Passing on the joy of celebration – Mahalaya special

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It’s that time of the year again when the wait for the biggest celebration for a Bengali household comes to an end with the arrival of Mahalaya. For the next ten days, all that one can hear a Bengali talk about is how Durga pujo is nothing short of an emotion. It doesn’t matter in which city you are going to celebrate pujo this year. It could be Berhampore/Murshidabad, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, New York or London because the level of excitement always stays the same.

A pandal created out of drums -Pujo 2017
A pandal created out of drums -Pujo 2017

Mahalaya in my childhood meant the beginning of school holidays. Preparation began the night before as Ma pestered me to sleep early while ensuring that Baba kept the radio station sorted out for the wee hours of the morning. Sharp at 4 am, she woke up every year to turn on the radio. I would snuggle up to them with sleepy eyes as Mahishashur Mardini was aired on All India Radio. Birendra Krishna Bhadra chanted the verses of Chandi Kavya/Path while devotional songs played during intervals.

Throwback - Pujo 2017
Throwback – Pujo 2017

And then Doordarshan came up with a Mahalaya special episode of Mahishashur Mardini. My parents would watch till the end as I dozed off intermittently. Baba would next go to the local sweet shop Mitali and get us Kachori, Aloo Dum and misthi. I still feel those were the only motivating factors for me to wake up so early.

Open Air Durga Pujo - Pujo 2017
Open Air Durga Pujo – Pujo 2017

I normally spent the day reading books that I would stack up for the last few months. These were called pujabarshikis because these annual magazines were published only during pujo. For me, Anandamela pujabarshiki meant the world though we also got Shukhtara, Desh, Sananda and Anandalok. This hasn’t changed over the years. Last year I had written a post on how this is a gift from my father that I eagerly wait for every year. This year, I am hoping to get it when I travel to Berhampore this 12th.

Anandamela Pujabarshiki last year
Anandamela Pujabarshiki last year

After lunch every year, Ma would get down to the serious business of finalizing dresses to be worn throughout sashthi to dasami. During my childhood, the count of my pujo dresses would be 10-12 usually. Other than my parents, dresses were gifts that relatives bestowed upon me. Ma’s sarees were mostly bought by Baba and her though she also received gifts from my grandparents. Baba wore tailor-made trousers – shirts and ended up having the least number of clothes. My mother would have invariably purchased him two pyjama – kurta sets for pujo from her own savings.

Saree as a gift
Saree as a gift – 2018

For a child, it was a daunting task to choose the dress that was to be worn on Saptami morning against the one that would make it to the night selection. However, the most beautiful dress was always reserved for the most important day of pujo – ashtami. I would then go back to the world of Pandob Goyenda, Kakababu – Santu and Kikira in books.

The last item that Ma ensured was stocked in sufficient quantities were pujo special delicacies. Home made naru (round balls made of coconut and jaggery/sugar ), moya ( round balls made of puffed rice and jaggery), murki (made from beaten rice and jaggery) and nimki (salted item made of maida). These were items to be savored during pujo and anyone visiting our house during this period would invariably end up eating a lot of my Mom’s pujo special dishes.

Pujo special Naru and Murki
Pujo special Naru and Murki

With time, the dynamics of Mahalaya changed for me. After plus two, I had moved out of my hometown for higher studies. Since then, all my Mahalayas were spent in hostels at various parts of the country. Eventually, Mahalaya had started becoming more of a holiday that reminded me that pujo was just around the corner. After I started my job, It was difficult to avail leave during this period as most of the staffs would have also wanted to be on a holiday during pujo/Navaratri. I would stay back and try to get leave during Diwali. But it was really difficult to stay away from my home during these four days. If there was one time that I wished to soak in the festivities with my family, it was during Durga Pujo.

The tallest deity in Murshidabad - Pujo 2017

After Ma’s demise in 2011, Mahalaya and Pujo ceased to have any special place in my life. Mahalaya for me is still about my Ma. My husband and I never felt the urge to come back to Bengal during pujo. We chose to get familiar with the pujo in Mysore or the Ulsoor/Malleshwara/Koramangla pujo in Bangalore. After my son was born and I chose to quit my corporate job, we celebrated pujo in Bengal after years in 2016. Last year, he had turned two just after Mahalaya and I realized that I couldn; carry on with my emotional baggage that would deprive him of being part of such a joyous occasion. We celebrated pujo together as he learnt about various aspects of pujo like pandal hopping, eating bhog and made Osur/Asura his friend.

The pujo famous for its gigangtic Asura - Pujo 2017
The pujo famous for its gigangtic Asura – Pujo 2017

This year, we have been talking to him about Mahalaya and how his Dadai (my father-in-law) performs Tarpan every year in Ganga. He knows it is for the departed soul of his forefathers. We had also told him the story of Devi Durga killing Mahishahur and the beginning of Devi Pakshya today. Today morning, both of us woke up to the sound of blazing loudspeakers at 4am (not my idea of pujo though) playing Mahishashur Mardini. The poor boy has been suffering from a bad bout of viral infection that has left him sleep-deprived and weak for the past five days. I was expecting a meltdown at that moment as ‘Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu’ played in the background. Instead, I found him beaming with joy as he asked excitedly asked if Ma Durga has reached the Pandal today and if I will let him wear a new Pyjama Punjabi today. It was difficult not to get emotional when he asked for luchi-aloo dum-mishti for breakfast today.

The scary loudspeaker near our bedroom window
The scary loudspeaker near our bedroom window

His generation will probably grow up with a different concept of pujo than what we experienced. But it doesn’t really matter as long as the spirit of the festival is upheld. My mother helped me create memories by getting me involved in the celebration. I realized that as a mother to a three-year-old, I am probably trying to do the same. I’m passing on my experiences in the form of creating moments for him so that when he turns back to think of these days much later in life, he would realize what beautiful memories are etched in his heart and soul. As I start packing for our pujo trip to Berhampore this Friday, here’s a very Shuvo Mahalya from me and my family to everyone reading this post.

This Durga Pujo, 19 bloggers will bring out different facets of Durga Pujo as we share our journey from various parts of the country. You can follow the hashtag #bloggersdurgapujo on FB/Twitter/Instagram and stay updated on every post, picture, video that we share. Please show us some love in the form of likes, comments and shares as we take you on a memorable ride.

List of Participating Bloggers

Dr. Amrita Basu (Misra):

Anupriya Gupta: https:////www.mommytincture

Esha Chakraborty:

Indrani Ghose:

Kapila Rattan Bhowmik:

Dr. Kuheli Bhattacharya:

Moumita Sen:

Nehal Roy:

Paromita Biswas:

Rahul Basu:

Sayanti Mahapatra:

Shalini Magdel Das:

Shamik Byabartta:

Sharmishtha S Ghosh:

Shruti Dugar:

Siya Bose:

Sonali Chauhan:

Sonia Chatterjee:

Soumosri and Utsab

Vasundhara Sarkar:

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? An erstwhile banker turned blogger/writer/author. Any qualifications? A Post-Graduate degree in Chemistry followed by a second Post-Graduate Diploma in Management. I completed a one-year MFA in creative writing course from the Writer's Village University, U.S. in Dec 2020. Though I must admit that I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots. Have I done any real work? If two years in market research, six years in banking as a branch head, three-plus years of blogging, writing, and publishing a book can be considered as real work, then yes! Where do I live? After spending life like a nomad for sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Books, coffee, travel, food, and my five-year-old son. What is this blog about? Through Sonia's musings, I intend to explore writing in various genres, create social awareness, spread laughter, and give words to emotions. Anything for readers? You can check out my book 'Deal of Death' on Amazon Kindle. If you like fast-paced thrillers, this Detective fiction introducing the woman sleuth, Raya Ray could turn out to be your perfect weekend read.

38 thoughts on “Passing on the joy of celebration – Mahalaya special”

  1. How beautifully has Pujo time connected your past and present and sowed seeds for the future.

    The best way to teach children about festivals and traditions is to celebrate these special days with them, just like your Maa did , and just as you have decided to do, Sonia.

    Wishing you and your family happy moments and memories.

    Shuvo Mahalaya!
    Dugga! Dugga! Dugga!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never lived in Kolkata but having grown up with many Bengali families ( my dad was a doctor in the Armed forces and several of his colleagues were Bengalis) I know how important Durga Puja was for Bengalis. I grew up in an era where TV didnt exist, amusement parks were unheard of , shopping wasn’t done in malls so all entertainment was welcome . I often attended these Durga Puja celebrations to see my friends perform .
    Happy Navratri to you Sonia. May your new memories of this festival be happy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice one Sonia. So, it’s just knocking on our doors. I am getting ready to bring the idol from Kumartuli on Saturday[Chaturthi] early morning to our community pandal. And the festivities start :)… Wishing you all the best for a very Happy Puja.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is really awesome initiative that you all are sharing such great fun festivities. the post is really nostalgic to me, we really miss all these fun in USA so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hugs Surbhi. I can totally understand. For years when I was in a different part of the country I yearned to get back home during this period. I can feel your sadness. I will try to bring some cheer by sharing more puja posts with you.


  5. Exciting times ahead. I almost wrote a Mahalaya post for this #MondayMusings, but as I was under the weather, couldn’t. My post would have been a lot similar to your memories. 🙂 Would love to join the #bloggersdurgapujo, if it’s still open for link ups. 🙂
    Thanks for these nostalgic snippets Sonia. Thoroughly enjoyed them.
    Shubho Mahalaya and Durga Puja Joy and Bliss your way! Khub anando car adda koro. 🙂


  6. The idea of revisting your childhood memories is so heartwarming, it can’t be put in words. And congrats to you that you are passing on the tradition to your son as well. Keep it up!


  7. Such a beautiful and detailed description, Sonia! Though I have never seen anyone close doing this, I have heard of it a lot. Would like to witness Mahalaya and all that is my long time wish to be in Kolkata during this time so that I can watch it personally.


  8. Luckily my brother is in Kolkata this year and through him, I would be witnessing the festivities on video chat. I have a dream to visit Kolkata once during the Durga Puja. I just love everything about this festival as I have grown up seen the celebrations in the Bong society in my city. Beautifully written post and the pics too.


  9. There is a smile on my face as I read your post again and again. So many emotions are brimming out through this post. The childhood memories you had and the memories you are making with your child is what makes all these festivals such a joy. As if Durga Ma has come down to tie the threads between the family members, to make them remember what they gained from their parents and what they should give now as a parent to their young ones.
    Lovely post!!!
    Your boy is such an angel. May Ma Durga always bless him.


  10. What beautiful memories you have shared on this post; I wonder if you realise how well you write as they really connect with the reader?

    Hugs for your mom’s passing away- I am sure you miss her a whole load, esp during Pujo! Glad to see you passing the baton to your son in the joys of tradition – it will make you very happy as a mom to see his excitement!

    I am very very curious about Durga Pujo and I keep asking my Bong friend to tell me more – this year I learnt about Mahalya and was zapped at the devotion I see in this generation about the religious activities like the 4 am AIR broadcast! Its so heartening to see the traditions being upheld! I wish I had a Bong neighbour to participate in all of this.

    This year too I plan to go pandal hopping with my Bong friends and I look forward to these blogs for the updates on Pujo – awesome initiative and I hope to catch some if not all of the posts!

    Wishing you a very happy and blissful pujo Sonia!


  11. Traditions intact with colours so vibrant. I miss the two years I lived in West Bengal and crave for these moments during Pujo time. I live the idea of the drums in the pandal. Thats something I havent seen. With every passing year, the innovation and creativity in the Pandals has multiplied four fold. Awesom Sonia, looking forward to more Puja pics and posts.


  12. Bhishon bhalo laglo, Sonia! I too want to write about the Durga Pujo celebrations, but still juggling with time. Loved your post dipped in nostalgia! Have a lovely time during pujo and enjoy with your little one and the family. Hugs for you because I know how much you must be missing your mom esp around this time of the year. ❤ Will keep visiting your blog as and when time permits during this festival time.


  13. wow! I like the spirit of everyone to come together and share their part of the world in the festivities. I do believe that Kolkata is at a different level when it comes to Durga Puja! Do you guys have a common link where we can find your writing? I have written a post on Bengali artists in Jaipur who creates idols for the pandals! It was written two years ago. 🙂


  14. Feeling good to know about the Bengali culture through your posts. We should pass our customs and rituals to our children. No matter how they continue with them. Good read:)


  15. Beautiful memories. I loved reading about the customs and traditions to your household. Let me say a Bengali household. What I admire about India is how we celebrate the same festival in so many different ways. I remember Durga Pooja for the Navratras, the pandals, the food and Dusherra. Good times with family.


  16. A heart-felt post packed with emotions and memories!
    Wish you love, luck, and happiness.
    Sharodiyo shubheccha to your and your family 😊


  17. It’s a childhood habit… for me. My grandfather used to turn on the radio at about 3.45-3.50 am in the morning.

    Mahalaya, Radio and the memories of my grandfather…they are very much connected. Makes me feel nostalgic.


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