Mahalaya Amavasya is on Sunday 14th October 2023
About Mahalaya Festival:
Mahalaya ushers in the aura of Durga Puja. The countdown for the Durga Puja begins much earlier, from the day of ‘Ulto Rath’. It is only from the day of Mahalaya that the preparations for the Durga Puja reach the final stage. 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. This is done through the chanting of mantras. The day is being observed as Mahalaya, the day of invocation. In the dark night of Amavasya (new moon), people pray to Goddess Durga to arrive on the earth to ward off all evils.
States in which Durga Puja is Celebrated:
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh.
Importanceof Durga Puja:
As per Hindu mythology, the festival marks Goddess Durga’s visit to her natal home along with her children. Durga Puja is preceded by Mahalaya, which marks the beginning of Durga’s journey to her home. The actual puja starts from “Maha Sashthi” or the sixth day where devotees welcome the Goddess with pomp and gusto. On this day, Durga’s deity is unveiled in front of the public. Several rituals are performed while the “dhakis” keep the mood and spirit of the puja alive by playing the “dhak”—a kind of drum that’s associated with the puja and Bengali culture.
The 7th day marks the commencement of “Maha Saptami”. On this day, just before dawn, a banana tree is immersed in the water as a part of the ritual. After the ceremonial bath, the tree or “Kola Bou” (as called in Bengali) is draped in a saree, usually a red-bordered one, and placed on the right-side of Ganesha, thereby implying that “Kola Bou” is actually the bride of Ganesha. However, several cultural revisionists and historians have different views on this as some believe that “Kola Bou” is another representation of Durga. Hence, they refute the theory that “Kola Bou” is the bride of Ganesha.
Another different view is that “Kola Bou” is a symbolic representation of nine types of plants that form a sacred complex. Priests tie a bunch of eight plants on the trunk of the banyan tree before performing the ritual. The nine different leaves combined together form “Kola Bou”—often considered as the plant form of Durga.
“Maha Ashtami” marks the 8th of the puja and is considered as the day when the Goddess defeated “Mahisasura”. Prayers are offered in the form of “Anjali” while feasts are organised in different localities. Khichdi and other delicacies are prepared on this day.
The 9th day is dubbed as “Maha Navami”. As soon as the “Sandhi Puja” ends, Maha Navami commences. Maha Aarti is performed as a closing ritual. Huge queues are common on this day as people flock in to take part in “Maha Aarti”.
The 10th day or “Maha Dashami” marks the final day of Durga Puja. On this day, Durga and the other deities are immersed in the river Ganga. Before the immersion, married women take part in “Sindoor Khela” where they smear vermillion on each other’s faces. On the day of immersion, also called “Visarjan”, huge processions are common. People dance and cheer on the road to celebrate the spirit of the puja. After the immersion, a typical custom is followed where people visit their relatives’ house to wish “Bijoya Dashami”.