As the autumn sun turns a mellow yellow, fluffy clouds dots the sky and the white 'kashful' covers the ground, Bengalis wake up to the festivity of Durga Puja, the century-old rural festival, which has now gained global recognition. Although Bengalis across the globe already get into the festive mood, the actual celebration starts pretty much from today.
Yes! Mahalaya, which is being celebrated with much grandeur and zeal, marks the beginning of the 'Devi-paksha' after the end of the inauspicious Shraadhh period or 'Pitri-paksha'. This year Mahalaya falls on Monday, October 8.
Pitri Paksha also known as Pitru Paksha is a 16–lunar day period in Hindu calendar when three generations of ancestors are invited to a meal and an offering of rice cakes on the banks of the River Ganges. The offering is known as 'Tarpan' and Bengalis present it on a banana leaf for the salvation of their forefathers.
Mahalaya, which is observed seven days before Durga Puja, invites their beloved deity Maa Durga, who symbolises strength and happiness. Chanting Durga mantras and playing hymns like 'Bajlo Tomar Alor Benu, 'Durge Durge Durgatinashini, 'Jaago Tumi Jaago' make the Mahalaya experience much more special.
However, for Bengalis, Mahalaya cannot be complete without listening to the chants of 'Mahishasur Mardini' by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. They wake up early in the wee hours of the morning and tune in to a recorded version of Mahishasur Mardini.
Today, even after two decades of his demise, Bhadra's impeccable style of reciting Mahishasur Mardini continues to mesmerise All India Radio, giving scores of Bengalis present all over thrill and goosebumps. Mahisasura Mardini, which goes for around two long hours starting from 4 am, is broadcast on AIR since 1931.
Mahalaya Tithi for 2018:
However, this time, the Mahalaya tithi will start a litte late unlike every year. Since, Amavasya is starting around 11 am, people will not throng the Ganges for Tarpan early morning.
Mahalaya tarpan starting time: 10.49 am on Monday
Mahalaya tarpan end time: 9.08 am on Tuesday
What is Mahishasur Mardini (Annihilation of Demon)?
Mahishasur Mardini refers to Maa Durga's victory over the cruelty of the demon king Mahishasura against the Gods.
According to Indian mythology, 33 crore gods and goddesses, being unable to bear the cruelty of Mahishasura, urged Lord Vishnu to destroy the demon. Post that, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara (Shiva), the Trinity appeared in the form of Maa Durga and started their battle to defeat demon king Mahishasura. Mahishasura had received a boon that he could not be killed by any man or God which prompted the creation of goddess Durga.
Maa Durga was bestowed with various weapons borrowed from other gods, symbolically held in the 10 hands that are attached to the deity's body. The weapons were later used in her fight against Mahishasura.
Finally, the Goddess became successful in killing the demon on the 10th day, much to the delight and excitement to the world of goddess. Hence, the tenth day of Navratri is being celebrated as Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera all over India.
Dusshera signifies the victory of good over the evil power of Mahishasura. The day also celebrates the historic victory of Lord Ram over the evil King Ravana. Effigies of the latter are also burnt as a symbol of the victory of good in some parts of the country.
Durga Puja is considered to be the biggest festival of the Bengalis. The cities all over West Bengal, especially Kolkata houses some of the most beautiful pandals and idols and dazzle with lights during the celebration.
People from every walk of life forget their worries for these seven particular days and come forward to enjoy at their fullest. It won't be wrong to say that Bengalis eagerly wait for this festival throughout the year and with the Puja round the corner they stop discriminating among themselves and celebrate, eat, and roam together, looking their best in new and gorgeous attires.