All  
Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple

Temple of Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar: Colorful Worship in Seychelles Paradise

Print

Seychelles is a tropical paradise famous for its beautiful beaches, clear warm waters, and spectacular scenery. The archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is best known as a holiday destination. While the island nation is not known for its architectural heritage, in recent years their only Hindu temple, the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar temple, has become famous and is often cited as one of the most beautiful in the world.

The History of Seychelles

The remote location meant that the area was not settled until well into the modern era. Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to sight and record the islands around 1501, although Arabic sailors are thought to have discovered them in the seventh century. Years later, French pirates visited the remote archipelago. The king of France claimed the islands in 1756 and it was administered from nearby Mauritius. The first settlers, 28 men, arrived on a ship in 1770.

French colonists settled the islands and established plantations that were worked by slaves. The islands were blockaded by the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and were eventually ceded to the British in 1814, although French culture remained deeply influential.

Plantation House of La Digue

Plantation House of La Digue. (Verch, M / CC BY 2.0 )

When the British outlawed slavery the island plantations went into decline. However, by the late 19th century the plantations were once again profitable, and the capital city, Victoria, began to prosper. The islands became independent in 1976 and Seychelles is now a democracy, after years of a one-party rule.

Hinduism in Seychelles

Many Indians began to emigrate to the islands during British colonial rule as indentured servants , and over time they formed a mercantile class along with other Asians. Because of emigration, this island nation is diverse, and Hindus make up about 2% of the population of just under 100,000 people. However, approximately 6% of the population is of Indian descent and the population has grown rapidly in recent years.

The Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple

The Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar temple is the most unique building in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, which is really only a small town. It is the only Hindu place of worship in Seychelles and it was built in 1992. The temple was named after Lord Vinayagar, who is often known as Ganesh or Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and the god of new beginnings. This is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu religion.

Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple

Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple. (So Seychelles /CC BY 2.0 )

The Vinayagar Temple is a smaller version of the great Hindu temples that are found in the south of India. The place of worship has an inner sanctum known as the garbha griha or ‘womb-chamber’, where a statue of the god Vinayagar is located in a small bare room. There is a small antechamber before the inner sanctum where worshippers congregate.

Devotees anoint the statue with milk and pray for blessings

Devotees anoint the statue with milk and pray for blessings. (Laurence, J/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The temple’s most striking feature is the spire, or shikhara, over the garbha griha and it is approximately 100 feet (30m) high. The temple has an outdoor space called a mandapam where the pavilion is used for ceremonial purposes. Many colorful figures of other Hindu deities have been set in niches in the tower-like structure. The temple is important to the community and is a pilgrimage center for the local Hindus.

The Many Spectacular Festivals of the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple

The Kovil Sangam festival was initially only a small celebration, but it has grown rapidly in recent years as the Hindu community in Victoria began celebrating the festival on a large scale in 1993, after the temple was completed.

A devotee of Lord Murugan

A devotee of Lord Murugan. (Laurence, J/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Another popular festival held here is the Taippoosam Kavadi Festival, which involves a chariot procession to and from the temple. These festivals are attended by Hindus and people of other faiths. They are so popular in fact that they are covered live on the national television network.

How to Get to Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple

Victoria is located on the main island of Mahé. The island is roughly 900 miles (1500 kilometers) from mainland Africa, and there are many flights to the nation’s airport. The Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is easy to find and there is plenty of accommodation nearby.

A great time to visit the temple is during one of the main Hindu festivals, which are spectacular and colorful occasions. However it is important to remember that although they are festive times, visitors need to be culturally sensitive and recognize that the temple is a place of worship.

Top Image:  Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple Source: LR Photographies / Adobe Stock

By Ed Whelan

References

Brown, R. L. (Ed.). (1991). Ganesh: studies of an Asian god. SUNY Press. Available at:  https://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=oF-Hqih3pBAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=ganesh+god+hindu&ots=nH77csLwMM&sig=wuZwJpG6gv__ciODXFDqZkjJMG0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=ganesh%20god%20hindu&f=false

Michell, G. (1988). The Hindu Temple: An introduction to its meaning and forms . University of Chicago Press. Available at: https://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ajgImLs62gwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA4&dq=architecture+of+hindu+temple&ots=DeDcecqCZN&sig=r1AL74Nytw5pHKoxqkmEj26cdYc&redir_esc=y

Brown, R. L. (Ed.). (1991). Ganesh: studies of an Asian god. SUNY Press. Available at:  https://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=oF-Hqih3pBAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=ganesh+god+hindu&ots=nH77csLwMM&sig=wuZwJpG6gv__ciODXFDqZkjJMG0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=ganesh%20god%20hindu&f=false

Nwulia, M. D. (1981). The history of slavery in Mauritius and Seychelles, 1810-1875 (pp. 18-19). Fairleigh Dickenson University Press. Available at: http://reviewille.info/the-history-of-slavery-in-mauritius-and-the-seychelles-1810-1875-pdf-file-moses-d-e-nwulia-download.pdf

Next article