Ever since my childhood with the first peep of dawn on Mahalaya the big, old Telefunken radio sitting atop my grandfather’s bedside table came alive with Mahishasur Mardini and the legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Chandi Path broadcast on Akashvani (কলকাতা ক).
Traditionally Mahalaya signifies the end of Pitripaksh with a pre-dawn ritual of paying respect to one’s fore-fathers on the ghats of Ganga and the dawn of Matripaksh or Devi Paksha, the fortnight of the Devi, fifteen days from the new Moon of Mahalaya to the full Moon of Kojagari Purnima.
But as a child, Mahalaya would have a very different significance for me. I would start counting days as Mahalaya would mean Durga Puja was round the corner. The Agomani songs would start the drum roll in my heart much before the Dhakis started doing their rounds down each alley, beating the traditional dhaks, flamboyant in their vibrant upholstery, to the festive beats. News would trickle in every day from the neighbourhood Mallik Bari, where the Kumors or the artisans would be camping from after Holi, patiently giving shape to an idol on a structure of clay, bamboo, straw. As we would approach Mahalaya, the idol would near its final stages as well, waiting for a coat of ‘garjan tel’ – a last touch of lustre over the mat paint.
I would wait for this dawn of Devipaksh for watching Chakshu Daan. Every year my grandfather would take us through the arched corridors of Mallik Bari, into the courtyard where the artisan sat creating magic with clay and paint. I would watch with awe as the master artisan added deft brush strokes of paint to the eyes of the Pratima in the darkened hall of the Thakur Dalan, by the light of a lamp, a ritual of painting life into the idol. And with this the mere idol of clay, bamboo, jute and reed adorned with mat paint and lustre, suddenly transformed into the living, breathing, all-seeing Trinayani Durga, the slayer of Mahishasur.
Picture courtsey : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarajit/2902763375/
Picture courtsey : http://www.flickr.com/photos/swarnendu/3893084940/