Bengalis across India observed Mahalaya recently a day when Durga starts her journey to Earth. Mahalaya marks the start of the ‘Devipaksha’ and the end of ‘Pitri-paksha’. This is in other words is the beginning of the traditional six day countdown to Mahasaptami which is the beginning of the Durga Puja. But traditionally there is a story that Bengalis relate to, on this day. The story of Mahishasura Mardini, which is the story of how Ma Durga vanquished the demon Mahishasura. We take you through this story as festivities around Durga Puja begin.
Without the story of Mahishasura Mardini, the Agomoni or welcoming of the Supreme warrior Durga is incomplete. As per Hindu mythology there are nine separate forms of Durga and on the nine days of Navratri each form is prayed. Commonly referred to as Navdurga. Mahishasura Mardini became a tradition for every Bengali since 1932. The first broadcast of the show was in this very year on AIR. As a classic and very epic tale it is a one and a half hour show which is referred to as Chandipath. Acoustic melodrama, song, music and a well scripted story telling the entire tale of Durga and Mahishasura has been immortalized in the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. The Chandipath in his voice is very much an inextricable part of Mahalaya which is heard early in the morning on Mahalaya.
The story goes when Mahishasura got a boon he got so powerful that he became a problem for gods and goddesses. A point came when the gods created Devi Durga, who in turn brought an end to the reign of evil. Mahishasura came into existence after the union of the King of Asuras and his wife Princess Shyamala, who was cursed to be a buffalo. Thanks to his parents Mahish had the power to switch between the human and buffalo form.
Mythology suggests demon Rambho, the King of Asuras was granted a wish for a son who was invincible and could not be killed by gods, men or demon. The wish was granted but one thing that was added was that he would die in the hands of a female virgin. Mahishasura and Rakhtbeej were born to Princess Shyamala.
Mahishasura grew up while the war between the gods and the Asuras had been on. Mahishasura took the final confirmation of his immortality from Brahma.
After this Mahishasura gradually started terrorising people, and occupied heaven and drove out all Devas. The war between Gods and demons went on for a record 100 years. The gods had no place else to go so they went to Brahma to take refuge. It is when Shiva and Vishnu’s doors were knocked that Durga was created. Several reverred Gods and goddesses contributed positive energy to create Devi Durga. Ten gods now gave Durga crucial weapons to fight evil in the eye. Lord Shiva gave Durga the trident, Vishnu gave her a disc, Varuna gave her a conch and noose, Agni gave her a spear. From Vayu she received arrows. Indra gave her a thunderbolt. Indra’s white elephant gave a bell. Yama gave her a sword and a shield. While Vishwakarma gave her an axe and armor. The god of mountains, Himavat gifted her with jewels and a lion to ride on.
Mahishsura’s army was struck down. Without much of a problem Durga turned the battlefield into a place where all that remained of the demons was a corpse.
Mahishasura rather taken aback by this horrific site of dead Asuras, personally took a plunge into the battle between Ma and Mahish. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Mahishasura changed form between buffalo, lion, a man and an elephant. Finally on the tenth day of Ashvin shukla paksha, Mahishasura was defeated and killed by Durga. An angry Durga is believed to have pounced on Mahishasura, pushing him to the ground with her left leg. She pierced Mahishasura with her sharp trident held in one hand, and with yet another of her ten hands she wielded her bright sword, beheading him. This hence went on to be known as Mahishasura Mardini.