Mahalaya is a significant festival celebrated mainly in the Indian state of West Bengal and some other parts of India. It marks the beginning of the ten-day long festival of Durga Puja, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. Mahalaya usually falls on the Amavasya (new moon) of the Hindu month of Ashwin.

बंगाल में, महालय आमतौर पर दुर्गा पूजा उत्सव की शुरुआत का प्रतीक है। बंगालियों का सबसे बड़ा त्योहार दुर्गा पूजा, हिन्दू पंचांग माह आश्विन के महीने में प्रतिवर्ष मनाया जाता है। उत्सव की शुरुआत महालय से होती है। महालय वह दिन है जब माना जाता है कि देवी दुर्गा पृथ्वी पर अवतरित हुई थीं।

The festival is renowned for the enchanting recitation of the “Mahishasura Mardini” hymn by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, which is broadcasted on the radio early in the morning. This hymn depicts the epic story of Goddess Durga’s triumph over the buffalo demon Mahishasura.

Mahalaya holds great cultural and traditional significance for Bengalis. It is believed that on this auspicious day, Goddess Durga begins her journey from her heavenly abode to Earth, accompanied by her children. It is a time of invoking the goddess’s blessings and preparing for the upcoming Durga Puja festivities.

During Mahalaya, devotees also visit the holy river Ganges or other water bodies to perform tarpan (rituals for paying homage to ancestors). This ritual involves offering prayers and oblations of water to their departed ancestors, seeking their blessings and spiritual well-being.

Overall, Mahalaya acts as a beautiful prelude to the grand celebration of Durga Puja, igniting a sense of devotion and excitement among people as they welcome the arrival of the goddess and seek her blessings for a prosperous and harmonious life.

This year, Mahalaya dawns on October 14, while the Durga Puja will unfold from October 20 (Mahashasthi) to October 24 (Bijoya Dashami). 

Mahalaya Puja Vidhi as per Bengali traditions

The Mahalaya Puja Vidhi (ritual) as per Bengali traditions typically includes the following steps:

  1. Preparations: Decorate the puja area with flowers, incense, and other traditional items. Set up the Durga idol or image along with images of other deities like Ganesha, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Kartikeya (Ganesha and Kartikeya are considered Durga’s sons, while Saraswati and Lakshmi are considered her companions).
  2. Mahalaya Tarpan: Begin the puja by performing tarpan at the holy river Ganges or any other nearby water body, preferably during the pre-dawn hours. Offer prayers and oblations of water to your ancestors, seeking their blessings and spiritual well-being. This is known as “Mahalaya Tarpan” and is considered an essential part of the ritual.
  3. Invocation of Goddess Durga: Light the incense sticks and invoke Goddess Durga by chanting mantras dedicated to her. Offer flowers, fruits, sweets, and other traditional offerings to the deity while reciting prayers.
  4. Mahishasura Mardini: Listen to or recite the famous “Mahishasura Mardini” hymn by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, which depicts the epic story of Goddess Durga’s triumph over the buffalo demon Mahishasura. This is an integral part of the Mahalaya tradition, and many Bengalis wake up early in the morning to listen to the broadcast on the radio.
  5. Durga Aarti: Perform the aarti (a ceremonial worship with a lit lamp) to honor and worship Goddess Durga. Wave the lit lamp in a circular motion in front of the deity and sing or recite hymns praising her divine qualities.
  6. Distributing Prasad: Conclude the puja by distributing prasad (holy offering) to family members and guests. It usually includes items like sweets, fruits, and other blessed food, symbolizing the blessings of Goddess Durga.

Throughout the puja, it is customary to maintain a pious and reverential atmosphere, focusing on devotion and gratitude towards Goddess Durga. The specific rituals and procedures may vary slightly based on individual family traditions and regional customs.

Best songs or Music Videos for Mahalaya

Mahalaya is an auspicious occasion in Hinduism, marking the beginning of the Durga Puja festival. Traditional Mahalaya songs or music often invoke a sense of devotion and reverence towards Goddess Durga. Here are some popular songs and music videos that are commonly associated with Mahalaya:

  1. “Mahisasura Mardini” – This is perhaps the most famous Mahalaya song, which is played during the Mahalaya broadcast on the radio. It is a recitation of verses from the “Chandi Path,” invoking Goddess Durga to destroy the demon Mahishasura. Various renditions of this song are available, and you can find versions with music or as a pure recitation.
  2. “Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu” – This is another devotional song dedicated to Goddess Durga. It is often sung during Durga Puja celebrations and is considered a powerful invocation of the Goddess.
  3. “Durga Puja Dhak” – While not a song, the rhythmic beats of the dhak (traditional drum) are an integral part of Durga Puja celebrations. The sound of the dhak adds a festive and spiritual ambiance to the occasion.
  4. “Dhaak Baja Kanshor Baja” – This is a traditional Bengali song that celebrates the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is often played during the Durga idol immersion procession.
  5. “Durga Puja Aagomoni” – There are many modern songs and music videos created for Durga Puja and Mahalaya. These contemporary compositions celebrate the festive spirit of Durga Puja and can be enjoyable to listen to during the season.
  6. “Durga Puja Dhunuchi Dance” – Dhunuchi dance is an essential part of Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal. While not a song, it’s a dance accompanied by the rhythmic beats of dhak and the fragrance of incense. Watching videos of Dhunuchi dance during Durga Puja can be a cultural experience.

Here are a few mantras that can be recited during Mahalaya:

  1. “ॐ दुर्गायै नमः” (Om Durgayai Namah) – This mantra is a salutation to Goddess Durga, invoking her divine presence and seeking her blessings.
  2. “ॐ जयंती मंगला काली भद्रकाली कपालिनी” (Om Jayanti Mangala Kali Bhadrakali Kapalini) – This mantra praises the various forms and aspects of Goddess Durga, acknowledging her power and benevolence.
  3. “सर्वमंगल मांगल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थ साधिके” (Sarvamangala Mangalye Shive Sarvartha Sadhike) – This mantra is an invocation to Goddess Durga, expressing devotion and seeking her blessings for the fulfillment of all desires.
  4. “या देवी सर्वभुतेषु शक्तिरूपेण संस्थिता” (Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Shaktirupena Samsthita) – This mantra recognizes the divine power and presence of Goddess Durga in all living beings and seeks her protection and guidance.
  5. “ॐ ह्रीं क्लीं कालिके” (Om Hreem Klim Kalike) – This mantra is an invocation to the fierce form of Goddess Durga, known as Kali. It is believed to help overcome obstacles and grant strength and courage.

Please note that while reciting these mantras, it is important to maintain a reverential and meditative state of mind, focusing on the meaning and significance of the words.