Mahisasuramardini (radio programme)

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Other namesChandi Path
Running time1 hr 29 mins
Country of originIndia
Home stationAkashbani
Written by
Narrated byBirendra Krishna Bhadra
Original release1931 – present

Mahisasuramardini (Bengali: মহিষাসুরমর্দ্দিনী, The Annihilator of Mahishasura) is a widely popular early Bengali radio programme that has been broadcast since 1931[1] on All India Radio (AIR) in Indian state West Bengal. It is a one and half-hour audio montage of Chandipath (chanting from Chandi) recitation from the scriptural verses of Sri Sri Chandi or Durga Saptashati,[2] Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama. The program has been translated into Hindi set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience.[3] This programme is aired every year at day-break on Mahalaya. The programme, which started off as a live-performance, has been broadcast in its pre-recorded format since 1966.[4][5] However, its great popularity remains undiminished even today over 86 years later.[6][7][8][9]

This program has become synonymous with Mahalaya which is celebrated to usher the Debipaksha lunar fortnight and the Durga Puja. To this day, most of Bengal wakes up in the chilly pre dawn hours, 4 am to be precise, on the Mahalaya day to tune into the “Mahisasura Mardini” broadcast. Presently the recordings are available as audio cassettes and Compact Disks from HMV-RPG which has obtained the rights from All India Radio. The CD version (as of 2002) contains 19 tracks.[10]

Birendra Krishna Bhadra[edit]

Birendra Krishna Bhadra, who will always be remembered for making Mahalaya memorable to one and all, is the magical voice behind the “Mahisasura Mardini.” The legendary narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Durga to earth. It was on the day of Mahalaya, the beginning of "Devipaksha", that the Gods and Goddesses woke up to prepare themselves for Durga Puja. In 1931, Mahalaya was first broadcast over the radio in Akashvani, Calcutta. The programme was organised by Premankur Aatorthi, Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Nripendra Krishna Mukhopadhyay and Raichand Boral.[11]

So popular was his version of the recitation that when in 1976, the voice of noted Bengali actor, Uttam Kumar was employed for the programme and renamed it as Durga Durgatiharini did not get favorable response from the audience and it was shifted back to the original version of Birendra Krishna Bhadra.[12]

Bhadra died long ago, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the Mahalaya program. In a sonorous, reverberating voice Birendra Bhadra renders the Mahalaya recital for two thrilling hours, mesmerizing every household with the divine aura of his narration, as the Bengalis submerge their souls in quiet moments of prayer.

Musical Composition[edit]

Though the theme is mythological and the mantras Vedic, this program is a landmark composition. It is scripted by Bani Kumar, and narrated by Birendra Krishna Bhadra while Dwijen Mukhopadhyay (Jago Durga Jago Doshoprohoronodharini), Manabendra Mukhopadhyay (Tabo Achinta), Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Arati Mukhopadhyay, Utpala Sen, Shyamal Mitra and Supriti Ghosh (Bajlo tomar alor benu) sang in their melodious voices.[13] The enchanting music is composed by Pankaj Mullick,.[14] As the recital begins, the serene morning air resonates with the long drawn sound of the sacred conch shell, followed by a tune in Raga Malkosh, which ultimately leads to the start of the programme with the prayer to Goddess Chandi. Immediately an atmosphere is created full of assurance, respect and universal love and peace. This way, Mahisasurmardini took a permanent place in the heart of Bengali as well as Indian culture.


Main Artists[edit]



Chandipath narrates that Durga is the primeval source of power, all qualities reside in her. She is one and yet known by many names. She is Narayani, Brahmani, Maheshwari, Shivaduti and the fierceful Chamunda, decked with a garland of skulls. The Goddess Chandika is eternal. She has no birth, no definite physical form. She assumes a manifestation of majestic might only to restore the process of Creation from the terrible Asuras or evil incarnates. It is initially said that when Lord Vishnu was in 'Yognidra', Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, appears from Vishnu's navel (nabhi), while two demons named Madhu and Kaitav originate from Vishnu's ears. When these two demons attempt to kill Brahma, the latter then prays to Goddess Mahamaya with great devotion and ultimately Vishnu wakes up from his yognidra. Then, he slays Madhu and Kaitav with his chakra. The waking up of Lord Vishnu was possible only because the Supreme Goddess (who was in the form of Yognidra Devi) left him.

Mahisasura, the terrible king of the Asuras had defeated the gods and driven them out of Heaven. The gods, dejected and humiliated went to Brahma, the god of creation. He, in turn, took them to Vishnu, the God of preservation and Mahadeva, the God of destruction, to report their defeat. The gods then projected their energy from their bodies and evoked a new form of energy. This energy then crystallised into the heavenly form of a Goddess. She was Mahamaya, the Mother of the Universe. The emergence of the goddess was an auspicious moment. The Goddess then emerged in full battle array to combat Mahisasura. The Himalayas gave Her the lion to act as her mount, Vishnu gave her the Chakra, Mahadeva gave her the trident, Yama gave her the Kaal Danda, Kalbhairav (or Veerbhadra) gave the Khadga, Chandra gave the ashtachandra shield, Surya gave bow and arrows, Vishwakarma a protective armour called as kawach, Brahma gave her the rosary and the Kamandalu (container of sacred water), and Kuber gave her ornaments and necklaces. Armed with weapons of all kinds, the Mother Goddess defeated the Asuras, thus ending the rule of evil forces. The occasion of Mahalaya, thus, always goes on reminding mankind of the divine scheme of things that the Evil may have had its say, but it is ultimately the Good that has the last laugh.

The image of Durga as Mahishasuramardini epitomizes the Chandi. To understand the significance of the image we have to understand the significance of the Chandi.

The gory scene depicted by the image of Durga, and the blood-curdling descriptions of a warrior Goddess exterminating hordes of evil doers drenching the earth with blood, may be enigmatic and repulsive to some people, especially to those who are outside the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. A mature and realistic understanding of the Divine in the context of the real situations in human life and society is necessary to understand the true significance of Chandi. The basic significance of Chandi may be briefly stated as follows.

1. The main purpose of Chandi is to glorify Shakti. Shakti is the dynamic aspect of the ultimate reality known as Brahman. Shakti is generally regarded as the feminine principle. The feminine principle has two aspects: a lower, seductive aspect, and a higher, maternal aspect. It is the higher maternal aspect that is glorified in the Chandi, and in the Shakta tradition in general. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: Jini Brahma tini Shakti, tini i Ma He who is Brahman is Shakti, and He himself is the Mother of the Universe.

A mother has three main functions: to give birth, to nourish, to care and protect. It is the third aspect that is highlighted in the Chandi. Adi Shakti is not a disinterested spectator of the drama of human life. She is an active participant. She protects people from dangers.

2. The second purpose of the Chandi is to depict the reality of evil. Vice, wickedness, cruelty, injustice, suffering - all these are as much real as virtue, love, compassion, cooperation etc. which humanity has idealized and dreamed about from time immemorial. Dharma and Adharma, virtue and vice, are two inseparable aspects of reality, and we have to accept both.

We generally tend to associate Godhead only with love and compassion. We forget that Godhead has also an aspect of power, terror and destruction. It was this destructive aspect of Godhead that Sri Krishna showed Arjuna through the Vishwarupa Darshana revelation. What we find in the Chandi is the same terrible aspect, but associated with the Eternal Feminine.

Mahishasura, Shumbha, Nishumbha and other characters portrayed in the Chandi are of course mythological, but this does not make them irrelevant in the present-day world. As a matter of fact, Chandi assumes greater reality and relevance in the contemporary world than at any other time before.

Chandi is not a book of romance. Nor does it promise a utopian world. On the contrary, it wakes us up from our futile dreams and situates us right in the midst of the terrible realities of the present-day world which we very often fail to face.

3. The third message of the Chandi is the empowerment of women. The Chandi shows to what heights this empowerment can be raised. In all countries in all times, women have been indoctrinated from childhood to believe that they are weak, helpless and totally dependent on men. The Chandi shows how much power women can wield, how they can work independently, and face boldly even the worst challenges of life without unduly depending on men.

4. Lastly, Chandi delivers a message of hope, the assurance of divine help and succour. In spite of all the terrible happenings described in the book, there is absolutely no pessimistic tone or note of despair in the Chandi. Let troubles and difficulties come, let even dire calamities occur; we have nothing to fear, for there is a God, a Mother, who protects us from all dangers or gives us the inner strength to face them. In modern times the Divine Mother, born as Sri Sarada Devi, has given us this assurance: Always remember, there is somebody behind you … Place your burden upon me and remain unperturbed. This is also the last message of the Chandi.[15]

The Story of Mahisasura Mardini[edit]

The story element speaks of the increasing cruelty of the demon king Mahisasura against the gods. Unable to tolerate his tyranny the gods plead with Vishnu to annihilate the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) come together to create a powerful female form with ten arms - Goddess Durga or 'Mahamaya', the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power.

The gods then bestow upon this Supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess rides a lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the 'Durgatinashini' is able to slay the 'Asura' king with her trident. Heaven and earth rejoice at her victory. Finally, the mantra narration ends with the refrain of mankind's supplication before this Supreme Power:

"Ya devi sarbabhuteshshu, sakti rupena sanksthita Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha."[16]

Mahishasuramardini Stotra is a very popular devotional stotra of Goddess Durga written by Guru Adi Sankaracharya (Sri Sri Sri Shankara Bhagavatpadacharya). This devotional verse is addressed to Goddess Mahisasura Mardini, the Goddess who killed Demon Mahishasura. Mahisasura Mardini is the fierce form of Goddess Durga Maa (an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi), where Durga Maa is depicted with 10 arms who rides on a lion or tiger carrying weapons and assumes symbolic hand gestures or mudras.


  1. ^ "Biography of Birendra Krishna Bhadra". Archived from the original on 2014-09-26.
  2. ^ "durga_puja : Mahalaya". Archived from the original on 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  3. ^ "Mahalaya: Invoking the Mother Goddess". Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  4. ^ [Birendra Krishna Bhadra: A Legend, A Nostalgia (Original in Bangla) ©Ajit Basu, Publisher:Sahayatri, 8, Patuatola Lane, Kolkata 700009.]
  5. ^ "History of first broadcast of Mahishasur Mardini".
  6. ^ "Biography of Pankaj Kumar Mullick - the versatile musical genius". Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  7. ^ Mahalaya ushers in the Puja spirit The Times of India, TNN 19 September 2009.
  8. ^ Morning Raga Indian Express, PiyasreeDasgupta, Sep 18, 2009.
  9. ^ Tanya Basu (Sep 23, 2014). "An 83-Year-Old Song Dominates India's Airwaves Every Year". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-09-24.
  10. ^ "Mahisasura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra (AIR Recording) – Details of tracks and artists". QuiQinQ. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  11. ^ "Mahalaya : Durga Puja mahalaya : Durga Puja". Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  12. ^ Timeless Tunes Indian Express, Sep 29, 2008.
  13. ^ "Mahalaya : Durga Puja mahalaya : Durga Puja". Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  14. ^ "Biography of Pankaj Kumar Mullick - the versatile musical genius". Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  15. ^ "durga_puja :Mahalaya". Archived from the original on 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  16. ^ "Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu". Retrieved 2009-06-13.

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