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Bhubaneswar: In an era where the activists piffle about doing things for the empowerment of women, and politicians rave about policies regarding the betterment of girl child, a unique and age-old festival of Odisha celebrates menstruation breaking the taboo of impurity during the biological cycle of woman.
Raja (pronounced as raw-jaw) is a festival of fertility celebrated over a period of three days. It is believed that Mother Earth undergoes her menstrual cycle these three days, and thus goes through regeneration. All the agricultural operations remain suspended during this period, as Mother Earth is given full rest, and should not be ‘disturbed’.
The most special thing about Raja festival is that it correlates the fertility of land to that of a woman. In simple words, it celebrates a girl’s onset of womanhood, i.e. menstruation. It is a celebration of girls and women who symbolise productivity in the human context.
Moreover, it is also a festival of the farmers who brace up for the next cropping season from the day of Raja.
The unmarried and newlywed girls are glorified and pampered on these three days. In every Odia household, the women folk put on new attires and indulge in merry-making with all traditional pithas (pancakes) dolis (swings)and Rajo paan (betel).
Each day of the festival has its own name and significance – the first day is called Pahili Rajo, second day is Mithuna Sankranti, signifying the beginning of solar month of Mithuna i.e., the rainy season, the third day is Bhu Daaha or Basi Raja.
In rural areas, the people indulge in age-old tradition by barring girls from walking barefoot. They don’t cook, cut or grind anything. The men-folk do all these household chores, whereas the girls deck up in new attires, spend their time swinging on special ‘raja dolis’ playing cards and merry making. Odia delicacies like different types of pitha, and sweets are prepared and relished in every household.
In urban places, the shopping malls and the restaurants try to woo the customers by decorating their ambiences with swings, and giving discounts on their products. The restaurants try to provide an insight of the Odia cuisine on their menu. Girls go around to movies with their friends and enjoy eating out on these days.
And the whole gamut of festivities continues for three long days.
When the whole world is dealing with different gender issues, come and celebrate womanhood in Odisha through this intriguing and unique festival called ‘Raja’.