New Delhi: Mahalaya marks the beginning of the most awaited festival for Bengalis – the Durga Pooja. For Bengalis across the globe, the day normally starts at 4 am with the chanting of Mahisasura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. This year Mahalaya was observed today.
For Bengalis, nothing can beat the emotive appeal of Bhadra’s soulful rendition of Mahisasura Mardini. Generations after generations those observing Mahalaya have woken up to Bhadra, never ever even attempting to modify the ritual. The day holds varied values.
The occasion signifies the end of Pitru Paksha, and the beginning of Devi Paksha, which marks the advent of Goddess Durga in her battle against the evil. It is from this day that the Durga Pooja fever begins. Durga Pooja starts from the seventh day after Mahalaya, and ends on tenth day of Dashami or Dussehra.
The occasion is associated with different practices and rituals. Many people perform ‘tarpan’ on this day to offer prayers to the departed souls of their ancestors and give ‘bhog’ to the Brahmins, along with food and materials to the needy. The day is considered auspicious because Goddess Durga, accompanied by her children, is believed to have stepped on planet earth on this day.
The day, however, holds a different significance for the youth. For them, the start of Mahalaya begins with a tour to the picturesque lanes of the potters in Kumartuli in Kolkata, where the Goddess is given her eyes, in what is called as “Chokkhudaan”. “Chokkhudaan” takes place at the break of dawn on Mahalaya, where the potters paint the eyes of Durga. These lively lanes also attract the young crowd of photographers who capture the idols coming to the life, as they are given final touches on this auspicious day.
The banks of the rivers are also thronged by worshippers from dawn to perform the ritual of ‘tarpan’. The fervour and festivity surrounding Durga Pooja and Navaratri start with Mahalaya. Idols of Goddess Durga are transported to various pandals from this day, with the onset of the last round of preparation for the grand festival. Mahalaya brings with it a feeling of positivity, festivity and warmth ahead of the start of the most anticipated festival.