Mahalaya is one of the phases of Pitru Paksha. The occasion of Mahalaya falls on Mahalaya Amavasya or no moon day. It’s a tradition in which food is offered to their ancestors in that time. If it is not done, it is believed that the person’s soul remains unsatisfied. There is a story about King Karna in mythology. He didn’t offer any meals to the ancestors when he was alive. After his death, he was not offered any of the food despite all of good karmas and the fact that he was moved to heaven. There is another story relates to Goddess Durga based on Mahalaya festival. Mahalaya is known to be the period when she killed the asuras. This day is considered very special and it is celebrated in different parts of the state of Bengal.
There are many forms of Goddess Parvati. Goddess Durga is one of the most common forms. This form is known to ensure justice and destroy the evils. Goddess took this form on the day of Mahalaya. She got all the celestial weapons from the gods to destroy the asuras. Gooddess Durga sat on lion to defeat the Asuras. She was confused why she has to attack them. Did they hurt her? Hence, she just wanted to give a chance to the asuras. She went to their place and the king fell on her and sent marriage proposal to her. She refused his proposal and got furious because he insulted her husband and used her divine power to kill all the asuras. It all happened on Mahalaya. When the king got to know that she killed his army of soldiers, he got to meet her and the furious war began between them.
Mahalaya is known as the auspicious start of Durga Puja, the greatest festival in Bengal. However the festival begins when Rathyatra is started where Goddess Durga’s idol is constructed. From Janmashtami, everyone starts waiting for Mahalaya Puja. Mahalaya just marks the preparations for the auspicious festival of Durga Puja and reaches the final level when everyone waits to inaugurate the ceremony. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that Goddess Durga returns to her paternal home during Mahalaya and it starts the preparation to welcome her homecoming.
Significance of Mahalaya in Bengal
In the state of Bengal, Mahalaya is very special because of three reasons. First of all, the makers and artists of Durga idols paint the eyes of the deity. This procession is called as Chakshudanam. The makers in Kumartuli, Kumortuli, or Kolkata are very busy in the settlement of idol all the day.
Tarpana or Tarpan has great significance in Mahalaya. It refers to remembrance. As the day dawns, people pay homage for the memory of their ancestors who were deceased. They flock on the riverbanks and priests perform the ritual on behalf of devotees. In Tarpan, the rite is performed in empty stomach. The devotees offer sweets and food to souls of their ancestors. Once rite is done, people take the food where Tarpan is performed.