Sunday, October 03, 2004


As October makes its entry, the monsoon clouds recede in the distant horizon to be replaced by an azure blue sky with flakes of fluffy white moving at a leisurely pace from one end of the sky to the other. There is a chill in the early morning air with drops of dew covering the grass carpet beneath your feet. The tender corns of paddy sway in the breeze, rivers are full, the trees regain their charm, flowers bloom all over the countryside and birds disturb the silence with their happy chirpings. There is no need to announce that Sharodatsav has arrived! You can literally feel the festive mood setting in. The Eastern part goes gaga over Durga Puja, the North and the South prepare to burn effigies of the demon King Ravana to celebrate Dussera, whilst the West gets ready to dance to the tunes of dandiya to usher in Navaratri.

When the train enters the boundaries of Bengal, one can immediately experience the change and homesickness grips him. In order to become one with the elements, he gets down at Khragpur station, paces up and down the platform and has a cup of tea served in a ‘khuri’ (small earthen container that can fit into your palm!) to enjoy the full Bengali flavor. Then he searches his favorite snacks – shingara and vegetable chops!!

Durgotsav, as it is called in Bengal, starts from Mahalaya – this is the day that Godess Durga is supposed to have started her journey from her husband’s house in Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas to come to her mother’s place in Bengal accompanied by her children. On this auspicious day, early in the morning, at four o’ clock to be precise, a two hour long program is broadcast in Bengali from Aklashvani Kolkata. A translated version in Hindi is subsequently transmitted from all other important radio stations. The translation is restricted to only the text. The beautiful memorable songs are left untouched. Many of the artistes are no longer in our midst but their recorded voices still reverberate in each and every Bengali house on Mahalaya day. Titled ‘Mahisasurmardini’ (which means ‘the slayer of the demon-in-the-guise-of-a-buffalo’) this program narrates how Durga was conceived, how she was armed with a variety of weapons given by the Gods to destroy the demon and how she achieved her goal bringing peace and happiness to the World.

A two hour pre-recorded cassette titled ‘Mahisasurmardini’ has been released by the Gramophone Company of India (Ltd), Calcutta in 1983. Recitation of the shlokas is by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and Music Direction is by Pankaj Kumar Mallick. It comes in a set of two cassettes and the Catalogue No. is FPHV842114/115. It was broadcast for the first time way back in 1932!! Birendra Krishna Bhadra was only 28 years old at that time. 2004 happens to be his centeneray year.

The demon ‘mahisasur’ signifies the umpteen-plus-one faces of evil and the weapons of Durga signify the innumerable weapons at our own disposal to tackle the evils that we face every day. Listening to the wonderful rendering of Mahisasurmardini as the cool autumn dawn slowly breaks over the horizon while sipping a cup of tea snuggled in the comforts of the blanket is a heavenly feeling. The whole world wakes up from slumber to greet the onset of Durga Puja of which Mahalaya is the first step.

On Mahalaya day, another important ritual is to remember our ancestors by doing the ‘tarpan’. It is performed by offering token food and water in the names of those who were our near and dear ones but who are no longer alive.

Normally, bonus to all employees are paid latest by Mahalaya – hence, the shopping spree also gains momentum with shops displaying the latest designs, offering discounts on earlier unsold stocks and inviting customers to participate in various gift schemes.

The whole world wakes up from slumber to greet the onset of Durga Puja of which Mahalaya is the first step.