeed, Mauritians will often share in the observances of religious groups other than their own. This can lead to the of religious practices. For example, many Creoles practice two religions at a time, mixing religions and cultures from other groups.
Another example of Mauritian society’s embrace of religious diversity is the acknowledgement and celebration of religious holidays. As seen in the Dates of Significance section, many national holidays relate to religious events. People from differing religions will come together to participate in each other's celebrations.
Hinduism in Mauritius
Hinduism was brought to Mauritius by Indians who worked as indentured labourers on sugar fields owned by European settlers. Today, Hinduism is the most followed religion in Mauritius, with just under half the population identifying with it. Most Mauritians who practise Hinduism are a part of the Indian and Tamil communities in the country. Hindu temples, artwork and statues can be seen throughout the country.
Hinduism can be interpreted diversely. Pinpointing what constitutes Hinduism is difficult, with some contending that the religion is rather an umbrella term that encompasses various religions and traditions within it. Although there are two main sects of Hinduism in Mauritius (Sanatani and Arya Samaj), Mauritian Hindus share common beliefs, such as the cycle of rebirth and ‘karma’ (‘action’).
Catholicism in Mauritius
Christianity was first brought to the island by Dutch explorers and subsequently revitalised by French colonialists. It was initially required for all incoming slaves from Africa to be baptised as Catholic. Although this was not strictly adhered to, it has left a legacy whereby many Catholics today are Franco-Mauritian or Creoles.
As a branch of Christianity, Catholicism believes in the doctrine of God as the ‘Holy Trinity', consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Like most Catholics, Catholic Mauritians generally accept the authority of the priesthood and the Roman Catholic Church, which is led by the Pope. Catholic churches can be found throughout the islands and their styles of liturgy vary. For example, churches with mostly Franco-Mauritian attendants will celebrate Mass (church services) in French.
Islam in Mauritius
Like Hinduism, Islam was brought to Mauritius by Indian indentured labourers. Wealthy merchants from the Indian sub-continent also brought Islam to the country. The vast majority of the Mauritian Muslim population practise the Sunni of Islam. While most generally speak Hindi (the primary language of India) and Kreol, some Mauritian Muslims speak other Indian languages such as Bhojpuri, Gujarati or Urdu.
In Mauritius, everyday expressions of the Islamic religion tend to be through dress, dietary codes, regular prayer and frequent references to Allah’s (God’s) will or blessing. Additionally, mosques can be seen throughout the country, particularly smaller ones in towns and villages.
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