Mahalaya is the festival that is celebrated to worship Goddess Durga out of the numerous Hindu festivals, that are celebrated with great zeal. All festivals are inclined to various Gods and Goddesses.
Mahalaya festival marks a very important day for the Bengali community & it marks the beginning of the preparations for their main event known as Durga Pujo.
What is Mahalaya?
Mahalaya is an auspicious event that occurs 7 days before the main Durga Puja, and it proclaims the arrival of Durga, the goddess of supreme power.
This festival is being celebrated by a large Bengali community all over the world with great zeal and passion.
There are many folklore associated with this festival, the most prominent among them is mentioned as:
- An invitation of sorts to the mother goddess to begin her journey from Kailash to her paternal home (earth), along with her children.
- This invitation is made through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional bhajans like Jago Tumi Jago and Bajlo Tomar Alor Benu.
- This day also holds special importance for Hindus, who perform the ritual of Tarpan. Men clad in dhotis go to the banks of the river Ganga and offer prayers to their deceased ancestors and perform pind-daan.
History and Origin
History dates back to the time when Goddess Durga killed the Mahishasura, and how the war happened & then after killing the evil, there is Durga Puja celebration.
The Demon ruler Mahishasura abused his capacity of harmony and the grants of Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu which he gained following 10, 000 years of prayer.
Lord Shiva was happy with his devotion and favored him with the boon of Immortality.
Since no man can be undying and Lord Shiva realized that the evil presence Mahishasura had a merciless goal, he makes a will that nobody can murder him aside from ladies.
The evil spirit concurred as he suspected ladies are more vulnerable in quality and can’t execute him ever.
After some time, Mahishasura began assaulting heaven and Earth.
She battled with the Demon Mahishasura and killed him.
From that day individuals on Earth expressed loving Goddess Durga. In this way, Durga puja is commended for 5 days around the globe.
In 1930’s Mahalaya was first broadcaster over the radio. Afterward, it was recorded and played during the day in the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra.
The amazing storyteller discusses the sacred verses and narrates the account of the arrival of Durga to earth in his extraordinary style.
“Mahishasura Mardini” was a remarkable prayer composed by Bhadra, supreme in Indian culture.
Although the subject is legendary and the mantras are Vedic, this program was a milestone creation.
As the presentation starts, the serene morning air resonates with the drawn-out sound of the holy conch shell, promptly followed by prayers, resonantly making way for the recitation of the Chandi Mantra.
Till now, the entire of Bengal ascends in the crisp pre-first morning hours, 4 am to be exact, upon the arrival of Mahalaya to tune into the Mahishasura Mardini stotram.
Mythology and Devotion of Goddess Mahalaya
Goddess Durga is the protector of this world and holds supreme power, she is the one who removes all the bad deeds of the world. By killing demons, she introduced goodness again.
During the auspicious Mahalaya, the goddess is worshiped with great fervor, people do recitation of the verses from the Chandi Mantra, and also they recite prayers for Mahishasura Mardini Stotram.
Mahishasura Mardini Stotram
ayi girinandini nanditamedini viśva-vinodini nandanute
girivara vindhya-śiroadhi-nivāsini viśhṇu-vilāsini jiśhṇunute |
bhagavati he śitikaṇṭha-kuṭumbiṇi bhūrikuṭumbiṇi bhūrikṛte
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 1 ||
suravara-harśhiṇi durdhara-dharśhiṇi durmukha-marśhiṇi harśharate
tribhuvana-pośhiṇi śaṅkara-tośhiṇi kalmaśha-mośhiṇi ghośharate |
danuja-nirośhiṇi ditisuta-rośhiṇi durmada-śośhiṇi sindhusute
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 2 ||
ayi jagadamba madamba kadambavana-priyavāsini hāsarate
śikhari-śiromaṇi tuṅa-himālaya-śṛṅganijālaya-madhyagate |
madhumadhure madhu-kaitabha-gañjini kaitabha-bhañjini rāsarate
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 3 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 4 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 5 ||
ayi nija huṅkṛtimātra-nirākṛta-dhūmravilochana-dhūmraśate
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 6 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 7 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 8 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 9 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 10 ||
ayi sumanaḥ sumanaḥ sumanaḥ sumanaḥ sumanohara kāntiyute
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 11 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 12 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 13 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 14 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 15 ||
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 16 ||
kṛta-suratāraka-saṅgara-tāraka saṅgara-tārakasūnu-sute |
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 17 ||
padakamalaṃ karuṇānilaye varivasyati yoanudinaṃ na śive
ayi kamale kamalānilaye kamalānilayaḥ sa kathaṃ na bhavet |
tava padameva parampada-mityanuśīlayato mama kiṃ na śive
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 18 ||
kanakalasatkala-sindhujalairanuśhiñjati t.e guṇaraṅgabhuvaṃ
bhajati sa kiṃ nu śachīkuchakumbhata-taṭīpari-rambha-sukhānubhavaṃ |
tava charaṇaṃ śaraṇaṃ karavāṇi natāmaravāṇi nivāśi śivaṃ
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 19 ||
tava vimaleandukalaṃ vadanendumalaṃ sakalaṃ nanu kūlayate
kimu puruhūta-purīndumukhī-sumukhībhirasau-vimukhī-kriyate |
mama tu mataṃ śivanāma-dhane bhavatī-kṛpayā kimuta kriyate
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 20 ||
ayi mayi dīnadayāḻutayā karuṇāparayā bhavitavyamume
ayi jagato jananī kṛpayāsi yathāsi tathānumitāsi rame |
yaduchitamatra bhavatyurarī kurutā-durutāpamapā-kurute
jaya jaya he mahiśhāsura-mardini ramyakapardini śailasute || 21 ||
This powerful hymn of the goddess is what recited on the day of Mahalaya.
She wards off any evil energies present and brings prosperity for her devotees.
About Birendra Krishna Bhadra
He is believed to be an ardent devotee of the goddess Mahalaya who recited the stotram on the radio first time.
He would always be remembered for making it memorable to one and all.
The renowned speaker recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Durga to earth, in his unique style.
Bhadra has long passed away, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the Mahalaya program.
In a deep, reverberating voice, he renders the Mahalaya recital for two exciting hours, mesmerizing every household as Bengali’s submerge their souls in quiet moments of prayer.
How is Durga Puja celebrated in Bengal?
This is one of the major festivals celebrated with great passion in Bengal. Preparations start a week earlier; the first day occurs on the Pitra Moksha Amavasya.
People celebrate this festival, by first cleaning their houses, they make food and invite their relatives to come to their place. They exchange gifts with their guests and relatives and wish them.
On the other side to mark the end of the Mahishasura, various pandals are organized where huge statues of the goddess are kept.
But way before on Mahalaya, the eyes are being drawn onto the statue in an auspicious ritual, also known as Chokkhu Daan. Here the eyes of the goddess are painted.
Unlike other Hindu community, Bengali’s celebrate Durga Puja for 5 days, and hence their celebrations start from 6th day.
On the 6th day of Navaratri i.e. the first day of Durga Puja, the beautifully decorated idols are brought home or into magnificently decorated public pandals.
The idol is then decorated with flowers, clothes, jewelry, red vermilion, and various sweets that are kept in front of the Goddess.
The idol of the Goddess is accompanied by the idol of Lord Ganesh. Goddess Durga is considered to be Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati’s avatar.
Thus, the mother of Lord Ganesh and his brother Kartikeya.
Early in the morning on the 7th day, there is a ritual of invoking the presence of the goddess in the statue.
A small banana plant called Kola Bou is taken to the river to be bathed and dressed in a red-bordered sari and carried back in a procession to be placed near the idol of the Goddess.
This is then followed by ceremonial prayers and Puja that will take place for all the remaining days of the festival.
There are also a lot of cultural activities that take place as part of the celebrations. People come together to dance, sing, perform plays and traditional.
The tenth day of the Durga Puja 2019 festival is called Dashami & is believed that on this day, goddess Durga gained victory over the Demon and thus reestablished the balance on the earth.
It is also known as Vijayadashami. On this day, Goddess Durga is worshiped and offered many things as she is prepared to leave.
Highly enthusiastic devotees gather in large numbers to join the procession that carries the Goddess to the Ghats to be immersed in water.
Women, especially married woman initiate the procession by first applying red sindoor or vermilion powder on the Goddess and then to each other.
It is said to be a symbol of marriage and fertility. The immersion of the idol is similar to the immersion of the Ganesha idol during Ganesh Chaturti. Babu Ghat is one of the popular places for immersion located near Eden Garden.
Symbolism of Devi Mahalaya
Mahalaya is represented as a warrior woman with 8 hands carrying weapons of different kinds assuming mudras, which are symbolic hand gestures that represent her teachings.
- Chakra in her 1st upper right hand symbolizes dharma (duty/righteousness). We must execute our duties in life.
- Conch in her first upper left hand symbolizes happiness. We must execute our duty happily and cheerfully and not with bitterness.
- Sword in her second right lower hand symbolizes suppression of evils. We must learn to differentiate and eliminate our evil qualities.
- Bow and arrow in her second left lower hand symbolizes good character. When we face difficulties in our life we should not lose our values.
- Lotus Flower in her third lower left hand symbolizes detachment. We must live in the world without attachment to the outside world.
- Club in her third right lower hand is the symbol of devotion and surrender. Whatever we do in our life we do with love and devotion and accept the result as the Almighty’s will.
- Trishul in her fourth left lower hand symbolizes courage. We must have the courage to remove our malicious abilities and face encounters in our life.
- Fourth Lower Right Hand symbolizes forgiveness and her blessings. We must forgive ourselves and others for mistakes and/or any hurt we may have caused.
Durga Maa is depicted as riding on a lion or a tiger.
A tiger symbolizes unlimited power. Durga riding a tiger indicates that she possesses unlimited power and uses it to protect virtue and destroy evil.
The lion is a symbol of wild animalistic tendencies such as anger, arrogance, selfishness, greed, jealousy, desire to harm others, etc.
Her sitting on it prompts us to control these qualities so that we are not controlled by them.
She is usually shown wearing a red sari. The color red symbolizes action and the red sari signifies that she is ending evil and guarding mankind against pain and suffering.
Thus, Goddess Durga symbolizes the Divine forces that are used against the negative forces of sinful and wickedness.
She represents pure energy, known as divine light that is the incarnation of feminine and creative energy.
Everyone on the Mahalaya worships goddess and celebrate the festival with great fervor.
It is done to celebrate the culture and life and bringing positivity all around.
As this festival marks the arrival of Goddess, we pray that she blesses everyone in the world with her grace, ward any evil energies & grant us prosperity.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
What is the meaning of Mahalaya?
It is believed that this day goddess Shakti descended to earth, after killing the demon Mahishasura.
Can we eat Non-veg on Mahalaya?
Since Mahalaya is celebrated mostly among the Bengali community, they are free to consume non-veg on that day.
Why is Mahalaya Amavasya Celebrated?
To seek the blessings from our ancestors, this day is celebrated. Most people do tarpan on this day.