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The Significance of Mahalaya

Mahalaya marks the beginning of the Devi-Paksha (the worshipping of Cosmic energy) and the end of the Pitri-Paksha

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Niloy Chattaraj
Niloy Chattaraj
COO of Transcontinental Times, A double gold medalist engineer who covers social issues, science, and Indian history.

INDIA: India has officially entered the festive season, with just days to go for Navratri and Durga Puja celebrations that are dedicated to Goddess Durga and her avatars. Mahalaya marks the beginning of the Devi-Paksha (the worshipping of Cosmic energy) and the end of the Pitri-Paksha (the Shradh or mourning period for ancestors). 

It is a joyous occasion for Bengalis across the globe. Mahalaya occurs seven days before Durga Puja. 

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While there are numerous folklore associations with the event, the most well-known is Mahalaya being a sort of invitation to the mother goddess to begin her journey from Mount Kailash to her paternal home (earth) with her children and Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of opulence and happiness) and Goddess Saraswati (the Goddess of knowledge). This invitation is initiated through mantra chanting and devotional songs such as “Jago Tumi Jago” and “Bajlo Tomar Alor Benu”.


Mahalaya marks the beginning of Devi Paksha and the end of Pitri Paksha, the latter of which is a mourning period for Hindus. Pitri Paksha is considered unlucky by Hindus because shradhh, or rites to departed souls, are performed during this time. It is a 2-week lunar period during which people remember and honour their ancestors by making food and water offerings to them. 

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Tarpan. Photo Credit: Twitter

It is considered the must-to-do for the elders at homes who perform the ritual of Tarpan (offering to souls). Men clad in dhotis go to the banks of the river Ganga or any local river, offer prayers to their deceased forefathers, and perform pind-daan. 

Mahalaya on radio

Mahalaya was the first broadcast on radio in the 1930s. Later, it was recorded and played in Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s voice during the day. In his distinct style, the legendary narrator recites holy verses and tells the story of Durga’s descent to earth. It is a one and half-an-hour audio montage of Chandipath (invocation of Cosmic energy) that has the recitation from scriptural lines of Durga Saptashati (the code-book to invoke Cosmic energy). 

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Birendra Krishna. Photo Credit: Twitter

It includes Bengali devotional melodies, and classical music, with a splash of acoustic melodrama. The show has been translated into Hindi and is being broadcast simultaneously to a pan-Indian audience. 

Since 1966 the show started as a live orchestra and has been broadcasting in its pre-recorded version. However, its enduring appeal sustains even today, more than 90 years later.

Also Read: Kolkata Set to Welcome Goddess Durga in ‘Vatican City’-themed Pandal


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