Mahalaya – Of what I remember

Mahalaya is an auspicious day for Bengalis all over the world. It is the beginning of Durga Puja. It is believed on this day Debi Durga had descended earth with her children.

As a kid growing up in a Muslim country, my parents always made sure they taught me the roots and where I came from. Early in the morning – 4 AM to be precise, dad took out his old Panasonic cassette player and played the extremely popular  Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s – Mahisasuramardini. This was first aired by Akashvani radio in the year 1931. This is an hour-half long recitation of the chantings of Chandi – popularly called the Chandipath.

As I did not understand much of what the verses meant, I loved the melody. Mom would then make some tea and we would all sit down and be happy that even far from home, this is the time of the year we would buy new clothes, one for each of the seven days of the festivities.

In Oman, we had a closely nit bengali community. All of us would actively participate and take up responsibilities. Even if I had school, I would make sure I went there in the evening or right after school to meet my friends and play with them. Our King was generous enough to make two churches and two temples. This one was somewhere in between a local community. But the locals too enjoyed us celebrating our time of the season. Just like we did for Eid.

This is how a typical Puja sky looks in Kolkata. The clouds are an indication that the festivities have begun!



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