Mahalaya is on 30th September this year, this day announces the beginning of Devi Paksha- the fortnight of the Goddess. As per the mythologies, Goddess Durga fought mighty demon Mahishasur for ten days, finally defeating and killing him on the tenth day. That day is called Vijayadashami, the first day of that war is called Mahalaya.
Now, that war was fought in spring, the puja held during those ten (in most cases five) days is called Basantipuja. This puja was performed by Shriramchandra, Ram, when he was about to begin his war with Ravana to free Sita he worshipped Mother Goddess Durga, he woke her up at an odd time that is why this puja is called Akalbodhan. He got the blessings and won the war and gifted us Bengalis with Durgapuja and Northern states with Navratri.
Now, back to Mahalaya, ok? This day is celebrated by many ways in Bengal. If you wake up at 4 in the morning and you have a radio, then tune into “Mahishasurmardini” an amazing program created by Pankaj Kumar Mallik and Birendrakrishna Bhadra, can’t imagine Mahalaya without it! It starts at 4 and ends somewhere around six.
After that, take a walk to any river bank, you will see priests and men, offering prayers to their ancestors, that ritual is called tarpan, and the banks of rivers are filled with people offering tarpan and priests supporting them, especially Ganges.
Then take a stroll to an artist involved in creating the idols of the Goddess Durga, if you are lucky, or if you have made an appointment with the artist you will witness the most beautiful event of the day, the eyes of the Goddess being painted- this is called Chakshudaan- giving vision!
Thereafter, every Bengali starts the countdown for Durgapuja, that will start on sixth day from the day.
Well, have a blessed time ahead! Don’t forget to pick up your copies of the twins. They have been published on 18.9.16, Agnishatdal and Agnijaat- the ezines.