Click here to listen to the entire original audio drama, Mahisasuramardini, by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and his team, on M3 FM.
Mahalaya is the auspicious day celebrated a week before Durga Puja, that heralds the advent of Devi Durga, the goddess of supreme power. Through prayers and devotional songs, Devi Durga is invoked to begin her journey to 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.
Nostalgia of Mahisasuramardini
The day begins in the wee hours of the morning with broadcast of Mahisasuramardini on All India Radio, Kolkata. This has become synonymous with Mahalaya.
Mahisasuramardini is a great unifying factor not only between those away from home but between generations. This timeless creation has narration by Birendra Krishna Bhadra 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. Her victory over evil gives strength to the mortals on the earth to believe that good always triumphs.
Chhau dancers from Purulia performing Mahisasuramardini Source: The Hindu
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 phul and with tufts of clouds on a clear blue sky.
The day of Mahalaya is when officially the countdown to Durga Puja begins. All preparations for the Puja are in their final stages, be it buying accessories or nailing in the finishing touches to the idols or pandals.
An important ritual on this day is that of the drawing of the eyes of the goddess Durga, which is a sight to behold as the artist starts putting colours on the clay. The rest of the painting of the idols follows this ritual.
Mahalaya is also a day of remembrance. On this day, people offer tarpan 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’. In Kolkata, places like Babughat and Jagannath Ghat on the banks of the Hoogly become a sea of humanity. Priests are seen busy performing tarpan for devotees in groups. The rituals start early at dawn and end around midday. Devotees and worshipers buy clothes and sweets to offer to their forefathers. Tarpan has to be performed on an empty stomach. After offering tarpan, people eat at the same place.
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.
A brief survey by Team M3.tv showed the following message as being very popular in the messaging circuit:
Pujor bansi bajche doore,
Ma aschen bochor ghure,
Siulir gandhe agomoni,
Kasher bone padodhwani,
Nil akashe Maa-ke khunjo,
Hashi khushi katuk pujo.
Lead image: Courtesy Anirban Saha