Due to ‘mala mash’ or the ‘unholy month’, auspicious rituals and ceremonies are avoided.
The two week period of Pitru Paksh Shradh ends with Mahalaya Amavasya, which will be observed on September 17. Also known as Sarv Pitru Amavasya, the Mahalaya Amavasya heralds the beginning of the Devi Paksha.
The day marks the commencement of the Sharadiya Navratri season and devotees fast for nine days and worship Maa Durga. On a normal year, celebrations for Durga Puja start seven days after Mahalaya with Mahashashthi. Bengali month of Ashwin is a lunar month, and Durga Puja festival can only begin after this period is over.
However, this year, the much-awaited festival would be celebrated a month after Mahalaya. Mashashthi falling 35 days after Mahalaya is attributed to an occurrence called the ‘mala mash’ or the ‘unholy month’. During this period, auspicious rituals and ceremonies are avoided. The ‘mala mash’ witnesses two new moons or ‘Amavasyas.’
The unusual schedule is not the first ever, however. The last time Durga Puja was delayed was in 2001 when the festival commenced 30 days after Mahalaya. Before that, the events happened in 1982.
How is Mahalaya observed?
Bengalis mark this occasion with the festive fervour just after Mahalaya. On this day, devotees wake up to the sound of Mahisasuramardni, an audio of Chandipath recital from the holy verses of Sri Sri Chandi along with religious songs. Then they offer make food and water to deceased ancestors.
The most auspicious period for Durga Puja, the Devi Paksha begins from October 17 with ‘Pratipad’ or the first day of the Sharadiya Navratri.
Durga Puja 2020: Days and dates
Panchami: October 21
Shashthi: October 22
Saptami: October 23
Ashtami: October 24
Navami: October 25
Vijaya Dashami: October 26 – the last day of Navratri concluding with Dussehra