Kolkata: Lakhs of people offered “tarpan” on the auspicious day of Mahalaya across West Bengal on Wednesday, marking the beginning of Durga Puja festivities.

The day started with lakhs of people paying obeisance to their forefathers on the banks of Hooghly, other rivers and water bodies across the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The early morning rendition of ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ – a collection of shlokas and songs dedicated to Goddess Durga – was aired on the All India Radio (AIR), marking the beginning of the festive season.

‘Mahishasur Mardini’ was first broadcast as a live programme on AIR in the early 1930s. Since then it has become a Mahalaya morning ritual.

River traffic police kept a strict vigil along the various ghats of Hooghly to prevent any untoward incident.

Adequate security measures have been taken at the 18 ghats in Kolkata where devotees are offering “tarpan”, officials said.

With the day marking the end of ‘Pitri Pakshya’, elders of the family paid homage to their ancestors by performing “tarpan”, a ritual in which water is offered to the ancestors’ souls.

Senior officers of Kolkata Police have been posted at the ghats while civic police volunteers have been deployed to manage social distancing. Vehicular movements on the roads around the ghats have also been restricted, police said.

Similar scenes were seen in the other districts of the state with lakhs of people gathering on the banks of rivers and ponds to pay obeisance to their forefathers.

On Mahalaya, the sculptors usually draw the eyes of Goddess Durga, a ritual known as “Chokhhu Daan”.

This year, ‘Sasthi’ is on October 11 — the first day of the celebrations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted people on the occasion.

“Shubho Mahalaya! We bow to Maa Durga and seek her blessings for the well-being of our planet and the welfare of our citizens. May everyone be happy as well as healthy in the times to come,” he tweeted.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, “The auspicious occasion of Mahalaya marks the beginning of the much-awaited festive season. The countdown has begun! I extend my heartiest greetings and best wishes to all. Shubho Mahalaya.”

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