Pitra-paksha and Mahalaya: A tradition as old as time
The term pitri paksha suggests it is the time when Hindus offer prayers and food to the ancestors. This also symbolises taking care of the elders and the poor.
Legend goes Ma Durga starts her journey from mountain Kailash on Mahalaya
Every year goddess Durga comes down with her four children namely, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik from her in-law's house in the Kailash to her parent's home in the plains.
Birendra Krishna Bhadra has been evoking goddess Durga at the All India Radio for the last 80 years
Mahalaya: For the last 8 decades Birendra Krishna Bhadra's Chandipath has been the quintessential part of the Mahalaya celebration in Bengal. The man is dead but his voice resonates through the celebration every year.
End of Pitri-paksha
Mahalaya marks the day when the male descendants of the deceased pray to Goddess Durga in the name of their ancestors. It is considered an auspicious day. The offering is known as 'Tarpan'. The believers go to the Hoogly river, a tributary of the Ganges in Kolkata to take a holy dip.
A tradition as old as time
Durga Puja in Bengal has a distinct colonial heritage but offering 'tarpan' is an ancient ritual passed down through ages across generations. Children are inducted into the ritual too.
Feeding the deceased
The belief goes that if the deceased ancestors are not fed on this day of the Mahalaya, their dissatisfied souls remain in the Earth and do not go to heaven.
Food for the deceased
The food offerings made to ancestors are offered on a banana leaf or cups made of dried leaves. The significance of this act in today's world is that with the society is becoming extremely materialistic and things like giving something to someone without a reason, like food and clothing are getting scarce. Hence the celebration of pitri-paksha should act to somehow awaken these habits in people.
Performing 'tarpan' at the Jagannath ghat on Hoogly river
Jagannanth Ghat is located on the eastern bank of River Hoogly, just to the north of Howrah Bridge. It was beautifully constructed in classical European style by Shobharam Basak, the famous trader and merchant, who became a millionaire by supplying textiles to the East India Company. People from all over Bengal and outside congregate at this place on Mahalaya morning.
Florists at Jagannath ghat
A key aspect of 'tarpan' on Mahalay day involves offering flowers. These florists who have been in the business across generations is an integral part of Jagannath ghat.