Dressing up to the nines, going crazy over delicious mouth-watering Bengali food and dancing to the beats of traditional Dhak, Durga Puja is here you guys! It is the favourite time of the year for Bongs across the world. Bengalis plan their leaves according to Durga Puja and go berserk this time around the year. Even though the real festival begins from the 6th day of Durga Puja which is called “Shashti”, it all begins from Mahalaya – the first day of Durga Puja. This year, Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya on September 19 will end on September 30.
The serene autumn air, workers across the country building up pandals on different themes and the recital of Birendra Krishna Bhadra at 4 am reminds us of the sparkling spirit of Mahalaya. It reminds us that Durga Maa is on her way.
Here’s why Mahalaya is celebrated:
1. Mahalaya marks the homecoming of goddess Durga along with her children to her paternal family.
Every Bengali who has grown up celebrating Durga Puja is familiar to waking up at dawn listening to magical chants of ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ on the radio. In the early 1930s, ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ was broadcast as a live program on All India Radio and was recited by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. Bhadra in his powerful voice narrated the soulful advent of Maa Durga and the destruction of demon Mahishasur.
2. Mahalaya also marks the beginning of ‘Devi Paksha’
It is believed that the gods and goddess awake on this day to prepare for Durga Puja. It also indicates the end of a Pitru Paksha period
3. Goddess Durga has begun her journey from Kailash to earth with her children.
Mahalaya is believed to be the day when Maa Durga descends on earth on her Vahaan along with her children. It is believed that every year Durga chooses a different vahaan that depicts a special message for the world.
This year the goddess is believed to be arriving on an elephant indicating prosperity and good harvest season.
4. Lord Rama offered prayers to Durga before rescuing Sita
Legend has it that it was on this day that Lord Rama offered his prayers to goddess Durga before he set off to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana.
5. It marks the end of Pitri Paksha
Another legend has it that Karna used to donate gold and silver to the poor in the name of the ancestors. So when he did go to heaven, Indra gave him gold to eat and said that he never offered food to the poor. He was then allowed to return back to the earn for 15 days and offer food as a homage to his ancestors. The period is known as Pitri Paksha and is also believed to be the reason behind the ritual. Durga Puja marks the ends end of Pitri Paksha.
6. Mahalaya is celebrated to call on to saviour Durga Maa and celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
A tyrant name Mahishasura was blessed with the boon of immortality and power by Lord Brahma. He could not be even be killed by a god. Misusing his power, he created a havoc on earth. Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu came together to bring forth the supreme being with invincible power and mighty weapons- Goddess Durga. Maa Durga set off to destroy Mahisasur. Smitten by Maa Durga’s beauty, Mahisasur asked the goddess to marry him. Durga maa challenged him to fight her and asserted that she would marry him if could beat her. Durga Maa killed Mahisasur in a battle that went on for nine days.
Subho Mahalaya, everyone!
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