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Yours Mauritiusly: Bénarès sugar estate

Photo by Bob Momplé

Bénarès situated in the Savannah district, was one of the oldest sugar mills and distillery in Mauritius. Established during the French rule, it has witnessed centuries of changes in the area. Once, Savanna was one of the richest indigenous forest in Mauritius, that then developed into a simmering sugar plantation estate.

Savannah described in Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s ‘Voyage à l’île de France’ (Ile de France is the name given to the island by the French) as “the most beautiful part of the island,” which coincidentally also happens to be one of the most concrete and early forms of travel writing

Photo by Bob Momplé

Interestingly, the name Bénarès did not come from the indentured labourers who were brought on the island by the British Empire after the French occupation but was actually a name inherited from the French themselves. The name was probably inspired by a bustling city in India also called Banaras, which was a melting pot for trade and commerce at that time.

The estate also compromised of a mansion known as ‘le Château de Benares’ which has ceased to exist.

Unfortunately, there is not much left of Bénarès today, a village that seems frozen in time.

Photo by Bob Momplé

A few years ago, I visited the estate which has turned into a ghost town. There are few remnants of its once prominent place in Mauritius’ sugar-making industry. Tourists looking for a quiet connection with Mauritius’ sugar plantation past can still visit the ruins to get a whiff of its revolutionary past and further down the path a true picture of the unblemished beauty of Mauritian beaches, fortunately untouched by the humankind.

Bird's eye view by Reuben Pillay

Hopefully more is done to preserve the little left of this historic landmark for the benefits of locals and tourists.

Yours Mauritiusly,

FH 10/02/2021


Toussaint, August, ‘Le Domaine de Benares et les debuts du sucre a l’île Maurice’ (1967)

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