Bhubaneswar, Oct 14: Mahalaya, an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar, is observed with profound devotion and fervor throughout the India, with particular enthusiasm in West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh.
It heralds the commencement of the highly anticipated Durga Puja festival, a celebration of the victory of righteousness over malevolence. This year, Mahalaya falls on Saturday, October 14, 2023.
The term "Mahalaya" finds its roots in the Sanskrit language, where "Maha" and "Alaya" amalgamate to signify the "Great Abode" or the "Home of the Goddess." It is believed that on this day, the divine goddess Durga embarks on her journey from Kailash, the celestial abode of Lord Shiva, to Earth, to grace her devoted worshippers. This profound occurrence is recounted in the legendary narrative of Mahalaya, a recitation known as "Mahishasura Mardini."
Mahalaya (Durga Puja): Historical and Symbolic Significance
The central narrative of Mahalaya is rooted in a legend from the "Devi Mahatmya" (The Glory of the Goddess), an ancient Sanskrit scripture found within the Markandeya Purana. This text narrates the tale of goddess Durga and her epic battle against Mahishasura, a formidable buffalo demon who unleashed terror upon both the celestial and earthly realms.
Mahishasura, having secured the boon of invincibility from Lord Brahma, wreaked havoc and subjugated the deities. Unable to vanquish him individually, the gods united their powers to bring forth goddess Durga, endowing her with unparalleled strength and formidable weapons. The conflict between Mahishasura and Durga raged relentlessly for nine days and nights, culminating in the demon's eventual defeat on the tenth day, a day celebrated as Vijayadashami.
How It Is Celebrated:
Mahalaya is celebrated with profound enthusiasm and unwavering devotion in India, especially in the state of West Bengal, where it holds immense cultural and religious significance. While customs and traditions may exhibit regional variations across India, the common thread is the veneration of goddess Durga and the anticipation of the grand Durga Puja festival that ensues. It is a time when people come together to celebrate the triumph of virtue over evil, seeking the divine blessings and protection.
Mahalaya Amavasya, also known as Sarva Pitru Amavasya, marks the conclusion of Pitru Paksha, a period dedicated to honoring departed ancestors, and heralds the commencement of Devi Paksha. This phase is widely recognized as Navratri, a nine-night celebration leading up to Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra. Vijaya Dashami commemorates the victory of the Divine Mother over the demon Mahishasura.