The countdown to Durga Puja is well underway by Mahalaya,  which is observed seven days before (September 23rd for 2014).  It’s on Mahalaya that preparations for Durga Puja reach their final stages, and it’s believed that on this day Durga, the goddess of supreme power, descends to earth.  One older custom still observed by some is the painting of Durga’s eyes on this day, as a symbol of her invocation and impending presence.

On Mahalaya, my husband Stan and I paid an early morning visit  to the Shovabazar Rajbari.  Dilipda’s Durga sculptural tableauxl had been painted and dressed, but final details, such as hair and weapons or instruments that the gods and goddess hold in their hands, have not yet been added.  While we were there, we encountered Sri Krishna Deb, the community organizer for the Shovabazar’s pandal presentation.  Sri Deb graciously invited us to attend the community’s Mahalaya celebrations that evening!

When we returned in the evening, the celebration was getting underway with a beautiful ceremony in which many small oil-filled clay dishes were lit.



After the lamps were lit, Sri Deb rang the puja bell.  Far in the distance (center of the  photograph) you can see a priest sitting on the ground and performing the evening’s rites.







Then began a lovely musical program including members throughout the Shovabazar community, beginning with the youngest members, and progressing to the most accomplished dancers and musicians.




IMG_2218Invoking Durga through dance!

3 thoughts on “Mahalaya”

  1. Hello, Cynthia
    My name is Siddhant. I now live in Dubai, UAE…. and I love your blog! The 18 years I spend in India were awesome! And the things I miss the most about Calcutta are the pujas, traditional immersions and rituals of Durga puja. Our family celebrated our last Durga puja like 13 years ago… And I miss those times, but I just have a request–> and it is that there is a woman artisan in Kumartuli named Mala Pal and she is quite famous in the area, and this year I ordered a Durga idol of 18 inches and it looks beautiful. She is famous for her art of making miniature idols and I want you to make a blog about her please ☺️ And YES about the address, you can just ask the locals, they will tell you.. Please make a BLOG about MALA PAL. Please!!!!
    It’s my request.
    Thanks for reading.
    Your FAN, Siddhant

    1. Dear Siddhant,
      Actually, I did visit with Mala Pal when I was last in Kolkata. I would like very much to write about her and share photographs of her wonderful work. I will be back in Kolkata again soon, and hope to meet her then.
      Thank you for the complement of reading my blog!

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