Mahalaya – All year, we sorrow on having to be in the corporate grind for bread-winning.
But during the time of festivities, we really go bananas over shopping, catching up with friends, relatives and sharing gifts. This is that time of the year when there will be three major festivals lining up in the span of three consecutive months and we can’t keep calm. The three festivals referred here are Durgapuja which is the main festival in West Bengal so of the Bengali populace, then Diwali which is has a pan-India celebration and then will Bhai Dooj follow suit.
Bengalis wait all year for Durgapuja and the nature itself drops hint at the arrival of Sarat kaal or Autumn which is the most effervescent of all the seasons. Goddess Durga, who is symbolic of power and purity, is worshipped for four consecutive days in the major parts of West Bengal.
It ambience soaks up the festive spirit from the day of Mahalaya which is called the Devi Paksha in West Bengal. In the day of Mahalaya, people throng the ghats of holy Ganges to offer water and rice to their ancestors for appeasing their departed soul. This process is called Tarpan which insures you for lifelong prosperity with the blessings of your ancestors.
As Bengalis, we have a collective frenzy towards Mahalaya because we wake up in the wee hours of morning to hear the Agomoni mantras chanted by Birendra Krishna Bhadra in his stomach-churning baritone. We always ere excited as puppies in our childhood as the parents readied the old box-like radios to hear Mahalaya in the crack of dawn. Some of us would also prefer to stay awake all night fearing we would miss the broadcast and sadly, we did sometimes. In the time of age when we get easy access to everything in internet, that Mahalaya excitement is in the middle of a losing streak but tradition still perpetuates.
In West Bengal, there are whopping pandals that start being raised and one can figure from their very appearance that a lot of money has been exhausted on them. In such a time, when the streets, especially the market areas like Esplanade, are bustling with busy buyers, traffic rules are beefed up because the indiscriminate emergence of pandals here are there, big and small, the office-goers face a lot of rigmarole to reach in time. The traffic woes start from the very day of Mahalaya because people can’t contain themselves when it is finally that time of the year and we can’t complain much.
During Mahalaya, even those offices that have a miserly approach towards holidays, announce it but major corporate houses remain open. If you are in Kolkata during the time of Mahalaya, you will hear the Mahalaya Mantras by Birendra Krishna Bhadra being played in every nook and cranny of the city, even in the traffic signals.
Durga Puja brings an inexhaustible ecstasy among the Bengalis which start from the day of Mahalaya itself.