Mahalaya signifies the termination of Pitri Paksha and the beginning of Devi Paksha, thus ushering in the season of religious festivals and most importantly Durga Puja.
The Story of “Mahisasura Mardini”
The story element is captivating. It speaks of the increasing cruelty of the demon king Mahisasura against the gods. Unable to tolerate his tyranny the gods plead with Vishnu to annihilate the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’, the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power. She is also called ‘Katyayani’ since she appeared at the hermitage of the Sage Katyayan.
The gods then bestow upon this Supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess rides a lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the ‘Durgatinashini’ is able to slay the ‘Asura’ king with her trident. Heaven and earth rejoice at her victory. Finally, the mantra narration ends with the refrain of mankind’s supplication before this Supreme Power:
“Ya devi sarbabhuteshshu, sakti rupena sanksthita Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha.”
On this day, one man whose voice will always be remembered by Bengalis across the globe is Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the magical voice behind the “Mahisasura Mardini.” The legendary narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Ma Durga’s descent from the Kailas to Earth.
He has long passed away, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the Mahalaya program. In a sonorous, reverberating voice Birendra Bhadra renders the Mahalaya recital for two thrilling hours, mesmerizing every household with the divine aura of his narration, as the Bengalis submerge their souls in quiet moments of prayer.