By Abhijit Roy
In�the chilly pre-dawn hour of the auspicious�Amavasya�(a new moon day of Ashwin�Krishnapakshya�- sixth month according to the Hindu calendar), when most of the Hindu-followers prepares to take holy dip in the river Ganges or other water bodies�in�their locality, followed by a rituals of�Pitru-Tarpan�to appease the departed soul of their ancestors�; the sound of a most popular radio programme�Mahishasur Mardini�comes from the nearby houses of the Bengali community of the locality.
An 85 years old radio programme broadcast on�Kolkata�station of All India Radio�is an audio montage of�Chandipath�recitation from the scriptural verses of�Sri Sri�Chandi�or�Durga�Shaptasati�Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama.
Later the programme has been translated into other Indian vernacular set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience.�This programme�is aired�every year at day-break on�Mahalaya.
The idea behind the concept of the programme was first conceived by Mr.�Premankur�Aatorthi, the then station director of All India Radio,�Kolkata. Later Mr.�Birendra�Krishna�Bhadra, Mr.�Nripendra�Krishna�Mukhopadhyay�and Mr.�Raichand�Boral, a popular music director of his era joined into the foray.
Since the idea demands an exhaustive research work on Hindu mythology, hence�Mr.�Baidhyanath�Bhattacharjee, a professor of Sanskrit in the prestigious Sanskrit College of�Kolkata was engaged�to write a script. A part-time play artist and script writer in the All India Radio, Mr. Bhattacharjee under his pen name�Bani�Kumar prepared the script based on�Mundak�Upanishad.�
The responsibility of�music direction was given to Mr.�Pankaj�Kumar�Mallick, who was by-then a star composer of New Theatre studio.
The programme that kicked off as a live-performance in 1932, has been broadcast in its pre-recorded format since the late nineteen-sixties. However, its great popularity remains undiminished even today. This programme has become synonymous with�Mahalaya.
It�is celebrated�to usher the�Debipaksha�lunar fortnight and the Durga Puja. To this day, most of Bengal wakes up in the chilly pre-dawn hours, 4 am�to be�precise, on the�Mahalaya�day to tune into the �Mahisasura�Mardini��broadcast. The programme is also been remembered for Mr.�Birendra�Krishna Bhadra�s magical rendition.
The�legendary�narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of�the descent of�Durga to earth. It was on the day of�Mahalaya, the beginning of “devipaksha� that the Gods and Goddesses woke up to prepare themselves for Durga Puja.
Though�Bhadra�died long ago, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the�Mahalaya�program. In a sonorous, reverberating voice�Birendra�Bhadra�renders the�Mahalaya�recital for two thrilling hours, mesmerizing every household with the divine aura of his narration, as the Bengalis submerge their souls in quiet moments of prayer.
As the recital begins, the serene morning air resonates with the long drawn sound of the sacred conch shell,�followed by�a chorus of invocation, melodiously setting the stage for�the recitation of�the�Chandipath.
The success of the programme�can be�gauged from the incident taken place in 1976 when the authority of�Akashvani�Kolkata�employed the reigning superstar of Bengali cinema�Uttam�Kumar to voice the script of�Deving�Durgatiharinim�written by Dr.�Govind�Gopal�Mukhopadhyay�the then Head of�the department of�Sanskrit in�Vardhaman�University of West Bengal.
The authority also signed�Hemant�Kumar�Mukherjee�as its music director. But the show did not get favourable response from the audience. Later on public demand, it�was shifted�back to the original version.