Mahalaya and Birendra Krishna Bhadra

One man, who will always be remembered for making Mahalaya memorable to one and all is Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the magical voice behind the 'Mahisasura Mardini' prayer. The legendary narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Durga to earth, in his inimitable style.
In fact, since the early 1930s, Mahalaya has been associated with an early morning radio programme called "Mahisasura Mardini (The Annihilation of the Demon)". The programme has also been translated into Hindi, set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience.





The musical infotainment programme containing verses from Durga Saptashati, or the 'Chandi Kavya', and Bengali devotional songs, broadcast over All India Radio, Kolkata, and relayed by almost every centre in the country, has become synonymous with Mahalaya.
"Bhadra has long passed away, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the Mahalaya programme. In a sonorous, reverberating voice, he renders the Mahalaya recital for two hours mesmerizing every household with the divine aura of his narration," said a retired professor, AK Ganguly.
The soulful prayer marks the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. In fact, these verses are chanted to invoke the 'Mother Goddess' to descend on the earth and destroy the evil. The prayer begins with "Jago tumi jago ... Ma."
As the recital begins, the serene morning air resonates with the long-drawn sound of the sacred conch shell, immediately followed by a chorus of invocation, melodiously setting the stage for the recitation of the 'Chandi mantra'.
The devotional songs to which renowned playback singers like Hemant Kumar and Arti Mukherjee lent their voices, are immortal and make the story element more captivating. The theme is mythical, which narrates how the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with 10 arms - Goddess Durga or 'Mahamaya' - who embodies the primeval source of all power. The enchanting music is composed by none other than the immortal Pankaj Mullick
Mahalaya is also observed as the day of remembrance as many people offer 'tarpan' to their deceased forefathers. The holy rivers become the centre for offering 'tarpan'.
"Though the theme is mythical and the mantras Vedic, this programme is a landmark composition.