India — Festivals
Mahalaya — Beginning of Durga Puja
Mahalaya is celebrated to mark the beginning of the Devi Paksha and the end of the Pitru Paksha (Shraddha or the mourning period). On this day, most Bengalis wake up in the pre-dawn hours at 4 am to tune into the Mahisasura Mardini broadcast. The countdown to Durga Puja, one of the biggest festivals in India, begins from Mahalaya.
Indian Festival of Mahalaya — September 19, 2017
Legend goes that on the day of Mahalaya, Goddess Durga starts her journey to earth, her paternal home.
The legend speaks of the increasing cruelty of the demon king Mahisasura against the gods. Blessed by the gods, and Lord Shiva giving him a boon that only a woman could kill him, Mahisasura went on a rampage. Unable to tolerate his tyranny the gods plead with Vishnu to annihilate the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with ten arms, Goddess Durga or Mahamaya, the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power.
The gods then bestow upon this Supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess rides a lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the Durgatinashini is able to slay the Asura king with her trident. Heaven and earth rejoice at her victory.
Celebrations — Mahisasura Mardini
Mahisasura Mardini (Annihilator of Mahisasura) is a widely popular early Bengali radio programme that has been broadcast since 1931 on All India Radio (AIR) in Indian state West Bengal. It is a one and half-hour audio montage of Chandipath recitation from the scriptural verses of Sri Sri Chandi or Durga Saptashati, Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama.
The program has been translated into Hindi 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 programme, which started off as a live-performance, has been broadcast in its pre-recorded format since 1966. However, its great popularity remains undiminished even today over 80 years later.
Legendary narrator, Birendra Krishna Bhadra, who will always be remembered for making Mahalaya memorable to one and all, is the magical voice behind the Mahisasura Mardini. The legendary narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Durga to earth.
Though the theme is mythological and the mantras Vedic, this program is a landmark composition. It is scripted by Bani Kumar, and narrated by Birendra Krishna Bhadra while Dwijen Mukhopadhyay (Jago Durga Jago Doshoprohoronodharini), Manabendra Mukhopadhyay (Tabo Achinta), Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Arati Mukhopadhyay, Utpala Sen, Shyamal Mitra and Supriti Ghosh (Bajlo tomar alor benu) sang in their melodious voices.The enchanting music is composed by Pankaj Mullick.