Mahalaya Date 2016
Friday 30 September 2016
Mahalaya (মহালযা) is the day when countdown to Durga Puja begins- six days before the grand Mahashasthi when Goddess Durga is awakened to the five days extravagant worshipping and festivities! Mahalaya is an auspicious day which marks ‘Agomoni’- the advent of Durga. Durga Agomoni can be understood as a kind of invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth through Mahalaya songs that fill the predawn hours of the day. Everyone in Bengali homes seem to invite their dear Maa Durga by reciting such songs as “Jago Tumi Jago” (O Mother! Please be awaken!). The whole atmosphere becomes holy and serene due to chanting of mantras and echoeing devotional songs everywhere.
When is Mahalaya Celebrated?
Mahalaya is celebrated on the last day of ‘Pitrupaksha’ (the fortnight dedicated to pay homage to ancestors) which also marks the beginning of ‘Devipaksha’ (the fortnight of Devi or Goddess Durga). Mahalaya falls on Amavasya or the new moon day of Ashwin month which corresponds with the English months of September/ October.
Mahalaya 2016 Date– This year, Mahalaya falls on 30 September 2016
How is Mahalaya Celebrated? – The Rituals
As Mahalaya marks the end of ‘Pitri Paksha’ – the fortnight of forefathers – many people, clad in dhotis, gather at the banks of river Ganga in the pre dawn hours to offer prayers to their dead relatives and forefathers by taking holy dip in the sacred water. This ritual is known as ‘Tarpan’ (তর্পন). After performing these rituals, people break fast and also distribute sweets, foods and clothes for charity in the memory of their deceased ancestors.
As Mahalaya also marks the beginning of Devipaksha, Chandi path ( চন্ডী পাঠ – recitation of hymns dedicated to Goddess Durga) is done in temples and at homes. This represents the formal invitation to Goddess Durga to descend on the earth and begin the festive season. Nowadays, one can listen to Mahalaya MP3, see videos or CD and DVDs being played in Bengali households. Everyone wishes ‘Shubho Mahalaya’ (শুভ মহালযা) to each other.
Origin of Mahalaya
It is said that Sharadiya Durga Puja or the one celebrated in Autumn is not the original Durga Puja. Originally, Basanti Durga Puja or the one celebrated in Spring season was the only worship of the Goddess that was performed by all. It was Lord Rama who started the tradition of worshipping Durga untimely in Autumn to seek her blessings when he went to fight with the demon king Ravana. Since then, this untimely worship has become the main Durga Puja celebrated by most of the people. It is believed that all the Gods and Goddesses wake up from their rest on this day of Mahalaya to offer prayers to the savior Goddess Durga. It is only on Mahalaya day that Devi Durga commences her journey to earth from heaven accompanied by her family of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
Mahalaya and Mahishasura Mardini
Mahisasura Mardini (মহিশাসুর মর্দিনী) is the story on how the Gods Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara (Shiva) created the all powerful form of woman with ten hands- the Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’- to conquer the demon king Mahishasura and how Maa Durga slayed Mahishasura to become ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ (the Annihilator of Mahishasura). Apart from reciting the sacred strota and Chandi path on Mahalaya, this legend of Mahishasura Mardini is also heard by the followers of the Goddess. While listening to this, they pray to her to save all good souls from the bad ones and to grant power to fight off the evil.
Not only this story of Mahishasura Mardini is significant but the interesting history of a radio programme named “Mahisasura Mardini” is also very important as it almost changed the way Mahalaya is celebrated by Bengalis all over India. It was in early 1930s when the All India Radio (AIR) started broadcasting an audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of “Chandi Kavya”, Bengali devotional songs, and classical music with a hint of acoustic melodrama in the pre-dawn hours (4 am) of Mahalaya day.
It was not lesser than a miracle as to how Bengalis and even other people from all over India associated themselves with this radio programme. Even in chilly pre dawn hours, all the people in Bengali homes- from children to aged family members- wake up at this odd hour to listen to this programme of about 2 hours. This radio programme had almost become synonymous with Mahalaya till the advent of Mahishasura Mardini audio cassettes, CDs, DVDs and Mahalaya MP3. Now, people need not wake up at 4 AM in the morning and they can listen to these Mahalaya songs at any time of the day.
Mahalaya of Birendra Krishna Bhadra
The landmark radio programme ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ became so significant and inseparable part of Mahalaya not only because of the faith of the devotees of Maa Durga but also because of the magical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the narrator of this remarkable audio drama scripted by Bani Kumar and composed by Pankaj Mullick. Since then, many versions of Mahishasura Mardini have hit the market featuring various artists but the magic of Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s voice deny to die. Every Bengali finds solace in his voice while quietly listening to ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ and praying to their Goddess on Mahalaya.