Kolkata, Sep 30: Invoking goddess Durga to descend on the Earth, West Bengal on Friday observed Mahalaya, with devotional songs, scriptural recitations and prayers -- albeit under the shadow of the new India-Pakistan tension.
Celebrated a week before the five-day Durga Puja begins, Mahalaya essentially heralds the homecoming of the goddess and signifies the end of Pitri Paksha (the period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors) and the beginning of Debi Paksha (period of the goddess).
To honour their ancestors, people of Kolkata thronged the banks of the Hooghly river since dawn to carry out special rituals called 'Tarpan'. According to tradition, the sons offer food and prayers in the belief that the souls of the departed would make their transition to heaven smoothly.
The day began with the iconic early-morning broadcasts of "Mahishasur Mardini" (the annihilator of the demon) on radio and TV channels.
Tuning in to recordings of Indian playwright and broadcaster Birendra Krishna Bhadra's narrative in a haunting voice of the goddess's arrival on the Earth and the fierce combat between Durga and the Asura (demon), and the goddess finally slaying the demon with her trident, is a normal ritual in Bengali households synonymous with Mahalaya.
Security has been beefed throughout the eastern metropolis which hosts lakhs of people from India and abroad during the Durga Puja. The visitors soak in the splendour of over 3,500 puja marquees (pandals).
A section of denizens, however, said they were engrossed in the developments related to the Uri terror attack and the subsequent trading of barbs and fire.
"This year I woke up to learn of the latest developments as it is a tense time for our country. It was saddening to note another soldier had died in the Uri attack," Gautam, who works as a chauffeur, told IANS.
A group of commuters travelling by the Kolkata Metro was intensely debating the issue.
"I think India was right to carry out the surgical strikes," said Anamika Patra.