|Over the decades, Mahalaya has become almost synonymous with the voice of the legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra, who imbibed a new life into Bengalis with his chant of the hymns of Mahishasura Mardini (The Annihilation of the Demon). Since the early 1930s, Mahalaya is associated with an early morning Mahishasura Mardini program aired on All India Radio (AIR). The program a beautiful audio montage of recitation from the scriptural verses of Chandi Kavya, Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama was made popular by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, who told the tales of Durga's descent to earth in his unique way.
Years have passed since Birendra Krishna Bhadra passed away, but even today, his recorded chants add a divine touch to the day that marks the beginning of a month-long celebration of the Goddess during the Devi Paksha. The whole of West Bengal rises up in the pre-dawn hours of Mahalaya, and submerges its soul in the mesmerizing moments of prayers, as the radio station broadcasts the narration of Mahishasura Mardini in the inimitable voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra for two hours. With the never-diminishing popularity of the program, it has also been translated into Hindi and is broadcast for a pan-Indian audience.
As the recital of the hymns of Mahishasura Mardini begins in the wee hours of the morning, every Bengali household in West Bengal starts reverberating with the enchanting sounds of the sacred conch shell, followed by a chorus of invocation, which melodiously sets the stage for the recitation of the Chandi Mantra. As the chants slowly soak every individual with an unmatched spiritual experience, the sun rises on Mahalaya, bringing in the morning to a whole month of festivals and celebrations!