We, the Bengalis wake up on this day, listening to the dream music to our ears, the recitation of Birendra Kishore’s Mahalaya poetry. This heralds the traditional 6-day countdown to Mahasaptami. Goddess Durga visits the earth for only four days but seven days prior to the Pujas, starts the Mahalaya. The enchanting voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra fill up the predawn hours of the day thus marking the beginning of ” devipaksha ” and the beginning of the count-down of Durga Puja.
Ayi Giri Nandini Nandita Medini, Visva Vinodini Nandinute Giri Vara
Vindhya Shirodhini Vasini Vishnuvilaasini, Jisnunute Bhagavati He ShitikaNthakutumbini
Bhoorikutumbini Bhoorikrute Jaya Jaya He, Mahishaasuramardhini
How long do Bengalis all over the world wait for this day? For us, the Bengalis, the clan producing the sons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhash Chandra, Bose, Satyajit Roy and so on.. this is what the Christmas is to our Christian brothers, the Id-ul-fitr is to our brothers of Islam, and so on. We, the “Bongs” across the world keenly wait for this day when we may return to our roots and look forward to a week full of magic with all those artifacts that we are identified with.
While our current Gen-X may sometimes be lost when it comes to identifying with our roots, this is the day that knocks us back to our senses and makes us get back to what we hold so dearly, our cultural roots. The expectations and memories from the Durga Puja are so high amongst our clan that where-ever we are, at that moment, we all hope or wish that were we in Kolkata when the puja will happen. We guys eagerly wait to don the Punjabis while our female counterparts dress up in Saris in anticipation of creating a few fluttering hearts, and sometime, ensnare a hopelessly romantic dolt with her charm. The kids dress up and play, firing their toy-guns (caps) and the occasional sound of crackers and very recently, whistles and horns, play the perfect foil to merry-making. This is the time when the “Mashimas”, “Boudis” and “Didis” with that “Para’r danpite meye” unite to play with the flavor of the crimson magic. This is the time we unite across generations and pay homage to our seniors. This is the time when nuclear families reunite in infectious joy. This is the time when the elderly, stop harping about the tormenting life, and enjoy the fruits of harmony with their younger counterparts. This is the time when the school going kids, are relieved of their burden from those nightmarish study-books and they are free to reign their world of fairy-land.
Yes, this is what Durga Puja brings to us. But unfortunately, although we “Bongs” would like to share the magic with all our Non-Bong friends, they would really not be in a position to savor the actual flavor of this delicacy. But, true to our roots, it is through the pursuit of these differences and these identities of our culture, we find meaning in our life. Otherwise, we are just another robot planted on this tormenting planet wonder, to play our role on the grander stage of life.
Three cheers to the Mahalaya, which heralds the Durga Puja.
And I wish I could do better justice to our roots with an ode to our cultural roots, but unfortunately, I have my limitations as a serious poet.