So its that time of year again. The time when my Dad uncovers the cassette player and digs out two cassettes of devotional songs in Bengali from the pile of cassettes which are now ignored in today’s world of Winamp and Channel V. He plays them every year on the first day of this time of year at an unholy hour of 7.00 am that too quite loudly. And we know by listening to “Mahishashur Mardini” that its Mahalaya i.e. the beginning of Durga Puja that day. You can listen to some songs at this link here.
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”. This is done through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs. Since the early 1930s, Mahalaya has come to associate itself with an early morning radio program called “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon.” This All India Radio (AIR) program is a beautiful audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of “Chandi Kavya”, Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama. The program has also been translated into Hindi set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience. This program has almost become synonymous with Mahalaya. For nearly six decades now, the whole of Bengal rises up in the chilly pre dawn hours, 4 am to be precise, of the Mahalaya day to tune in to the “Mahisasura Mardini” broadcast.