Image Source: Mahalaya 2019: Significance, timing, wishes, where to hear Mahisasura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra 

As Durga Puja is round the corner, the City of Joy, Kolkata, and all other places where people celebrate, are gearing up for the festival with great splendour and grandeur, glitz, and glamour! The deities that are gorgeously displayed by the organisers in the pandals are given shape in a district called Kumortuli. Kumortuli is popularly known as the artisans’ district of Kolkata. It is here that the idols come alive. It is here that the idols bloom and grow to their fullest form. It is here that the spirit of Durga Puja is born.

The festivities of Durga Puja officially begin on the auspicious day of Mahalaya. Mahalaya Amavasya is the day on which all Hindus remember their ancestors fondly and pay homage to them by offering tarpan. Tarpan is essentially an offering to divine entities that are performed by individuals to express gratitude to their ancestors by chanting mantras. It is guided by a priest. Hindus make offerings at water bodies, generally rivers, to recollect the memories of their forebears and to pray for the peace of their departed souls. they  seek the blessings of those who have departed to the higher, immortal world.

Mahalaya Amavasya, also known as Sarvapitra Amavasya, is essentially the final day of Pitru Paksha. On this auspicious day, it is believed that Goddess Durga arrives on Earth to mark the commencement of the celebrations. On this day, Maa Durga begins her journey into the mortal world. On this day, the people of West Bengal welcome the divine deity, Devi Durga, by listening to Mahishasuramardini before the Sun rises. This is a long-standing tradition that has truly withstood the ravages of time, bringing together both the young and the old who listen with equal delight.

According to archaic Hindu folklore, Devi Durga was created by the various Gods with their divine powers to assassinate a powerful demon called Mahishasura. Maa Durga awakens and enlivens on Mahalaya which is a no moon day. Even the Gods are said to be sleeping till Mahalaya dawns. It is a day when even the ancestors awaken to bestow their blessings on their descendants on Earth.

It is believed that when Lord Vishnu entered Anant Asana (the reclining, couch position of Lord Vishnu), two demons namely Madhu and Kaitabha appeared from Lord Vishnu’s ears and attempted to kill Lord Brahma, who was residing in Lord Vishnu’s navel. Lord Brahma then began praising Lord Vishnu’s eyesight to wake him up. Consequently, Lord Vishnu woke up and battled with Madhu and Kaitabha for nearly five thousand years! This mighty battle took place at the junction of Pitru Paksha and Devi Paksha.

As per the Puranas, on Lord Brahma’s commands, the forebears come down to the mortal world to meet and greet their descendants on the auspicious occasion of Mahalaya. It is said that if people have anything to offer to their ancestors, even repentance, it easily reaches them on Mahalaya. It is often mistaken that Devi Paksha begins from the day of Mahalaya however Maa Durga only enters the mortal world on that day. Devi Paksha starts from the following day. 

Thus, besides the excitement and enthusiasm that comes along with Mahalaya, it is important for people to educate themselves about the true meaning of the day. As the fervour of Durga Puja and Navaratri begins to infect our minds and beings, let us all remember the mythological significance of why all that occurs, occurs! Wishing all a happy and prosperous Sharada Utsav!

-Reneeka Chatterjee

         FY BSc. Economics (2022-2025)

Image Source: Getty Images 

Image Source: Dhakis playing dhak at a Durga Puja venue – Kids Portal For Parents

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