Mahalaya sets mood for the advent of Durga Puja

|| Post On > Sep 16 2022 ||

Mahalaya is celebrated at the beginning of the Durga Puja festival, which is observed in the states of Karnataka, Odisha, Tripura, and West Bengal. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that on this day Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswar created Goddess Durga to defeat the demon king Mahishasura.It is the last day of Pitru Paksha aka Sarva Pitru Amavasya.
Therefore, this day is marked as the arrival of Goddess Durga to Earth with her ultimate power. This day is celebrated with beautifully designed statues of Goddess Durga. Various rituals are performed, like offering a tarpan, remembering the ancestors, and establishing the idol of Durga Maa in houses and pandals.

Astronomical basis

As per Hindu traditions, the south celestial sphere is consecrated to the ancestors (pitru). Hence, the moment when the Sun transits from the north to the south celestial sphere is considered to begin a day of the ancestors. This moment is considered sacred, necessitating the performance of special religious rites. Most years, this transit occurs during Bhadrapada masa Krishna paksha (as per the amanta tradition) / Ashvina masa Krishna paksha (as per the purnimanta tradition). Hence this paksha has been designated as Pitru paksha and Hindus perform special religious rites during this entire period.


The performance of Shraddha by a son during Pitru Paksha is considered compulsory by Hindus, to ensure that the soul of the ancestor goes to heaven. In this context, the scripture Garuda Purana says, "there is no salvation for a man without a son". The scriptures preach that a householder should propitiate ancestors (Pitris), along with the gods (devas), elements (bhutas) and guests. The scripture Markandeya Purana says that if the ancestors are content with the shraddha's, they will bestow health, wealth, knowledge and longevity, and ultimately heaven and salvation (moksha) upon the performer.
The performance of Sarvapitri amavasya rites can also compensate for a forgotten or neglected annual Shraddha ceremony, which should ideally coincide with the death anniversary of the deceased. According to Sharma, the ceremony is central to the concept of lineages. Shraddha involves oblations to three preceding generations—by reciting their names—as well as to the lineage ancestor (gotra). A person thus gets to know the names of six generations (three preceding generation, his own and two succeeding generations—his sons and grandsons) in his life, reaffirming lineage ties.] Anthropologist Usha Menon of Drexel University presents a similar idea—that Pitru Paksha emphasises the fact that the ancestors and the current generation and their next unborn generation are connected by blood ties. The current generation repays their debt to the ancestors in the Pitru Paksha. This debt is considered of utmost importance along with a person's debt to his gurus and his parents.

Rules of Shraddha

The shraddha is performed on the specific lunar day during the Pitru Paksha, when the ancestor—usually a parent or paternal grandparent—died. There are exceptions to the lunar day rule; special days are allotted for people who died in a particular manner or had a certain status in life. Chautha Bharani and Bharani Panchami, the fourth and fifth lunar day respectively, are allocated for people deceased in the past year. Avidhava navami ("Widowed ninth"), the ninth lunar day, is for married women who died before their husband.
Widowers invite Brahmin women as guests for their wife's shraddha. The twelfth lunar day is for children and ascetics who had renounced the worldly pleasures. The fourteenth day is known as Ghata chaturdashi or Ghayala chaturdashi, and is reserved for those people killed by arms, in war or suffered a violent death.
Sarvapitri amavasya (all ancestors' new moon day) is intended for all ancestors, irrespective of the lunar day they died. It is the most important day of the Pitru Paksha. Those who have forgotten to perform shraddha can do so on this day. A shraddha ritual performed on this day is considered as fruitful as one conducted in the holy city of Gaya, which is seen as a special place to perform the rite, and hosts a fair during the Pitru Paksha period.

In Bengal, Mahalaya (Bengali: মহালয়া) usually marks the beginning of Durga Puja festivities. Mahalaya is the day when the goddess Durga is believed to have descended to Earth. Bengali people traditionally wake up early in the morning on Mahalaya to recite hymns from the Devi Mahatmya (Chandi) scripture. Offerings to the ancestors are made in homes and at puja mandaps (temporary shrines).
Matamaha ("Mother's father") or Dauhitra ("Daughter's son") also marks the first day of the month of Ashvin and beginning of the bright fortnight. It is assigned for the grandson of the deceased maternal grandfather.



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