The festive season is knocking our doors as Durga Puja begins next month. After being the year of all things unusual, 2020 will eventually begin that auspicious period of festivities a month after the celebration of Mahalaya.
Mahalaya or Mahalaya Amavasya is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Amavasya in the month of Ashwin. It falls on the last day of Pitru paksh or Shradh. This year Mahalaya is on September 17.
Mahalaya is said to be the day when goddess Durga defeated the demon named Mahishsura. The day signifies the end of Pitru Paksha Shradh and the beginning of Durga Puja for Bengalis. Pitru Paksha is a period of worshipping the ancestors and the deceased and to pray for the peace of their souls.
Bengalis celebrate the happy occasion of Mahalaya by listening to Mahisasuramardini in the morning, an audio of Chandipath recitation from the scriptural verses of Sri Sri Chandi along with devotional songs.
The day signifies Goddess Durga’s journey from Mount Kailash, where she resides with her husband Lord Shiva and children, to her maternal home on Earth. Her mode of transportation changes every year, from elephant, horse, palanquin, or a boat.
On her arrival, the much awaited ten day-Durga Puja begins to celebrate her victory over evil. Puja pandals of various themes are set up and people wear new clothes, exchange gifts and indulge in sumptuous meals with friends and family.
In normal circumstances, Durga Puja begins seven days after Mahalaya. However, Goddess Durga will arrive a month later this year and the puja will begin from October 22.
Bisuddha Siddhanta and Suryasiddhanta, both schools of almanacs agree that the rare aberration happens because of the occurrence of a phenomenon called mala mash, a lunar month which has two new moons (Amavasya).
This is not the first time the Puja is happening a month later. It happened last time in the year 2001 when Durga Puja was celebrated a month later.