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Good over Evil is need of the hour! Relevance of Mahalaya in modern India

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Durga puja is a time of celebration, of happiness, joy, and a general sense of belongingness. It is what brings us together. A Bengali feels a strong spiritual connection with the festival, but the days preceding the puja, are all about nostalgia. The festival countdown begins with Mahalaya, which marks the end of Pitri Paksha, and the beginning of Matri Paksha on protipod, or the first day. Mahalaya is the day when Goddess Durga is believed to have descended to Earth. Bengalis traditionally wake up early in the morning on Mahalaya to recite hymns from the Devi Mahatmya scriptures. Offerings to the ancestors are made in homes and at puja mundaps, or temporary shrines.

Mahalaya is that one day of the year when every Bengali household tunes to the radio transmission of Mahishasur Mardini, broadcast timely at 4 a.m. every year on this day, since 1931. The programme, which started off as a live-performance, has been broadcast on All India Radio in its pre-recorded format since 1966. However, its great popularity remains undiminished even today over 86 years later. Birendra Krishna Bhadra, who will always be remembered for making Mahalaya memorable to one and all, is the voice behind the Mahisasura Mardini.

Listening to the broadcast at the break of dawn has become a tradition in itself. The programme is transmitted through loudspeakers on the day. Although, nowadays, the trend of listening to the programme on social platforms at a later hour is preferred by many, those who faithfully get up and listen to the hour-and-a-half programme at 4, still form the majority. Mahalaya therefore serves as a reminder that in the divine scheme of things, Evil may win the battle, but it is Goodness that has the last laugh.

This is an acute reminder that we need, in these dark days of political unrest, and societal degradation. When all hope seems to be lost, when corruption seems to course sluggishly through our veins like the polluted waters of Ganga, when the putrefaction of society boils over to the surface, that is when we need to steel ourselves against the face of evil, and pray to the mighty Goddess for the triumph of Good over Evil!

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