Mahalaya is a significant occasion in the Bengali calendar, marking the beginning of Durga Puja, the grandest festival in West Bengal and among Bengali communities worldwide. The event traditionally involves the broadcast of Mahalaya programs on television and radio, which play a pivotal role in preparing the masses for the festivities to come. These TV shows are a delightful blend of culture, tradition, and spirituality, and they captivate audiences with their artistic and emotional appeal.
Mahalaya occurs on the new moon day of the Bengali month of Ashwin, heralding the advent of the goddess Durga, who symbolizes the victory of good over evil. It is believed that on this day, the goddess descends to Earth, guided by the hymns and chants of the devotees. Mahalaya marks the end of the Pitri Paksha, a period dedicated to honoring one’s ancestors, and the beginning of Devi Paksha, when the worship of Durga begins.
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The most renowned Mahalaya program is undoubtedly “Mahisasur Mardini,” which originally started as a radio program created by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. In 1976, Doordarshan, the national television channel of India, adopted this program, turning it into a visual spectacle. The powerful narrative of Goddess Durga’s battle with the demon Mahishasura, set to a melodious tune, is an annual tradition that resonates with millions of viewers.
Apart from the traditional “Mahisasur Mardini,” Mahalaya TV shows encompass a wide range of cultural programs. These include music, dance, and theatrical performances that narrate stories from Indian mythology and Bengali literature. From classical dance forms like Kathak and Odissi to contemporary adaptations of traditional tales, these shows are a feast for the eyes and ears.
Many Mahalaya programs feature religious discourses by scholars and spiritual leaders, providing deep insights into the significance of Durga Puja. These shows inspire devotion and educate viewers about the rituals and customs associated with the festival. Alongside these discourses, artistic renditions of various religious texts and epics are also performed, showcasing the rich heritage of the Bengali culture.
Bengali literature is celebrated for its lyrical poetry and poignant recitations. Mahalaya programs often include recitations of iconic works by Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, among others. These readings resonate with the viewers’ hearts and offer a unique blend of spirituality and artistry.
Mahalaya TV shows are more than mere broadcasts; they are cultural phenomena that evoke a deep sense of pride, devotion, and nostalgia among the Bengali community. These programs bridge the gap between tradition and modernity, showcasing the rich cultural tapestry of Bengal to a global audience. Mahalaya, with its unique combination of spirituality and artistic expression, sets the stage for the grandeur of Durga Puja, marking a time when Bengalis across the world come together to celebrate their heritage and faith.