Mahalaya 2021: Mahalaya marks the end of Pitripaksha, ‘the fortnight of the forefathers’ — a 16-day period when Hindus pay homage to ancestors. In West Bengal and some other parts of India, Mahalaya is the beginning of the 10-day annual Durga Puja festival.
According to the Hindu lunar calendar, Mahalaya is observed on Amavasya, the last day of Krishnapaksha, the dark fortnight, in the month of Ashwin. It is believed that Goddess Durga descends on Earth, her ‘paternal home’, on this day every year.
The month of Sharad begins the next day, along with Devipaksha, heralding the ten-day ‘Sharadotsav’.
This year, Mahalaya is on October 6 and Durga Puja will be celebrated from October 11-15.
It will be a bank holiday on October 6 in some states like West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura and Karnataka.
Mahalaya: The tradition
On Mahalaya, the last day of Pitripaksha, believers perform ‘tarpan’ — a ritual in which an offering is made to the ancestors. This is done after by a holy dip in the Ganga or other rivers and water bodies.
The end of Krishnapaksha marks the beginning of Shuklapaksha, the brighter fortnight. In the month of Sharad, this fortnight is celebrated as Devipaksha.
This is the day sculptors making Durga idols for different puja pandals start painting the eyes of the Goddess. In Bengal, where Durga Puja is the biggest festival, this ritual is known as ‘Chakkhudaan’. The Goddess is invoked after ‘Chakkhudaan’, with a prayer to “wake up” and open her eyes.
Mahalaya In Bengal And The Mahishasuramardini Rendition
Mahalaya holds a special significance in Bengal. Bengalis, including those living outside the state, wake up before dawn to welcome Durga as She comes ‘home’ with her children — Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh.
Listening to the Mahishasuramardini composition at the crack of dawn has also been one of the Durga Puja ‘rituals’ among Bengalis for 90 years now.
The composition combines a narration, Chandipaath and rendition of devotional songs describing the creation of Goddess Durga to kill the evil Mahishasur. Originally composed in 1931, the musical masterpiece is almost synonymous to Mahalaya for Bengalis.
Radio stations play a recorded version in the early hours, and no one forgets to tune in.
It used to be initially a live performance broadcast by All India Radio, which later started playing a recorded version. According to reports, the version that radio stations currently play was created in 1966.
While the Chandipaath was done by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the music was composed by none other than legendary music director Pankaj Mullick. There was a battery of singers, all top performers of the time, lending their voice to the composition.
Durga Puja 2021 Dates
October 11, 2021 — Mahashasthi
October 12, 2021 — Mahasaptami
October 13, 2021 — Mahaashtami
October 14, 2021 — Mahanavami
October 15, 2021 — Vijaya Dashami