Why is Mahalaya Celebrated?
This year, September 19 is being celebrated as Mahalaya. The day marks the beginning of the ‘Devi-paksha’ and the end of the ‘pitri-paksh’ (Shraddh or the mourning period).
Celebrated for seven days, legend is that on the first day of Mahalaya, Goddess Durga starts her journey to earth (her paternal home). Mahalaya is also known as Akaalbodhan (ultimately invoking the goddess).
The six-day countdown to Mahasaptami, Mahalaya is celebrated with much gusto in Bengal. The day is an invitation to Goddess Durga and is celebrated by chanting various hymns like “Jaago Tumi Jaago“, “Bajlo tomar alor benu“.
As this marks the end of Pitri-paksh, the male descendants of the deceased pray to Goddess Durga in the name of their ancestors. It is considered an auspicious day. The offering is known as ‘Tarpan’. The belief is that if the ancestors are not offered food during this period, their dissatisfied souls remain in the Earth and do not go to heaven.
KARNA AND THE GOOD DEED OF ‘DAANAM’
Not quite related to Mahalaya, but the Mahabharat has a tale of Karna seldom told. Like you would already know, Karna, despite being the son of Lord Surya (Sun God) and Kunti, lived his life as a charioteer’s son. Karna grew up to be one of the most handsome men around, flaunting the gold armour and earrings he was born with, and was unquestionably the best in warfare. Yes, even better than Arjun.
Karna, however, never got the respect he deserved and was always put down by people reminding him of his caste. Being the generous, righteous man he is, Karna never said no to anyone. He wanted to ensure his soul enters the heaven but for that ‘anna daanam’ (food donation) was important. This is the one thing Karna could not do in his life because nobody wanted to eat at his house, because of his caste.
The Epic has it that Karna was not fed in heaven because he never offered food to his ancestors (Pind-daan) and people never ate at his house. There is another story that says Lord Krishna did give Karna a chance to exhibit his generosity and ensured that in his next birth, Karna will be able to perform anna-daanam after which he will attain moksha.
GODDESS PARVATI’S DURGA AVATAR
Asuras, at one time, became ever powerful. Blessed by the Gods, and Lord Shiva giving them a boon that only a woman could kill them, asuras went on a rampage. Asuras considered women weak and thought when women are scared to be even spotted by them, how they would dare to fight them.
Lord Shiva, the destroyer, was approached by the gods as they felt threatened by the rise of asuras. Shiva knew what exactly had to be done. He requested his wife Goddess Parvati — who is also known as ‘Shakti’ because she is the power that runs the universe — to incarnate as Goddess Durga and handle the situation.
Parvati — needless to say, the ultimate destroyer — was also fair. Since asuras never did any harm to her directly, she chose to give them a chance. Riding her vehicle, a lion, Parvati went to meet the asuras.
The asura king fell for Parvati the first time he saw her and send his minions to her with a marriage proposal. Parvati declined the proposal saying she’s already married to Lord Shiva.
The king, high on arrogance and power, insulted Lord Shiva saying he is a hermit living under the open sky and dared to say that Parvati deserved better. The king had also instructed his men to forcefully take Parvati to him in case she still said no to his proposal.
She did say no, and they did try to force her, inviting their annihilation. Parvati took the form of Goddess Durga and slayed all the asuras on the day of Mahalaya.
Mahalaya was broadcasted over the radio in 1930s. Later on, the hymns and songs were recorded and played on the day of Mahalaya. Legendary narrator, Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s voice was used to narrate hymns and legends around Goddess Durga’s descend to earth.
Article shared by Sahaja Yogini | Armaity Bhabha