Mahalaya is observed on the Amavasi day in the Hindu month of Ashwin or Ashwayuja (September-October). Mahalaya 2012 date is on October 15. All pujas and rituals should be completed before 6:01 PM on October 15, 2012 (India Standard Time). The last day of Pitru Paksha fortnight, the period sacred for doing rituals and offering oblations to the souls of the departed ancestors, ends on Mahalaya day. Durga Puja rituals also commence on Mahalaya day.
The rituals and rites on Mahalaya day are performed early morning on riverbanks or on seashore. The main offering made on Mahalaya Paksha to ancestors is food. It is believed that the offering made during this period will benefit all the departed souls. Charity in the form of food is also done by people.
Mahalaya also heralds the advent of Goddess Durga to earth. Mahalaya marks the beginning of ‘Devipaksha’ and the countdown to Durga Puja.