Mahalaya : Story Behind Goddess Durga’s Coming To Home

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Priyanka Dutta, Kolkata: In the wee hours of Tuesday, the country in general and Bengali families in particular, will once again wake up to the magical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra narrating ‘Mahisasur Mardini’, in preparation of Durga Puja celebrations, starting with Mahalaya, an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the four-day Durga Puja celebrations begin.

With only seven days left for Durga Puja, people of West Bengal on Tuesday observed the auspicious occasion of Mahalaya, which marks the beginning of ‘Debi Pakshya’.

The day started with lakhs of people paying obeisance to their forefathers on the banks of Ganga and early morning rendition of ‘Mahisasura Mardini’ (a collection of shlokas and songs dedicated to Goddess Durga) aired on All India Radio (AIR).

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‘Mahishasur Mardini’ was first broadcast as a live programme on AIR in the early 1930s. Since then it has become a regular affair on Mahalaya mornings.
With the day marking the end of ‘Pitri Pakshya’, elders of the family paid homage to their ancestors by performing ‘Tarpan’, a ritual in which water is offered to the ancestors’ souls, on the banks of Ganga and temple premises.

Pitru Paksha is a time period during which Hindus in India pay homage to their ancestors. It is a 16 lunar-day period and is also referred to as Pitru Pakshya, Pitri Pokkho, Mahalaya Paksha, and Sola Shraddha. The term Pitru Paksha translates to “fortnight of the ancestors”.
The death rites performed during Pitru Paksha are called sraddha or Shraddha. Pitru Paksha 2017 dates are from September 5 to September 19. This period falls on the second fortnight of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada. It is usually the fortnight that falls immediately after the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in India.

The Mahalaya amavasya is considered to be the most important day of the Pitru Paksha period. Mahalaya Amavasya 2017 is on September 19 and the shradha puja timings for the day is between 1:13 PM to 3:35 PM. Mahalaya is believed to be the day when Goddess Durga descended on earth. People usually visit religious sites to offer the shradh prayers or pujas for their dead ancestors during Pitra Paksha. The shradh prayers are performed under the guidance of a priest.

There are several auspicious places across India that people visit to perform the shradh puja. Here are the most prominent Indian places where Sraddha is performed during Pitru Paksha.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee wished everybody on this occasion through a post on Facebook.