It's that time of the year when mother Durga embarks on her annual vacation, family and pets in tow. The hills in autumn seem greener; the streams sparkle a little more. A thousand miles away from home, in a land somewhat alien I can't smell festivity in the air. The conch shells and the drumbeats reverberate in the nostalgic realm. I yearn for the doe-eyed beauties uneasy in their crisp sarees. My ears search for the strains of songs in the tongue I called my own.
The baritone of Birendra Krishna Bhadra reverberating the autumn dawn - Ya devi sarvabhuteshu - courtesy All India Radio (AIR) signals the arrival of autumn. The greens have already started browning, the Sharad Utsav is about to begin. Vishwakarma Puja, a few days ago, opened the doors of joyous festivity. This dusk when the sun shall set, there will be no moon to take its place. Tomorrow, there'll be one - a new one, the first of ten days of festivity and when the moon will become full, the East of India will welcome the goddess of wealth - Lakshmi - into their homes, others will wait till the following Amavasya, when Diwali commemorates the triumphal return of Lord Rama to Ayodha. East Indians (read Bengalis), revering the other avatar of Krishna avatar of Vishnu more, revert their religious focus back to Shakti - this time in the form of Kali... and the sequence continues.
For me the morning of Mahalaya marks the beginning of this all. I might miss it in the morning on radio, but I make it a point to listen to the Chandi Paath on that day. Not for religious reasons, but more for nostalgic ones. Father used to wake me and my brother up at the crack of dawn, just to listen to the broadcast on AIR. This MP3* of an excerpt from the oratorio invoking the goddess Durga by Birendra Krishna Bhadra (music Pamkaj Mallick), also has a long story. It was originally on an LP record, lying in the backroom of a music store in Bhopal's New Market. I asked the owner to record that into an audio tape and a few years later I converted it from a magnetic tape to MP3. The feeling is the same, only the technology has changed.
Here are a few links (as usual) commemorating the initiation of the season festive (download, listen, view, read - whatever):
*Oratorio invoking the goddess Durga by Birendra Krishna Bhadra [MP3 2.26 MB 04:56 64 kbps Mono 44 kHz]
The complete Mahisasuramardini / Mahishasur Mardini MP3 download. Two files.
Part I [MP3 7.42 MB 00:43:27 24kbps Mono 22 kHz]
Part II [MP3 7.83 MB 00:45:50 24kbps Mono 22 kHz]
Devi Sooktam - Hymn to the Divine Mother
In Sanskrit - Devanagri script. Three jpeg files   
In Sanskrit - Roman script, with English translation
(Courtesy Shakti Sadhana Group)
The beat of the dhak (ceremonial drums) [WAV 146 KB 00:00:18 64 kbps 8 bit Mono 8 kHz]
(Courtesy Timir Kanti Ganguly)