Kolkata, Oct 12 (IANS) Invoking Goddess Durga to descend on earth, lakhs of devotees on Monday observed Mahalaya in West Bengal with devotional songs, classical music, recitations from scriptures and prayers.
Celebrated a week before the five-day Durga Puja, Mahalaya essentially heralds the homecoming of the goddess.
The day signifies the end of “pitri paksha” (the fortnight when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors) and the beginning of “debi paksha” (period of the goddess).
Thousands of people thronged the banks of Hooghly river since dawn for special rituals called “tarpan” to honour their ancestors. According to tradition, food and prayers are offered in the belief that the souls of the departed would make a smooth transition to heaven.
The day began with the iconic early-morning broadcasts of “Mahishasur Mardini” (annihilation of the demon) incantation on radio and TV channels.
Tuning in to recordings of Indian playwright and broadcaster Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s haunting voice, narrating the arrival of the goddess and the fierce battle between Durga and the ‘asura’ (demon) and slaying of the demon, is a household ritual synonymous with Mahalaya.
Even public transport like Kolkata Metro played the narrative for the benefit of commuters.
Decked in new clothes, city residents were seen indulging in last-minute shopping for the Durga Puja festival that begins on October 19.
At the potters’ quarters in Kumartuli in north Kolkata, artisans worked frantically to give finishing touches to idols of the goddess while puja organisers hurried to put together the marquees/pandals for inaugurals.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is slated to inaugurate a slew of pandals throughout the day.
Adding an extra dose of glamour to the day will be the launch of Chetla Agrani Club puja by Brazilian soccer legend Pele late in the evening.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children – Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati – descends on earth every year to visit her parents. Durga Puja celebrates this occasion.
Goddess Durga, it is believed, stays for five days (four this year) to eradicate evil from the earth before returning to her husband, Lord Shiva, at Kailash on Dashami (10th day).