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Mahalaya is today, but Durga Puja starts on October 22

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 17th September, 2020 04:43:59 PM
  • Print news
Mahalaya is today, but Durga Puja starts on October 22

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2020 is a strange year by all means. First, the coronavirus pandemic introduced the world to a new normal. The crisis was followed by several earthquakes, cyclones, death, destruction and what not. This isn't it, of course. Bengalis, at present, are trying to make sense of the reason behind Durga Pujas commencing more than a month after Mahalaya this year. It's nothing but peculiar but there is a reason behind it.

Mahalaya, for every Bengali, means that the wait is almost over. Millennials will agree that the last round of Puja shopping was completed on this day. Plans for Shashti, Saptami, especially Ashtami and Navami, were finalised. Simply because Durga Puja celebrations generally begin seven days after Mahalaya. So, it's pretty clear that excitement levels were high. 2020, though, is different in this aspect as well. Mahalaya is today and Durga Puja celebrations will begin 35 days later - from October 22 (Shashti) to October 26 (Dashami).

What is Mahalaya?

Mahalaya marks the beginning of Devi Pakkha and the end of Pitri Pakkha. It is said that Goddess Durga begins her journey with her children - Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartik, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati, from Mount Kailash to her maternal home on Earth after Mahalaya.

What is the reason behind the delay?

While everybody is making a fair attempt to understand the reason behind the gap of a month between Mahalaya and Durga Pujas in 2020, we'll make it simple for you. As per the yearly calendars Bisuddha Siddhanta and Suryasiddhanta, the intermission between Mahalaya and Durga Puja this year has been attributed to a phenomenon called 'mal maas'. This means a lunar month that has two moons.

The Bengali month Ashwin, which is a mal maas this time, starts on September 18 and Durga Puja can be celebrated only after it is over. Auspicious festivals or rituals must not be observed in a lunar month as such.

What is this mall maas?

The next mal maas or extra month will come in 2039. The conventional Hindu calendar is lunar and a month has 30 days. 15 days of Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) and 15 days of Krishna Paksha (waning moon). The 15th day of the first culminates in Purnima or Full Moon, while the 15th day of the second is Amavasya. That means that the 12 months of a year have 360 days, while the year has 365 days. So an extra month is added at fixed terms to keep the lunar and solar calendars aligned.

Also the dates in the lunar calendar do not follow the Sun's 24-hour clock and these dates have different timings of beginning and end. So every three years or so, there are adjustments made to keep the calendars aligned.

This is how it works precisely. The Earth takes a little over 365 days to orbit around the Sun. That's one solar year. And by the way, since it's 365.2422 days and not exact 365, we add a day to February every four years. But this is not about the solar calendar, this is about the lunar one. The moon takes about just above 27.3 days to orbit around the earth. The Earth and its moon together move around the sun in a year that has 12 months so, this leaves a variance of 10.87 days every year between a lunar year and a solar year.

To make up for that every 32.5 months, a month of the calendar gets extended and is called Adhik Maas or Mal Maas.

In 2018, the month of Jyeshtha got an extension and in 2020, it was the Ashwin month's turn. So the month that began with Mahalaya on September 17 will have its second day a month later, as the extra month has begun.

Not the first time  

Such a phenomenon of a long gap between Mahalaya and Durga Puja was also observed in 1982 and 2001.

How is Mahalayacelebrated?

Mahalaya, in every Bengali household, begins early morning at around 4am with the legendary broadcast of a ChandiPath called Mahishasur Mardini on the radio. Food items such as rice, dal, vegetables and kheer are offered at puja mandaps as well.


Source: India Today