Radio Nostalgia Returns With Mahalaya


Kolkata: Hours left from Mahalaya. Though our minds talks about Radio but we are digitised now. As is tradition in many Bengali households, Mahalaya is incomplete without the customary listening of Chandipath – incantations to the Goddess Chandi, another form of Goddess Durga.

Mahalaya is the first day of the Devi Paksha, the fortnight when the goddess descends on Earth for her devotees.

And that happens through the annual 4 am broadcast on the day of Mahalaya from the Kolkata station of All India Radio. Now we are accustomed with FM or internet media. Android phone, tab, computer has occupied ourselves and Radio is almost outdated. But we still look for radio on this morning.

Mahisasuramardini is a one-hour-29-minute performance containing songs and chants dedicated to Goddess Durga and her conquering of Mahisasura – the bull-demon.

Conceived by Bani Kumar, the piece contains 19 songs whose music was composed by Pankaj Mullick and which were sung by various artistes, and chanting by Birendrakrishna Bhadra.

The piece has been broadcast in its current format at 4 am IST on the day of Mahalaya since 1966. Those who have a radio can tune in to the AIR national broadcast, which will defer to AIR Kolkata at the appropriate time on Mahalaya day.

This year Akashbani Kolkata will air the record of Bani Kumar, Pankaj Kumar Mallick and Birendra Krishna Bhadra of 1966 which has been aired in last year too. Over two decades after playwright actor and director Birendra Krishna Bhadra passed away, his voice continues to mesmerise All India Radio listeners.

Bhadra’s inimitable style of reciting the ‘Mahisasura Mardini’ (The annihilation of the Demon) has been broadcast on AIR since 1931. Today, even after his demise every Bengali wakes up in the morning at 4 am to tune into a recorded version of his recital which goes for around two long hours.

Another important ritual of this day is to do tarpan to remember the departed soul of families. So in West Bengal, it is a familiar sight to see scores of people giving Pitri Tarpan early in the morning for salvation of their forefathers on Mahalaya sharaddh. Mahalaya is the occasion observed seven days before Durga Puja.

On this day Maa Durga is invited by the people to descend on earth by chanting mantras. This day also marks the start of ‘Devi-Paksha’ and end of ‘Pitru-paksha’ which is a 16-lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors and offer to express gratitude to people who have contributed to our life.