The Hindu calendar welcomes Mahalaya on October 14 which marks the completion of Pitru Paksha and the onset of Devi Paksha. The glorious nights praising the Goddess start with the Mahalaya, the no-moon day (Amavasya) falling in the lunar month of Ashwin.
Know the date to start Navratri festivities
Mahalaya signifies the change from the Shradh period to the Navratri festivities. As it will be observed on October 14, Saturday, it would note the conclusion of the Pitru Paksha marking the beginning of the celebratory occasion dedicated to Devi. Navratri would thus commence on October 15 and extend up to the observance of Dusshera on the 24th of this month.
Prayers and rituals
Mahalaya is observed with prayers to Goddess Durga in West Bengal and Mahishasura Mardini or Lalitambika in South India. Noting that the earlier period of Shradh involved the participation of men in most rituals, the phase after Mahalaya looks into females performing puja at the forefront. Special prayers dedicated to Devi are recited during this occasion to have a blessed festival.
Women keep a fast (as per their capacities) while chanting the 'Mahalaya Mahishasura Mardini' in the morning hours. Some extend the fast until sunset and break it with the evening aarti to Devi. Devotees also recite 108 names of Lord Vishnu, Mahadev, and Mahalakshmi on the Mahalaya day to seek their mercy and well wishes.