Shubho Mahalaya! Countdown for Durga Puja begins
Shubho Mahalaya! Today, almost every Bengali wakes up at 4 am in the morning, tunes into the radio to listen to the recital of Mahisasura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra to mark the beginning of the much-awaited festival - Durga Pujo.
Mahalaya is celebrated at the end of Shradh or Pitru Paksha, a 16-day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors. This year was observed today.
It is believed that goddess Durga descended the Earth on Mahalaya which is celebrated by the Bengalis across the globe with much fervour and zeal. It is believed that mantras called 'Mahisasura Mardini' invoke the Goddess; the most famous one being 'Jago Tumi Jago.'
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 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.
It is from this day that the Durga Puja fever begins. Durga Puja starts from the seventh day after Mahalaya and ends on the tenth day of Dashami or Dussehra.