Guwahati: The holy festival of 'Mahalaya' is being celebrated across Assam and Tripura on Wednesday. As per the Hindu Calendar, Mahalaya is celebrated by the devotees of Maa Durga a week before Durga Puja celebrations begin. This year the Durga Puja celebration will start on October 11. On that day, on the occasion of Maha Sashti, the formal puja of Maa Durga idols will start across Assam, Tripura and some parts of other Northeastern states. Mahalaya is marked on the last day of Pitru Paksha, which is observed today, on October 6 this year.
Mahalaya marks the start of the Durga Puja festival. On this day, the goddess Durga is believed to have descended to Earth on the occasion of Navratri and will stay for her devotees till the Bijaya Dashamasi until her idols are immersed in holy waters by the devotees.
Maa Durga devotees across Assam, Tripura wakes up at 4 am and listens to Chandi Path verses popularly known as "Mahishasura Mardini". Eight decades after it was first recorded in Kolkata, there is still no comparison with the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra that still rules the heart of every Bengali.
It is believed that the 'Mahisasura Mardini' verse and mantras invoke the Goddess, the most famous one being 'Jago Tumi Jago.'
Mahalaya is the combination of two words Maha, which means grand, and Alaya or abode. The auspicious occasion is celebrated with beautiful traditions and rich stories.
Mahalaya is celebrated after Pitri Paksha ends or when Hindus remember their ancestors. People participate in many rituals, like offering food and water to the needy to express their love and gratitude to their forefathers.
Mahalaya Amavasya marks the culmination of the Pitri Paksha period and the beginning of the Devi Paksha. On this day, Shradh and Tarpan rituals are performed for those who breathed their last on Purnima Tithi, Chaturdashi Tithi and Amavasya Tithi.
Worshippers also throng the banks of the holy rivers from dawn to perform the ritual of 'tarpan'. The fervour and festivity surrounding Durga Puja and Navratri start with Mahalaya. In Jorhat, for ages, people wake up before the sun rises and take part in the Mahalaya procession. Other cities like Tezpur, Sighat, Pandu in Guwahati, Dibrugarh people go to the banks of river Brahmaputra and offer puja to the Shaktiswarupini.
Hindus believe that the demon king Mahishasura was blessed with a boon that no god or human could kill him. After he received the blessing, Mahishasura attacked the Devtas, and after losing the war to him, they had to leave the Devlok. All the Devtas, along with Lord Vishnu, worshipped Adi Shakti to save them from the wrath of Mahishasura. It is believed that a divine light came out of the bodies of all the Devtas and took the shape of Goddess Durga.
The war between Maa Durga and Mahishasura lasted for nine days, and then she killed him on the 10th day. Maa Durga is considered the goddess of power, and Durga Puja is celebrated all over the country with much pomp and fervour. Devotees pray to the goddess during these ten days, as it is believed she comes to Earth to bless her people.
Meanwhile, the Assam government has asked people to celebrate Durga puja with utmost precaution due to the ongoing Covid situation. The government has issued an SOP for the same.