RAJA FESTIVAL – celebrating womanhood
Banaste Dakila Gaja,
Barasake the lo asichhi Raja,
Asichi Raja lo,
Gheni Nua sajabaja!
(This quintessential song describes how elephants are calling from the forest and the raja festival has come once in a year, bringing much pomp and exhibit with it).
Pic courtesy: Sudarsan Pattanaik
Odisha is famous for its magnificent temples, culture, heritage, and festivals. People are known for their simplicity. This land is called a festive land as we have a popular proverb in Odia which states: 13 festivals in 12 months (Barah masare tero parbo). We celebrate many festivals and pujas enthusiastically and the Raja festival is one of them where we can see our ancestors have bestowed so much emphasis and honor to womanhood. I am endowed that I am from the state of Odisha where femininity is celebrated.
Pic courtesy: Eternal foto studio
ABOUT RAJA PARBA
Raja (Ra -jaw, as it is pronounced natively is derived from Sanskrit word Rajaswala which means Menstruating women. Raja is a three-day festival and celebrated in Odisha is a celebration of womanhood and Menstruation.It is believed that mother earth (Bhu Devi ) mensturating during these three days, and on the fourth day she is given a ceremonial bath is known as Vasumati Snan.Bhu Devi is the wife of Lord Jagannath. A silver idol of Bhu Devi is still worshipped in puri mandir besides Lord Jagannath.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAJA PARBO
During these three days, no agricultural activities like ploughing or sowing take place. Mother Earth is being revitalization at this time basically it is the regeneration phase of our mother Earth.
Each day is celebrated with pomp and grandeur.The day before Raja is ” Saja Baja” the preparation day during which all household cleaning is accomplished, dishes are prepared, grinding stones in the kitchen are cleaned and grinding of spices, chopping, slicing is done for the coming 3 days during those days the men do the needful.Odisha celebrates womanhood as a blessing although still Menstruation has got many myths attached to it and girls are not allowed to do many things during this period. One should visit Odisha and see how people celebrate the raja festival with great splendor.A renowned social activist Manjo Jena has quoted once ” Everyone who believes the menstrual blood is impure should know that the same kept life on for 9 months inside the Mother’s Womb”.
Pic courtesy: Dibyasha Bharadwaj
The first day of Raja is called Paheli Raja. Several traditional events are organized such as swaying upon various swings like Ram Doli, Dandi Doli, etc.
The second day is called Mithun Sankranti advent of the Rainy Season (Asadha month) and the third is called Basi Raja during these three days women do not take part in cooking, or perform Puja (the men do it in the houses) rather ladies play indoor games like Ludo, Chess, Bohu Chori, Puchi, etc.
Mainly girls celebrate it by wearing new clothes, new sarees, streaking Alta on their feet, and glittering with ornaments.
They feast on some scrumptious array of Odia delicacies like pithas, sweets, and pans enjoying folk songs while whirling on decorated rope swings on big banyan trees, they do not walk barefoot on the grounds or prick the soil with their feet. They vow to give birth to a healthy child and unmarried girls are groomed for nuptials through this festival.
Men also play kabaddi, Kho – kho, and cards and enjoy this festival.Every year Raja festival is celebrated around mid-June. This festival was popular among tribes at first but later celebrated everywhere in the state. It is celebrated with full of happiness and gaiety.Women are given rest during these three days. On the fourth day, during “Vasumati Sanan” ladies bath the grinding stone pondering it as mother earth with turmeric and adore with flowers, sindoor, and sandalwood paste.
MEMORIES OF RAJA FESTIVAL
While I was a kid I still remember my Aja (maternal grandfather) always tie ropes for us to swing. What fun I used to have along with my Mausis (aunties) playing on swings in our Courtyard and compete with each other who would reach higher and proclaimed as the champion ” Raja Queen”.My Aai (maternal grandmother)used to make endless pithas for us. Yes! Pithas are (sweet dishes) speciality of this festival for example Poda Pitha.
The signature dish of the festival. Lord Jagannath is feast on poda pitha while returning from his aunt’s place ( Bahuda Yatra during Rath yatra time, that’s why poda pitha is famous among all festivals) Arisa pitha, Monda pitha, Chakuli pita, Rasaballi, etc. Pithas are distributed among relatives and neighbours.
Aromas of fish, mutton, prawn, sweets, and varieties of vegetable dishes engulf the atmosphere during these three days.Raja festival is incomplete with Raja Pan (sweet betel) is released by all.
In Odisha, the Raja festival is very close to everyone’s heart.It is the festival of fertility, positivity, and mainly a celebration of womanhood.This year due to COVID 19 raja festival will be celebrated with guidelines issued by the government.May this Raja Doli (swing) swings high above to exterminate the griefs of the world, in this pandemic catastrophe, singing songs of happiness, love, and hoping for a better and safe world.
Pic courtesy: Swati Satpathy