Mahalaya – A Unique Bengali Festival


As I work late during the night before Mahalaya, it feels odd, how life changes. From the days of childhood when it was mandatory to sleep early the night before mahalaya to ensure that you woke up early to the hymns of Mahishashura Mardini playing on the radio while everyone went for a morning walk even if they were used to sleeping till 9 on other days. It used to start at 4 AM and I also remember my dad waking me up to listen to “Jaago, tumi jaago”.

As I grew older and had friends we used to take our cycle and drive to the nearest river to watch the sunrise while carrying a radio with us so that Mahishashura Mardini still played on, but you really did not need to as every house used to play it out loud and the land really felt blessed as Mother Durga arrived from her husband’s home to her mother land. It officially marks the start of Durga Puja.

Pic Courtesy  :

Pic Courtesy :

Now it’s almost 20 years since those days and I don’t hear Birendra Krishna Bhadra on the radio anymore, people have the recorded version stored in their hard drives to listen when ever they can but never get the time, the radio is long silent and most homes don’t know how to connect to All India radio. Television has tried to dig into the Mahalaya pie and all bengali channels do a mahishashura mardini but even the Legendary voice of uttam kumar was rejected by people in 1976 when AIR had to revert back to Birendra Krishna Bhadra version recorded in 1930 and still a raging hit among bongs, don’t know of many compositions that have been a hit for so long.

So its 12:30 now and I know I need to finish a lot of work still and so will not wake up at 4 AM today, but I want to do it next year when my daughter will be a bit older and I hope to relive my childhood with her, let her realize what fun it is to wait for a recording from 1930 to be played only once in a year at 4 AM in the morning and not make it some GB of memory in your hard disk. I want her to make real memories, the kind that makes you write a post like this.

So I wish everyone a Subho mahalaya and have a great Durga Puja / Navratri  /Dasshara.


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