For Bengali, the festivity starts right from the Mahalaya, the day announcing the ending of “Pitru Paksha” and beginning of “Devi Paksha“. Mahalaya signifies the arrival of Agomoni or Goddess Durga, who symbolizes the “Adi Shakti“, the eternal power, the primordial cosmic energy.
Mahalaya is also the beginning of Akal Bodhan (the untimely worshiping of God) , the awakening of Devi Durga, invoking the Goddess on Earth before time. For Bengalis the the day revolves around oratorical narration of “Chandi path” at the dawn, the beautiful mellifluous “Jago, tumi jago, jago Durga...”or shlokas and hymns from Devi Mahatyama scriptures to invoke the Goddess on Earth to save the world from the demon Mahishashur.
Another important aspect of this day is that the eyes are drawn on the idols of the Goddess Durga on Mahalaya in an auspicious ritual known as “Chokkhu Daan”, invoking her soul in the idol.
MahaShashti is the sixth day of devi paksha and marks the formal beginning of Durga Pujo in the eastern parts of the country. This is the day when we believes that Ma Durga has returned to her maternal homes with her children from her abode at Kailash. Hence Durga pujo is the time for celebration, and largely reflects this spirit of bonhomie and homecoming.
The three significant rituals associated with Maha Shashti are “Kalaparambho” (the beginning of pujo), Bodhan (the consecration of Ma Durga’s idol), Amantran (inviting the Goddess) and Adhivas (sanctifying the stay of the Goddess in the puja area of homes) – are performed on Shasthi. The ‘Bodhon’ rituals include the unveiling of the face of the idol.
During Bodhon, another important ritual is performed, called “Astra daan” or adorning Ma Durga with all the weapons given to her by the male deities to fight with Mahishasur, the demon. These include chakra (from Vishnu), vajra / thunderbolt (from Indra) conch, bow, arrow, sword, trident / trishul (Shiva) shield, and a noose.
For mothers in Bengal, Durga Shashti has a special significance as Goddess Durga is presumed to be the Mother of the Universe, so this day mothers keep fast for the well being of their children, to protect their progeny from evils. Every day the pujo rituals starts with fasting till pushpanjali (a very important aspect of Durga pujo) and ends with lavish feast platter.
Durga shashti food menu generally comprises pure vegetarian food menu that includes all fried items (no baked, burned like roti) foods are allowed, dals, vegetables cooked without onion, garlic and ginger, and sweets. Rice is generally not eaten this day. Rest of the clan can gorge on anything they fancy.
Here is my Mahashashti feast platter for mothers who keep fast and for everyone else too.
With lots of Sharodiya Shubhechha,