Nothing can beat the emotive appeal of the rendition of Mahishasura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and broadcast on All India Radio at 4 am on the eve of Mahalaya. The two-hour broadcast has the whole essence of Durga Puja in it. For Bengalis, the countdown for Durga Puja begins with this. Year after year, generation after generation, the whole of Bengal waking up to the radio broadcast to experience something as profound as Mother Durga’s descent to Earth in “Jaago Tumi Jaago, is more than just a tradition. It is veritable right rite of passage. Even variations were tried when legendary actor Uttam Kumar narrated the story of “the annihilation of the demon”. But nothing could replace the sonorous voice of a legendary narrator like Bhadra. With the beginning of the recitals, the imperturbable tranquility in the air resonates with the sound of conch shells, followed by an invocation constructing the stage for the Chandi Mantra recitation.
The story of Mahishasura Mardini circles around the increasing cruelty of Mahishasura, the demon king. The Gods plead with Vishnu to annihilate Mahishasura. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with 10 arms – Goddess Durga, the Mother of the Universe. The whole experience is more than just a reinvention of Indic mythology through Sanskrit storytelling. It narrates a story of every family coming together to establish a place in the world so they can stand together to fight all odds, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.