An Experience Beyond This World: Mahisasuramardini

This Saturday Mahisasuramardini ( The annihilation of Mahishasura, the buffalo demon) is taking place. A one and half-hour audio montage of Chandipath broadcasted on All India Radio at 4 A.M. in the morning on the day of Mahalaya since 1931. Mahalaya, the ending of Pitru Paksha, marks the beginning of Debipaksha and Durga Puja festival. A folklore on when all the male Gods found themselves incapable of defeating the Asuras (Mahishasura and his army), they entrusted Devi/Goddess Durga, the Mother of the Universe, to defeat the evil king and how in a battle that continued for days the Mother Goddess defeated the Asuras, thus ended the rule of all the evil forces.

“Chandipath narrates that Durga is the primeval source of power, all qualities reside in her. She is one and yet known by many names. She is Narayani, Brahmani, Maheshwari, Shivaduti and the fierceful Chamunda, decked with a garland of skulls. The Goddess Chandika is eternal. She has no birth, no definite physical form. She assumes a manifestation of majestic might only to restore the process of Creation from the terrible Asuras or evil incarnates. It is initially said that when Lord Vishnu was in ‘Yognidra’, Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, appears from Vishnu’s navel (nabhi), while two demons named Madhu and Kaitav originate from Vishnu’s ears. When these two demons attempt to kill Brahma, the latter then prays to Goddess Mahamaya with great devotion and ultimately Vishnu wakes up from his yognidra. Then, he slays Madhu and Kaitav with his chakra. The waking up of Lord Vishnu was possible only because the Supreme Goddess (who was in the form of Yognidra Devi) left him.

Mahisasura, the terrible king of the Asuras had defeated the gods and driven them out of Heaven. The gods, dejected and humiliated went to Brahma, the god of creation. He, in turn, took them to Vishnu, the God of preservation and Mahadeva, the God of destruction, to report their defeat. The gods then projected their energy from their bodies and evoked a new form of energy. This energy then crystallised into the heavenly form of a Goddess. She was Mahamaya, the Mother of the Universe. The emergence of the goddess was an auspicious moment. The Goddess then emerged in full battle array to combat Mahisasura. The Himalayas gave Her the lion to act as her mount, Vishnu gave her the Chakra, Mahadeva gave her the trident, Yama gave her the Kaal Danda, Kalbhairav (or Veerbhadra) gave the Khadga, Chandra gave the ashtachandra shield, Surya gave bow and arrows, Vishwakarma a protective armour called as kawach, Brahma gave her the rosary and the Kamandalu (container of sacred water), and Kuber gave her ornaments and necklaces. Armed with weapons of all kinds, the Mother Goddess defeated the Asuras, thus ending the rule of evil forces. The occasion of Mahalaya, thus, always goes on reminding mankind of the divine scheme of things that the Evil may have had its say, but it is ultimately the Good that has the last laugh…”

Growing up, Mahisasuramardini becomes an important part of our lives and an intimate and vivid part of our childhoods. I don’t remember the first time listening to or watching Mahisasuramardini on the radio or TV. I don’t think anybody is able to do that either. It’s one of the many things that secretly become a part of life. It’s a souvenir of the divine Mother that defeats the evil and restores peace in the universe in every Autumn.

Reminiscing on the childhood, I remember 4 A.M. would be too early. So my parents would not wake my brother and I up until 4:30 or 4:45 A.M. But they would turn on the radio and tune in and the faint voices of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay, Pratima Bandopadhyay, Shyamal Mitra, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Arati Mukhopadhyay, Supriti Ghosh, Pankaj Kumar Mullick, Utpala Sen, Tarun Bandopadhyay, Krishna Dasgupta, Sumitra Sen, Ashima Bhattacharya, Shipra Bose, Bimal Bhushan and others with a bit of static noise would disintegrate our slumber. It’d start with: ইয়া চন্ডী মধুকৈটভাদিদৈত্যদলনী…and go on.

Back in the days television had not had so many alternatives like today ( while I’m not really sure anybody watches T.V these days anymore ). Phones, tablets and computers were not an option. Mahisasuramardini happens to take place on every Bengali channel I can think of right now. They can be seen from any mentioned tools. They show their own different versions of it and they are NOT as good WHATSOEVER. The only channel that would have a Mahisasuramardini back in my childhood was DD Bangla that my brother and I would watch in wonder. The only disappointing thing would be the absence of Saraswati, Laxmi, Ganesh and Kartik when the show would end with Devi Durga slaying Mahisasura.

Sculpture of Ganesha, Laxmi, Durga slaying the buffalo demon (Mahisasura), Saraswati and Kartik at the Durga Puja pandal of Panchanan Sporting Club (2017).
Ekdalia Evergreen Club (2017)

The huge wave of internet has changed the whole scenario for the time being. Even when the cassettes and cds were out from HMV and started getting available in every store near by, they still had a bit of elegance left in terms of availability. But after 2010’s, we are just one click away from getting Mahisasuramardini on our phones. I think it’s somewhere close to human traits that we “unintentionally” undervalue things that we can get effortlessly. Bani Kumar, the script writer, Pankaj Mullick, the music composer of Mahisasuramardini has somewhere lost their prominence and peculiarity over time. The radio-show has somewhere turned into another YouTube video and the ones that are broadcasted on television are just a token of bad CGI fete. With the busy schedule of lives, Mahisasuramardini might have a chance to lose its relevancy entirely someday but for those who have experienced the chilly pre-dawn hours at 4 or 5 A.M. in the morning, they know the nobility of the line: আশ্বিনের শারদপ্রাতে বেজে উঠেছে আলোকমঞ্জীর। (Aswiner sarada prate beje utheche alokomonjir.) or সিংহস্তা শশিশেখরা মরকতপ্রেক্ষা চতুর্ভির্ভুজৈঃ। (Simhasta sashi-shekharaa marakata-prakhshya chaturbhirbhujai.) or a radio-show that was recorded almost 88 years ago.

10 thoughts on “An Experience Beyond This World: Mahisasuramardini

  1. First of all, You write exquisitely and with intricate details stuffed in it.I can’t help myself but remember the serene bold voice of Birendrakrishna bhadra floating in the frigid breeeze and bringing a feeling in each bengall’s mind, years may roll down, the youthful dew may reduce into the wrinkles of age, but some things are eternal.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have not yet read any of your blogs but to say, your way of writing is wonderful. Thank you so much again for reading. The voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra and Mahisasuramardini in general is indeed a craft for everlasting appreciation. It may or may not dwindle to fewer people who grasp the nobility that it carries but it’ll never be over, entirely. That is for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

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