One of the most celebrated festivities and the biggest occasion of the Bengali is the Durga Puja or the homage to the most beloved Mother, Goddess Durga.
The celebrations are marked by the festivities of Mahalaya, which is celebrated 5 days in advance of Durga Puja.
Mahalaya is celebrated as a symbol that marks Goddess Durga defeating the buffallo-demon, Mahishasura – it also marks the end of pitrupaksha also known as the fortnight of the forefathers, during which time, Hindus all over the world offer prayers for 16 days to their ancestors.
Mahalaya (celebrated this year on 6th October 2021), marks the beginning of Durga Puja.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga comes to Her paternal home on Earth on Mahalaya. As per popular belief, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, created Goddess Durga to kill and destroy the buffalo-demon Mahishasur.
As legends have it, Mahishasura was a king with the head of a buffalo. He was a staunch worshipper of Lord Brahma. After years of penace, Brahma was pleased and offered Mahishasur a wish. Mad with power, Mahishasura demanded immortality. His wish was that he should not be killed by a “man or animal,” on the face of the Earth. Brahma granted him this wish, and then told him that he would eventually be defeated by a woman.
Mahishasura believed that there couldn’t be any woman so powerful, who would harm or defeat him in any way. The legend continues that, Mahishasura, high on the power of “immortality,” attacked Trilok (the three worlds of earth, heaven and hell), with his army and even tried to capture Indralok (the kingdom of Lord Indra).
The gods decided to wage war on Mahishasura but due to Lord Brahma’s boon, nobody could defeat him. The gods thus approached Lord Vishnu for help and after considering the situation, Lord Vishnu decided to create a female form of power to defeat Mahishasura. Thus, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva combined all their powers together to give birth to Durga.
Durga is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the daughter of Himavan, the lord of the mountains. She is the mother-goddess — Shakti — the power that runs the Universe.
Goddess Durga then fought Mahishasura over a period of fifteen days during which time, the demon kept changing his form to become different animals and misled the Goddess with his trickery. Finally when he transformed into a buffalo, Goddess Durga lion spotted him grazing in the fields as a ploy to deceive the Goddess. Upon discovering the demon, Her lion pounced on the buffalo which immediately caused Mahishasur to transform to his human form and the Goddess stabbed him with Her trident and that was the end of him. Mahishasura was defeated and killed on Mahalaya.
Different states of India celebrate Mahalaya in different ways. People pay homage to their forefathers by tarpan or shradh or ancestral prayer rituals.
It is believed that during Mahalaya, Goddess Durga begins Her journey from Kailash to Earth, travelling either on a palanquin or on a boat, an elephant or a horse – each year, different modes of transportation is used for the journey to planet Earth.
According to Bengali tradition, Mahalaya will be celebrated with people waking up in the wee hours of the morning, listening to Mahishasura Mardini, an audio version of Chandipath recitation with scriptural verses of Sri Sri Chandi along with other devotional songs.
The day is also observed to remember the power of truth and courage, and how good always prevails over evil – that Shakti is the ultimate power that bring balance to our sacred Universe.
HOW IS MAHALAYA OBSERVED?
Mahalaya or Mahalaya Amavasya is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Amavasya in the month of Ashwin. It falls on the last day of Pitru paksh or Shradh.
On Goddess Durga’s arrival, the much awaited ten-day Durga Puja begins, celebrating Her victory over evil with pomp and gaeity.
On the day of Mahalaya, sculptors and artisans make Goddess Durga’s eyes and fill colour in Them. After Mahalaya, the final touches are done on the Goddesses’ idols.
RITUALS OF MAHALAYA
Mahalaya starts at (Malaysian Time), 9:02 PM on October 5 to 7:39 PM on October 6.
- 3 different types of fruits, sweets, raisins, nuts and panch amrit (the 5 nectars: honey, sugar, milk, ghee and yogurt), on a banana leaf as offering in the East quadrant of your home.
- Red flowers, flower garlands, and jasmine flowers to your altar.
- 9 ghee lamps to be placed in your altar or the East quadrant of your home.
- Chant the Mahisha Mardini mantra or hymn for a minimum of 9x.
- Meditate on the energy of Goddess Durga.
Offer your heart to the Goddess and She will ease your troubles.
May you have a blessed Mahalaya.
SUJATA NANDY WORLD GURUKUL
Image credit: Artstation.com – Debarun Dey
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