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Title: A critical evaluation of the religious festival and pilgrimage of Maha Shivaratri in Mauritius : the religious experiences of local Hindu participants, the authenticity of the religious experiences and the perceived potential impacts of any future commoditisation on those experiences
Author: Bheekee, Yuvraj Vikramsingh
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 8663
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2019
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This study focuses on the annual, and century-old, religious festival and pilgrimage of Maha Shivaratri (Festival) in Mauritius. The Festival, consisting of a pilgrimage to a sacred site, is celebrated by those of the Hindu faith in reverence to Lord Shiva. This research critically evaluated the nature of the religious experiences offered by the Festival to the local Hindu participants, the perceived authenticity of the religious experiences and the perceived impacts on these religious experiences resulting from any future commoditisation of the Festival and its site. The research focused on three sets of stakeholders: the Mauritius Religious Authorities (RA) who have religious and/or cultural inputs into the Festival, the 'Public Sector' organisations (PS) involved in the implementation of current and future tourism policies relating to the Festival and the Mauritian Hindu residents who had participated in the Festival. The overall research was guided by two conceptual frameworks for the data collection and analysis. The first framework was developed from a critical literature review identifying key factors that required investigation. These included such considerations as commoditisation, religion, religious experiences and authenticity of religious experiences. The second framework provided the theoretical underpinning for the study of religious experiences (core religious experiences, actual Festival product and augmented nature of the religious experiences) offered by the Festival, based on Levitt's (1981) model and Kotler's (1994) conceptualisation of the product levels. The adoption of a theoretical framework from marketing is one of the main contributions of this study. An overall sequential mixed methods approach was adopted in this study. Initially, there was a small-scale exploratory set of interviews with Mauritians in the United Kingdom. This was followed by concurrent qualitative and quantitative research in Mauritius. The qualitative research consisted of interviews with eight representatives of the RAs and three representatives of the PS. These informants, answering on behalf of their organisation, provided deep insights into the encouragement of tourists and the perceived possible outcomes on the authenticity of the religious experiences. For the quantitative research, a self-completed questionnaire, using the drop and collect method, was employed. The questionnaire covered the behaviours, attitudes and characteristics of the Mauritian Hindu residents who had attended the Festival in the past. A total of 412 usable questionnaires form the basis of the analyses in the study. The adoption of a mixed methods approach in this study is another academic contribution of this Thesis. The findings revealed that the core religious experiences are made up of 'closeness and connectedness to God', 'self-purification', 'self-transformation' and 'self-actualisation'. In regard to the authenticity of the religious experiences, the research identified that there were 'authentic' religious experiences, 'authentic' physical experiences and 'authentic' social experiences which, if lost, would have significant detrimental impacts on the participants' religious experiences. The RAs, PS and local Hindu residents were not against the idea of encouraging more tourists to attend the Festival. However, there was concern that tourists would not adhere to certain behaviours, as would a Hindu participant, and in so doing would undermine the religious nature and the authenticity of the Festival. Overall, the findings have implications for both the RAs and the PS. Recommendations were provided as to how the current religious offerings could be bolstered and how the goals of commoditisation could be met while protecting the authenticity of the religious experiences.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available