Story of Mahalaya – The Ushering of Durga Puja

The Story of Mahalaya

first published on: September 23, 2014

Durga Puja

Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before the Durga Puja and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It’s a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth – “Jago Tumi Jago”.

Mahalaya, for the people of Bengal, is the ushering of the Durga Puja, the restless wait for new clothes,  good food, holidays, coming together of families and friends and lots of enjoyment.

Since the early 1930s, on every Mahalaya, households in Bengal have woken up at 4 am in the morning to tune in their radio to ‘Mahisasuramardini’. The All India Radio programme – Mahisasuramardini (the defeating of the demon mahisasura by devi-durga) has become synonymous with the day of Mahalaya. This program is a beautiful audio montage of recitation of “Chandipath” – scriptural verses of “Chandi”. The captivating Sanskrit narration and the Sanskrit and Bengali prayer songs praising devi gives a mesmerising feeling at the early hour of the day. The programme, which started off as a live-performance, has been broadcast in its pre-recorded format in the enchanting voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra , since 1958. Its great popularity remains undiminished even today.

As the recital begins, the serene morning air resonates with the long drawn sound of the sacred conch shell, immediately followed by a chorus of invocation, melodiously setting the stage for the recitation of the Chandipath. The narration is transcended by a musical composition by notable vocal artists of yesteryears including Hemanta Mukherjee, Dwijen Mukherjee, Manabendra Mukherjee, Arati Mukherjee, Shyamal Mitra.

With the advent of television,  channels have started musical plays following the mythical story of Mahisasuramardini. F.M channels have kept alive the tradition of tuning into the radio sets (or phone handsets these days). And  even today, every year on Mahalaya,  in the early hours of the morning, the neighbourhoods of Kolkata resonate with the sounds of the ushering of Durga Puja.


Bajlo tomar alor benu

Matlo je bhubon…….