When the craze for Autumn Fest has just begun across parts of this diverse world, it is also the beginning of the Festive Fever in India and for Indians all over , staring this 30th Sept. Yay! 🙂
It is ‘Mahalaya’ today and it is about invoking Mother Goddess Durga,the ‘Goddess of power’ from Heaven to Earth, just seven days before the festival of “Durga Puja” is geared to begin in full swing. India celebrates the power of the lady goddess in different forms across different times all over the country, but with the onset of Fall, trailing mythological stories of the demon ‘Mahisasura’ being defeated by the woman- ‘Goddess Durga’, brings to life the journey of glitz and glamour of the Indian festive fever.
For over 6 decades, today is the day that Bengalis (and also people associated with Bengalis) so excitedly anticipate for. The dip in the temperatures with a sweet cold breeze, the delicate winds infused with the intoxicating smell of the scheduled blooms of the Coral Jasmine – popularly called as “Shuili Phool” and the Catkins known as “Kaash Phool” in Bengali, a beautiful native grass of the Indian Subcontinent, daintily blowing along with the sweet autumnal winds, are such an absolute strong reminder and a joyous boost to the excitement that “Pujo” is finally here again.
The specialty of this day is about the enthusiasm it brings in every Bengali, no matter where you are and if you are one, I am sure you would admit that expressing this through words is just never enough. The last minute house cleaning & shopping sprees, the dogged hard work for creatively thought-through temporary shrines or “pandals” being setup every 5-10 kilometers, series of lip-smacking street food stalls under preparation & over- flowing shoppers hovering around the market places is nothing but a very common sight to witness for any kid growing up in India.
The preparation for “Mahalaya” starts with every charged-up household, setting their alarm clocks and just as the clock strikes 4, in the cool pre-dawn hours, it is indeed the wake up call for the whole of Bengal, major parts of Eastern India and for Bengalis who reside elsewhere in the country,that rises unanimously,to immerse themselves by tuning into the radio or playing records of the ritualistic and holy Bengali Chanting of “Mahisasura Mardini” – a legendary recitation, narrating the victory of Goddess Durga slaying the Demon (Asura), by the memorable Late Birendra Krishna Bhadra.
I still do remember the younger version of myself, being pulled out of bed with all excitement by mother and with rubbing eyes and the craving to sleep some more. I would sit with her, in the most silent hours of this special peaceful morning, listening to the almost, 2 hour of soul stirring holy recitation – a narration that so fabulously invites the goddess, “Mother Durga” to her home on Earth. Typically what followed was the mythological and dramatic story depiction of the victory of good over evil on Doordarshan– India’s National Television Channel and even after all these years, this routine has been blessed to not see any drastic change.
As years passed, and the popularity of this ecstatic joy kept spreading like wildfire beyond the states of Bengal, the recitation for “Mahalaya” started being broadcast in several other languages, making “Durga Puja” not a regional but a national festival.
In the interiors of Kolkata-West Bengal, Kumartuli is the den of artisans and sculptors who relentlessly put in sleepless months of labor, passion, love and devotion in molding clay from the banks of the Ganges, to build the most stunning traditional and contemporary deities of the powerful Goddess Durga. It is during these months starting from August through October – the preparatory months of sculpting, that Kumartuli and other small artisan hubs across the country, becomes every photographers dream aspiring to capture some awe-inspiring glimpses, of the traditionally handed-over rich art of craftsmanship that is being carried forward over the generations.
In these modest capacities of the artisans is a rejoice of a different kind. The pre-dawn\p the spiritual sparkle to their life-sized creations through their artistic brush strokes, as the third eye (the spiritually eye) is brought to existence drawn in the center of the forehead of the angelic Deity. The holy conch shells are blown at this radiant moment, delightfully and humbly inviting “Mother Goddess” to transcend to Earth and abolish evil in all forms.
On the other hand of coinciding this exuberance, the holy Ganges and the rivers across India also witnesses, a swarm of thousands of people paying homage of food, flowers and peace to their ancestors, being observed as the “Pitru Paksha”, an important Hindu ritual to pacify the souls of the beloved deceased. Observed on this specific lunar day, “Mahalaya” also carries the significance of salvation partnering with the kick start of the festive fervor.
No matter how the mythological, cultural or traditional stories may trail and trickle down, it is in these little intricate moments of simple joys and heart-warming festive celebrations, that the “Autumn Festival” or the “Sharad Utsav” is so significantly dear and holds an unique place for every child, adult or aged,in Festive India.
“Happy Mahalaya” to all my fellow bloggers & friends. 🙂
Pic Source: Google