Autumn arrives in India with an array of festivals, and Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals that is celebrated by Indians.
September and October are regarded as the festive months, as this is the time when festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Viswakarma Puja, and most importantly, Durga Puja fall in.
When Bengalis, all over the world, celebrate Durga Puja with pomp and vigour, the other parts of India worship Goddess Durga with the Navratri Puja.
Durga Puja starts with the end of 'Pitru Paksha'. The day when 'Pitru Paksha' ends and 'Devi Paksha' begins, it is known as the Mahalaya. Mahalaya is an auspicious day before the seven-day celebration of Durga Puja.
Also Read: 9 Rituals Associated With Durga Puja
People wait for Durga Puja throughout the year, but these seven days, they eagerly wait and prepare themselves to welcome Goddess Durga, the daughter of the family.
To Bengalis, Mahalaya is equal to the eternal invocation mantra, 'Jago Durga...Jago Tumi Jago'. But, throughout India, Mahalaya Amavasya has a very specific significance.
Myths and beliefs are associated with this festival. Every year, people perform 'Tarpan' and other rituals on this auspicious day. Have you ever thought why they do so? Have a look below to know about the exact significance of Mahalaya Amavasya.
1. Your Ancestors Will Be Free: Mahalaya falls on the new moon day, which is also known as the 'Mahalaya Amavasya'. It is believed that if you offer oblations to the souls of your ancestors on this day, they get free from the worldly sin.
2. The Story of Mahabharata: According to the Mahabharata legend, after the death of Karna, he went to the heaven. There, his soul was offered jewels as food. He was surprised to see this. Then, Indra clarified that during Karna's lifetime; he never offered anything to his ancestors. Karna replied, he didn't know about them and wanted a chance to do the due. He came back on earth for sixteen days and he offered foods and other belongings to his ancestors and returned to heaven.
3. Beginning of 'Akal Bodhan': This means worshipping before time. According to mythology, King Suratha worshipped Devi Durga during the spring. But, Lord Ram worshipped Goddess Durga during the autumn season, as he needed her blessings to kill Ravana. This day signifies the awakening of Devi Durga.
4. The Story of War: It is said that when Devatas got irritated with the demon, Mahishasura, and went to the Trinity for solution; they got so angry that their anger took the form of Devi Durga. On Mahalaya, Devi is dressed up with lethal weapons and she is said to have killed Mahishasura. This day is signified as the victory of virtue over vice.
5. Importance to the Bengalis: Finally, Mahalaya is most important to the Bengalis, as this is the day when they remember their forefathers. They also get ready to welcome their daughter, 'Uma', for the five days and forget all their miseries. They are renewed to a new life with the festival and prepare to welcome life again with all its ups and downs.
When talking about Mahalaya and its connection to Bengalis, you can't forget about the eternal 'Mahishasur-Mardini' programme on radio by Birendra Krishna Vadra.
From generations, the shlokas and chants are so attached to the Bengali's culture that each year the dawn of Mahalaya appears with new hope with this eternal programme.