October 12, 2015

Click here to listen to the entire original audio drama, Mahisasuramardini, by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and his team, on M3 FM

Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It's a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth and destroy all evil. The plea or prayer to the goddess begins with a fervent rendition of ’Jago, Tumi Jago.’ It is also a season of spring cleaning – removing all that is unwanted and ushering in the new, the good into our homes and lives.


For most Bengalis, Mahalaya is as much a religious occasion as a day of listening to the early morning broadcast of ‘Mahisasuramardini’ on All India Radio, Kolkata.

‘Mahisasuramardini’ is a remarkable piece of audio drama matchless in Indian culture. It is a great unifying factor not only with those away from home but also between generations. This timeless creation has narration by Birendra Krishna Bhadra (of the script by Bani Kumar) and musical composition by Pankaj Kumar Mullick. It is perhaps the most successful audio drama ever created.

The devotional songs, to which renowned playback singers like Dwijen Mukherjee, Aarti Mukherjee and Hemanta Mukherjee lent their voices, are immortal and make the story being narrated more captivating.

The theme is mythical and narrates how the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or 'Mahamaya', who embodies the primeval source of all power – to defeat the evil power, represented by the ‘Asura’ king (demon king), Mahisasura.

The gods bestow upon their supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess rides a lion to battle with Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the 'Durgatinashini' slays the 'Asura' king with her trident. Heaven and Earth rejoice on her victory.

 The narration of ‘Mahisasuramardini’ ends with the refrain of mankind's supplication before this supreme power:

Ya devi sarvabhuteshshu, shakti rupena sanksthita
Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha

The defeat gives strength to the mortals on Earth to believe that good always triumphs.


Religious symbolism

As per religious connotations, Mahalaya marks the beginning of the period of Devi Paksha, the annual six-day journey of Durga and her four children to Earth. The season is Sarat, as it is called in Bengali, which is synonymous with kaash flowers and with tufts of clouds on a clear blue sky.

The day of Mahalaya is when officially the countdown to Durga Puja begins.

Mahalaya is also a day of remembrance. On this day, people offer tarpan (a kind of worshipping) in memory of their deceased forefathers. The term ‘til tarpan’ is derived from the fact that black til or sesame seeds are used along with water as the offering. The banks of many a river and lake fill up with people offering ‘til tarpan’.


The countdown begins

So the day is entwined in tradition, mythology and remembrance. Many head to visit their relatives carrying sweets and new clothes. People do not miss this opportunity to greet friends and relatives, ushering in a season of joy, peace and harmony.


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