Traditional Games Mark Its Presence During Festive Mood Of Raja Parba

Bhubaneswar:  One of the oldest festivals of Odisha, Raja (pronounced as ‘raw-jaw’) is a unique 3-day festival observed in Odisha celebrating menstruation, womanhood and fertility, topics which are rarely publicly discussed in India.

The name of the festival is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Rajaswala’ which means ‘menstruating women’. This festival personifies Earth and is one of the most fascinating harvest traditions that treats womanhood as a blessing.

This ancient festival is spread over three days around June. All the three days have different names and different celebrations associated with them. The first day is called ‘Pahili Raja’, second day is called ‘Mithuna Sankranti’ or ‘Raja Sankranti’, and the third day is called ‘Basi Raja’

All agricultural activities are stopped during this period with a belief that the land undergoes regeneration, very similar to a menstruating woman. So traditional the womenfolk do not do any kind of household chores in these days. Rather they indulge in games and merry making.

Swings

The swings are a very important part of the rituals. Though the pandemic has marred the Raja celebrations this year, normally the dressed-up girls play on swings which are mostly facilitated by the menfolk. In urban areas, the girls gather in a place where the arrangement of swings and Odia delicacies are made to enjoy the festive mood.

Puchi

It is a very traditional game.where the girls try to swirl around in a systematic manner. It can be played in sitting or standing position (thia puchi and basa puchi). This is one of the favorite sports of young girls since time immemorial and is traditionally played by girls during Kumara Purnima also.

Considered an excellent method of keeping oneself totally fit, this game has taken a backseat nowadays and is found only in the rural pockets of Odisha.

Kacha Kaudi/ Board games

Traditionally played by women and girls during Raja Parba, it’s great fun. It’s like the Pasa Khela of Mahabharat but without gambling. It is played with broken glass bangles and kaudi as dice.

Over the years other board games like ludo, snakes and ladders, monopoly etc has taken over these indigenous games in the urban pockets.

Jhhoti competition

Jhhoti or Chita is the traditional Oriya art on the floor and walls.The Jhoti are thought to bring good luck.

Very similar to rangolis, it is made with powdered rice paste, and gives a rich white look after being drawn on the floor.

At many places, there are jhhoti competitions and girls show their artistic talent.

Cards

The men and womenfolk spend their time playing cards and gorging Odia delicacies like pitha, raja paan, etc.

Gamha Dian

Played by everyone during Raja Festival. You have to run, jump and pluck whatever you want from the list of things tied to bamboo. An improvised version of High Jump you can say.

However, this year the festival will be celebrated in a low-key manner because of the coronavirus pandemic. There will always be another year when the festivities can take full form as earlier..