What is the significance of Mahalaya?

Shubho Mahalaya ! The significance and celebration of the day .

Mahalaya (Bengali: মহালয়া) marks the beginning of Durga Puja festivities. Mahalaya is the day when the goddess Durga is believed to have descended to earth after having vanquished the evil demon Mahishasura. And to remind us of this victory, we have the auspicious day of ‘Mahalaya’. Not only does this annual event hold a religious and spiritual significance, it also reminds us of the power of truth, of courage and of the universal fact that in the end, good will always triumph over evil.

The day of Mahalaya marks the beginning of Devi Paksha and the end of the Pitri Paksha, the latter of which, is a period of mourning. Hindus consider Pitri Paksha to be inauspicious, because shradhh or death rites are performed during this period. It is a 16-day lunar period during which people remember and pay homage to their ancestors using food and water offerings.

While there are many stories and/or folklore associated with the day, largely, people believe that on this day, Goddess Durga officially begins her journey from Mount Kailash — where she resides with her husband Lord Shiva — to her maternal home on Earth. Bengalis celebrate it with much fervour and remark intermittently, about the festive autumn weather and the ‘pujo-pujo‘ feel.

It is believed Goddess Durga undertakes this week-long journey with her children — Ganesha, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati — on a vehicle of her choice. It could be a palanquin or a boat, an elephant or a horse. This year she is coming on a swing and departing on a elephant.

Mahalay is also that time of the year, when the heart-piercing and oh-so-familiar strains of ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ emanates from every Bengali house across India and, possibly, the world.

Mahalaya is celebrated roughly seven days before Durga Puja. Every Bengali household wakes up early in the morning — even before the sun — to customarily listen to a collection of songs and mantras called ‘Mahishasura Mardini’, in the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. It is that time of the year, when the heart-piercing and oh-so-familiar strains of ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ emanates from every Bengali house across India and, possibly, the world.

 These mantras invoke the Goddess; the most famous one being Jago Tumi Jago (meaning, ‘awaken, oh Goddess!’)

Full Chandipath | চণ্ডীপাঠ | Birendra Krishna Bhadra |
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 Eight decades after it was first recorded, there is still no comparison with the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra that still rules the heart of every Bengali. Mahishasura Mardini, the famous 90-minute musical piece was first composed in 1931 under the direction of Pankaj Kumar Mullick. The script by Bani Kumar is a combination of a narration, hymns and Bengali devotional songs on the creation of goddess Durga to kill the demon king Mahishasura. For several years, Mahishasura Mardini was played live with well-known artistes.I t was only recorded in 1966, after which the recorded version was played everywhere.

All India Radio, Kolkata, has tried several times with different voices, but none of it managed to create the magic woven by Bhadra. The legend left us the legacy of his unmatched, haunting voice that continues to mark the beginning of Pujo in Bengali households on the day of Mahalaya. 

Mahalaya is celebrated roughly seven days before Durga Puja. Every Bengali household wakes up early in the morning — even before the sun — to customarily listen to a collection of songs and mantras called ‘Mahishasura Mardini’, in the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. These mantras invoke the Goddess; the most famous one being Jago Tumi Jago (meaning, ‘awaken, oh Goddess!’)

Some Hindu households also perform the ritual of pitritarpan on this day, wherein they offer prayers to the deceased in the form of ‘pind-daan‘ on the banks of River Ganga or a temple.

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