Know about the Mahalaya Festival From Barak Valley, Assam
The countdown to Puja has begun in Barak Valley and festivals smell all around. Tarpan has started at different ghats since Saturday morning. Pilgrims flocked to different parts of Assam on the occasion of Mahalaya. Tarpan is going on in the river and crowds are increasing in temples and ashrams. Many people are taking a dip in the river on this auspicious occasion. The gathering of many people from far and wide has created a clear, pure and happy atmosphere since that early morning.
The day of Mahalaya marks the beginning of Devi Paksha and the end of the Pitru Paksha, a sixteen day period of mourning when Hindus pay homage to departed family members through water and food offerings.
Durga Puja literally begins on that day. It is said that on the day of Mahalaya there was a conflict between the Asuras and the Gods. The importance of this Mahalaya is great in Hinduism. The Bengali custom of listening to Mahishasuramardini in the voice of Virendra Krishna Bhadra in the early hours of the Mahalaya day has been going on for ages. The passing of Mahalaya means Durga Puja is only a week away. Preparations and celebrations for Durga Puja started all around. The concerned persons said that at 6 am today, all the temples in the Barak valley will be called to the goddess by chanting chants. At 9 a.m. along with Chandi Path, there will be chanted puja worship and the main rituals of Mahalaya will be to set up pots and perform puja with flowers, tulsi and belpata. Tarpan has to be offered on an empty stomach on the bank of holy river. Devotees should have food after finishing the rituals. Mahalaya signifies the conclusion of Pitru Paksha, also referred to as Sarva Pitra Amavasya. It is believed that on the morning of Mahalaya Amavasya, it is essential to bid a grand farewell to one’s ancestors, as this act will result in their bestowing blessings and happiness upon the living. This day is the last day of the father’s day, so respect and gratitude are expressed to the ancestors by remembering, offering, and tarpan. Those who think to do Tarpan, they observe 15 days of impurity. Eating meat, fish, egg or fibrous food, garlic, onion, and outside food is prohibited during this time.
At the end of the long monsoon rains, when the clouds like white cotton ribbons float in the sky, soft dew falls in the night, then the dawn of autumn arrives. Clouds disappearing in the outer space of the sky, the arrival of the celestial goddess awakened in the inner space of nature, the footsteps of the joyful Mahamaya….”
Mahalaya recitation of Veerendrakrishna Bhadra’s shloka in the morning is still heard from house to house. The elders of the house used to get busy listening to shloka on the radio. But now those days have changed, the medium has changed.
Mahishasuramardini is not played on the radio from house to house even in rural areas and even in cities. Now Bengalis started listening to those verses added with new Bollywood songs on YouTube and TV on their mobile.
The arrival of Goddess Durga through Sri Sri Chandipath is known as auspicious Mahalaya. At the end of Mahalaya comes Mahapanchami. Sharadotsav officially begins on this day. Goddess idols are installed in pujamandaps, Goddess comes from mandap to mandap. Durga Puja has immense religious and cultural significance. It symbolizes the power of the feminine principle and celebrates femininity, motherhood and the triumph of good over evil. The festival promotes unity, community bonding and understanding of the interdependence of all living beings. Months before the festival, communities engage in meticulous planning and preparation. Elaborate pandals (temporary structures) are built to house beautifully crafted idols of Goddess Durga. Artisans work tirelessly to create exquisite clay idols, and devotees contribute to fund the festival. Mahalaya initiates Durga Puja. Goddess Durga is believed to have started her journey to earth from Mount Kailash on this day. Goddess Durga’s arrival on earth and her worship is involved as she symbolizes the divine feminine energy. Devotees perform rituals, pray and indulge in joyous celebrations. Maha Saptami is marked with special rituals and cultural events. Devotees wear traditional clothes, visit pandals and participate in mass pujas of Goddess Durga. Elaborate rituals, feasts and cultural programs are organized in pandals on Mahaashtami. The day ends with the “Sandhi Puja” ceremony, which marks the interchange of Maha Saptami and Maha Ashtami. Mahanavami, where people worship tools, equipment and machinery, seek blessings for prosperity and success. It is also a day of cultural waste. Vijayadashami and the last day, marks the triumphant end of the festival. The idols are taken in grand processions to be immersed in rivers or seas, symbolizing the return of the goddess to her heavenly abode.
Durga Puja is not just a religious event but a grand celebration of culture and tradition. It brings together people from different backgrounds and promotes a sense of solidarity and communal harmony. Plays an important role in shaping cultural identity with the world and strengthening traditions. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil and reinforces the importance of family, community and unity. The grandeur and sense of unity of the festival makes it a unique and beloved event in the hearts of billions of people.
This story is contributed by NomadLawyer volunteer Jahid Ahmed, Travel & Food Blogger, Community Health Counsellor and Social Worker.