19
Sep
09

Mahalaya


With Durga Puja around the corner, Calcutta is getting all geared up for the 4 days of festivity. Yesterday happened to be Mahalaya, which is observed seven days before the Pujas. The dark fortnight of Aswayuja is known as the Mahalaya Paksha or the fortnight specially sacred for offering oblations to the departed ancestors. Durga – goddess of deliverance – comes to earth on the seventh day after the autumn new moon.

From this day starts ‘Devipaksha’ and marks the end of ‘Pitri-paksha’. It is the day when many throng to the banks of river Ganga, clad in dhotis to offer prayers to their dead relatives and forefathers. People in the pre-dawn hours pray for their demised relatives and take holy dips in the Ganges. This ritual is known as ‘Torpon’. This day bears immense significance for the Bengalis. It is according to the myths that Sree Rama hastily performed Durga Puja just before he set for Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana.

One more thing which is very closely related to this day is the early morning programme broadcasted over the radio ‘Akashvani’. In the year 1930, Mahalaya was first broadcasted over the radio in Akashvani. The programme was organised by Premankur Aatorthi, Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Nripendra Krishna Mukhopadhya and Raichand Boral. It was broadcasted live then. Later it was recorded and played. It is a practice in almost all Bengali homes to listen to this programme. Strangely, although many popular cine stars had tried to recite the same Shlokas and even television channels have attempted at it, even till date it is the original version which almost every Bengali home would be tuning into in the pre-dawn hours of Mahalaya.

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