History of Mahalaya

Mahalaya which is celebrated in Bengal most has some history. From Lord Rama to Legend Karna.

Mahalaya, the day Devi (Goddess) Durga is believed to have descended to earth to annihiliate all evils. Mahalaya is the day when Pitri Paksha ends and Devi Paksha starts. So Mahalaya is two dynamic festival. I will share detail about Mahalaya below.

Pitri-Paksha: It is also known as Shola Shraddha or sixteen Shraddhas or food offerings. According to numerous Puranas of Hindu, during this period a shraddha performance by son is compulsory to make sure the ancestors soul goes to heaven. This is in Bengali called "Torpon". This shraddha is performed during the pre-dawn or dawn time in the river.The son remembers his ancestors by propitiation and food offerings and also takes holy dips in the river. This performance is also known by Pinda Dana. This day is very significant for Bengalis.

Devi Paksha: Devi Paksha means the Goddess Period. Actually Devi Durga comes to earth seven days before the main puja takes place. From Mahalaya day the four day grand Durga Puja countdown begins.In Hindu tradition from New Moon to Full Moon of Bhadra the fifteen days period is known for Goddess Period or Devi Paksha. In this period Hindus believe the best time to do any sacred work. In northern India the nine day following the new moon of bhadra is called Navaratri.

According to Purana on this day Lord Rama worshipped Devi Durga before departing for Lanka to rescue Devi Sita from demon Ravana. Traditionally Durga Puja used to performed in spring time by King Suratha. That is why it is also known as Basanti Puja. But Lord Rama worshipped Devi Durga in autumn state that is why it is also known as Untimely Worshipping or Akaal 'Bodhan'.
Akaal Bodhan because the time Lord Rama worshipped Devi Durga at the time God and goddess were in awakened state.

On the last new moon day just before the Mahalaya, the idols or Durga Protima colored specially the eyes are shaped which is called "Chakshu Daana".

Another dimension can also be found to describe Mahalaya period. The legendary philanthropist of Mahabharata period, Karna use to donate gold and other wealth to people. He was so charitable that he was also called as Data Karna. When he died, due to his good work done in the earth he got back those in thousand fold in heaven. Karna's soul was hungry by then and asked for food but he was served by gold and silver. He gets frustrated and asked the god of death Yama the reason. Yama replied throughout his whole life he had donated gold and silver only but never donated food to anyone even to his ancestors. Karna being afraid replied to Yama that, he was unaware of his ancestors. He was then sent back to earth by Yama for 14 days, where Karna fed the poor people and made offer to his ancestors. After 14 day period ends he returned back to heaven and was served by huge amount of food. So these 14 days are honored as Mahalaya Period.

Mahalaya-The Akaashvani Connection:

In the Mahalaya day at the Pre-dawn time Devi Mahatyam or Mahisasura Mardini recitation is aired every year by All India Radio in the magical voice of Great Birndra Krishna Bhadra. The way he depicted the story of Devi Durga in this recitation in one word just irreplaceable. Without listening Birendra Krishna Bhadra Durga Puja celebration in Bengal and for Bengalis is incomplete.

"Jago oooooo Tumi Jagoooo" How mesmerizing one. Just thrilled.

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