Mahalaya marks the beginning. Of festive fervour. Of celebration. Of Durga coming home.
Big eyes of Durga started doing the rounds couple of months before the actual pujo, in pandals and on Sarbojonin patrikas. New dresses, Shuili flowers, holiday liberty, trips to never land, gifts and galore all started becoming part of any typical bong household. In talks, smells, spirit and in boxes.
After the end of preparation, celebration starts. Thus, Mahalaya is officially the end day of the start. Mahalaya is the epitome of spirit, while Durga pujo is the execution of that spirit. That is why probably I liked Mahalaya over Pujo itself. Then, there is more to it.
In formative years of my memory, the uptron black and white TV played the Mahalaya special program at 5AM to start the day. In adjacent room Panasonic radio was tuned into AIR. “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon” started echoing from every corner of the house.
Amidst all, what stayed in me most, was the power image of Durga. She was not showering blessings and emitting rays from the palm of her right hand. She was not punishing the evil by sending snake to bit someone at middle of the night. She was not thrown flowers right on her face or chandan teeka to smash her forehead. She was not overburdened with garlands around her neck. She was not confined in the chants. She was not restricted in the bhajans.
She was rather born to kill the evil. She was a powerful female. She had ten arms, all equipped. She was mahamaya. She was the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create her. She was the ‘Durgatinashini’ who was able to slay the ‘Asura’ king with her trident. She won. She was therefore earned rejoice. She was celebrated.
She was the epitome of woman empowerment. She was power celebrated by wide acceptance of heaven and earth.
Then I grew up. Mornings started becoming late. Mahalaya became infrequent. Radio got broke. TV got changed. Doordarshan was no longer remembered.
And I met new Durgas.
The one that lived in nearby tribal community. She had scars all over. Bruised and disguised.
Then there was Durga aunti. She always sounded insecure. She once mortgaged her mangalsutra and sold used liquor bottles to kabadiwala to pay back the mortgage money.
Then there was a maths teacher Durgesh Nandini. She was always mocked by her male like name, but her mathematics blown us all. One day she left everything because she got married and her husband never liked her working.
Met many Amba, Ambika, Baruni, Bhargavi, Ishani and synonymous. And like Mahalaya, the strong image of real Durga, kept on fading with today’s Durga.