The word Mahalaya enthralls the Bengali community. On this day they wait to enjoy the magical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra narrating the Chandi path (reading the Hindu religious text telling the story of Goddess Durga). This one and a half hour of audio montage is broadcasted on the radio every year on this day since 1931.
The programme has also been translated into Hindi for panIndian audiences. However in our generation not all can manage to wake up as early as four but they do catch the television shows, a bit later in the morning, showing the story of how Goddess Durga annihilates the demonic Mahisasur and good overrides the evil. Mahisasura performed a severe penance to draw the attention of Lord Brahma.
The Lord was pleased with his dedication and appeared before him, asking him to make a wish. To that Mahisasura humbly asked for the boon of immortality, whereby he could become all powerful and not be killed by any beast, man and even God but will be killed only by a woman. No sooner was he granted the wish than he occupied heaven from the Gods who were frightened of the helpless situation. They immediately sought help from Lord Brahma.
The holy trinity of lord Vishnu, Brahma and Maheshwar emanated energy from themselves to create a new entity. All the gods contributed their individual powers and weapons to it and thus Goddess Durga was formed to destroy Mahisasur.
Mahalaya heralds the countdown for Durga Puja. There are various devotional folklores, the most famous being Jago tumi jago. During a time when certain traditions are slipping out of our hands due to westernisation, the festive spirit associated with Durga Puja and the auspicious occasion of Mahalaya still stands strong among Bengalis.
(Manjush Halder, Coordinator, Class VIII, Bongaon High School Sujata Chatterjee, Coordinator, Class XI, St Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar W)
Awaiting Her arrival
Mahalaya is the day that calls for a huge festive season when not only thousands of devotees and revellers but also Nature turns brighter awaiting the arrival of the divine Goddess – Devi Durga. According to the Vedas,this is the day when the Goddess was created by the Gods not only to annihilate Mahisasur but also to eradicate evil powers from earth. She is depicted as the epitome of strength and power reiterating the age old truth that good triumphs over evil, and Mahalaya marks the auspicious beginning of this moral war.
Mahalaya begins with a feeling of peace as one wakes up at the crack of dawn listening to the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra narrating the slokasand the mythological story of Mahishasur Mardhini,the one who triumphs over evil. On this day I have seen my grandfather offering prayers to our ancestors, who are believed to come in guise of crows. These offerings are then immersed in the holy Ganges. Above everything, this special day brings along the feeling of joy, the excitements and anticipations that we bear for one whole year is just a week away. T
his Mahalaya let’s experience this magical feeling and let the spirituality of the festival bestow our minds and hearts with warmth and bliss.
(Sayan Chandra, Coordinator, Class XII, St Thomas Boys School, Khidderpore)
Invoking the divine power
For the Bengalis, Puja is something that goes beyond worship and is a way for a gala celebration and festivity that heralds the arrival of the supreme power-Devi Durga. As soon as autumn arrives, it infuses all with the festive fervour of Durga Puja.
It begins with Mahalaya, which signifies the end of Pitri paksha (16 lunar day period in Hindu calendar) and the beginning of the Devi paksha (an auspicious time). It is said that Lord Rama performed Durga Puja on this day before heading for Lanka to rescue his wife Sita. Durga Puja being a sacred occasion, a lot of rituals defines it.
A week before, on Mahalaya, Tarpan (offerings made to forefathers) is performed on the banks of the sacred Ganges in the remembrance of our forefathers. It is a way of invoking the divine power to descend amidst us and bless us. The holy chanting of mantras and devotional songs make us feel spirited as it marks the arrival of the Pujas. During Mahalaya, Bengalis relate to the story of how the Hindu mythological demon Mahishasur, blessed with immortality, grew cruel and torturous and tried to seize the heavens from gods. To put an end to this, Lord Bramha, Vishnu and Maheshwar, the Holy Trinity, with each of their powers, created the feminine form Mahamaya. Blessed with different powers from all Gods, Mahamaya rode a lion and engaged in fierce combat with Mahisasura, finally slaying him with her trident.
Heaven and earth rejoiced at her victory. Mahalaya is even more special to us by the sole contribution of the legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra, whose impactful narration of Mahisasuramardini is irreplaceable. Almost the entire Bengal wakes up at the crack of dawn to the sound of his ethereal voice on this day.
This universal custom has carried on for almost six decades now and remains undoubtedly as an integral part of Durga Puja. The kash flowers and the cotton clouds bring about the feeling of puja. The beats of the dhak (drums), donning new apparels and accessories are all that fills up this festival. (Adrija Dutta, Coordinator, Class XI, St Joseph & Mary’s School)
Revering our forefathers
Devipaskha is the time when Goddess Durga is invoked on earth and is worshipped. Mahalaya falls on the day of the new moon of Aswin (SeptemberOctober). Hindus believe in the power of souls or spirits that never dies but only shifts from one body to another.
During Pitripaskha,all these souls are known to descend on earth during this auspicious time.The eldest member, usually men of most Bengali households, pays obeisance to them by taking a holy dip in the sacred river Ganges. With the holy offerings we pay respect not only to the spirits of our forefathers, but also to those souls unknown to us.
This ritual takes us back to our roots. We must strive to keep this meaningful tradition alive and for the years to come.
(Annesha Chatterjee, Coordinator, Class XI, Kalyani University Experimental High School, Kalyani, Nadia)