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Raja or Raja Parba or Mithuna Sankranti is a three-day-long festival celebrated in Odisha, India. The second day of the festival signifies beginning of the solar month of Mithuna from, which the season of rains starts.
Raja as a festival holds much deeper significance than just an occasion to wear new and eat good. Like all other festivals in Odisha which have always been in sync with nature, Raja festival has deeper connotations that reflect the strong correlation of mankind with mother nature and helps build a value system. Since time immemorial, Raja celebrates menstruation, an otherwise taboo subject and thus dedicates the three-day fest to women and womanhood. The celebration equally finds reflection in nature where mother earth is compared to a woman and revered on all these days.
In ancient days most of the celebrations were agriculture centric. The basic characters of these festivals were mostly related to various agricultural operations. Raja Parba is an agriculture oriented festival, observed in Odisha for three days during the Odia month of Asadha. The first day of this three days festival is called “Pahili Raja ” (First Day ), second day is well known as “Raja Sankrant ” (Middle Day) and the concluding day of this festival is called “Sesa Raja ” (Last day )
Termed also as harvest festival, during Raja, its believed that the woman and mother earth go through menstrual periods. Which is why, the celebration necessarily means to give rest to both by way of making them stay idle. While women are made to spend time on swings, eat well, wear new clothes, mother earth is also left to remain idle. Probably the only state to be observing a festival of menstruation, it is unique also for the reason that people of both sexes celebrate it with equal verve and enthusiasm.
Actually the festival of Raja is celebrated for 5 days including the above mention days. Saja Baja (preparatory Day) is the first day from which the festival of Raja Starts. The whole festival really comes to an end on the fifth day, which is called Vasumata Gadhua (Bathing of the Earth). To celebrate the advent of monsoon, the joyous festival is arranged for three days by the villagers.
The three day fest begins with a prologue when on the eve of Pahili Raja (1st day of Raja), termed as Sajabaja, which means getting prepared to celebrate, adolescent girls bathe with haldi, put on alta (red liquid used on the edge of the feet) wear new clothes and adorn kumkum on the forehead. Decades earlier the seriousness of the cause was so strongly observed that women were not supposed to take bath, comb hair or step on the ground for the reason that it might hurt them. Since during periods women are believed not to be touching deities, during these three days also, they are restricted to do puja. Young unmarried girls are also not allowed to cut or cook or do anything that might make them tired or cause pain. Swings are hung in every house and girls are supposed to rest, gorging on traditional pithas and paan. Though the customary rituals are giving way to modernity and women, mostly the young ones in the cities, have hardly any keenness to follow norms, the rural pockets continue to observe most of these with seriousness.
Some also believe that during these three days, Goddess Laxmi goes through her menses. The respect for women and treating them with care are thus compared to that of revering the goddess.
However, it is difficult to comprehend that a state which celebrates womanhood also could register cases of crimes against women, rape and acid attacks at an alarming proportion. The national crime records bureau statistics stand testimony to this statement. It is thus important to celebrate a festival only when corroborated and justified by action on a day to day basis. Otherwise, Raja will come every year, the reason of celebration will remain the same, while reality will be presenting a different picture. Celebrate women and womanhood, but not only for three or four days a year, treat them with respect and care throughout. Happy Raja!
Time of Merry making During this festival various kind of Dolis are used by people, such as ‘Ram Doli’, ‘Charki Doli’, ‘Pata Doli’, ‘Dandi Doli’ etc. Raja Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the minds of the singers. Through anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through sheer beauty of diction and sentiment, has earned permanence and has gone to make the very substratum of Odisha’s folk-poetry. While girls thus scatter beauty, grace and music all around, moving up and down on the swings during the festival, young men give themselves to strenuous games and good food.
Raja infact gives some leisure time to all section of the people especially farmers because from this month on wards they don’t get even one minute for marry making because of packed agricultural activities. Young men also enjoy a lot by playing Kabadi and other games. Playing Ludo becomes mandatory for every one during Raja . With out playing Ludo one cannot really enjoy what Raja is.
Main attraction of Raja The special variety of Pitha (a special oriya cusine) prepared out of recipes like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc. which is popularly known as “Poda Pitha”. The size of the cake varies according to the number of family members. Pithas are also exchanged among relatives and friends. The special Oriya Mutton curry is prepared in every home during this festival. Really the people eat whole heartedly and visit different places including their relatives. Besides these every one greets each other by offering ‘Raja Pana”. Celebrations out side Home In Odisha different clubs, Women organizations, Cultural organizations, reputed hotels arrange different programmes for the Urban people. They prepare ethnic Oriya foods for this purpose. Competitions of various forms are arranged for youth, women, children, girls by these organizations.
The whole Raja is in festive mood during Raja . It is a festival which gives a scope for tremendous business especially to the retailers and whole sellers of Garments and Grocery. All
It falls in mid June, the first day is called Pahili Raja, second day is Mithuna Sankranti, third day is Bhu daaha or Basi Raja. The final fourth day is called Vasumati snana, in which the ladies bath the grinding stone as a symbol of Bhumi with turmeric paste and adore with flower, sindoor etc. All type of seasonal fruits are offered to mother Bhumi. The day before first day is called Sajabaja or preparatory day during which the house, kitchen including grinding stones are cleaned, spices are ground for three days. During these three days women and girls take rest from work and wear new Saree, Alata, and ornaments.It is similar to Ambubachi Mela. The most popular among numerous festivals in Odisha, Raja is celebrated for three consecutive days.
Just as the earth prepares itself to quench its thirst by the incoming rain the unmarried girls of the family are groomed for impending matrimony through this festival. They pass these three days in joyous festivity and observe customs like eating only uncooked and nourishing food especially Podapitha, do not take bath or take salt, do not walk barefoot and vow to give birth to healthy children in future. The most vivid and enjoyable memories one has of the Raja gaiety is the rope-swings on big banyan trees and the lyrical folk-songs that one listens from the nubile beauty enjoying the atmosphere.
To celebrate the advent of monsoon, the joyous festival is arranged for three days by the villagers. Though celebrated all over the state it is more enthusiastically observed in the districts of Cuttack, Puri and Balasore. The first day is called “Pahili Raja” (First Raja), second is “Raja Sankranti” (Proper Raja) and third is “Basi Raja” (Past Raja).
According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sign of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. So all three days of the festival are considered to be the menstruating period of Mother Earth. During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended. As in Hindu homes menstruating women remain secluded because of impurity and do not even touch anything and are given full rest, so also the Mother Earth is given full rest for three days for which all agricultural operations are stopped. Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls, the potential mothers. They all observe the restrictions prescribed for a menstruating woman.
The very first day, they rise before dawn, do their hair, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and then take the purificatory bath in a river or tank. Peculiarly, bathing for the rest two days is prohibited. They don’t walk bare-foot do not scratch the earth, do not grind, do not tear anything apart, do not cut and do not cook. During all the three consecutive days they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations, eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives, spending long cheery hours, moving up and down on improvised swings, rending the village sky with their merry impromptu songs.
The swings are of different varieties, such as ‘Ram Doli’, ‘Charki Doli’, ‘Pata Doli’, ‘Dandi Doli’ etc. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the minds of the singers. Through anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through sheer beauty of diction and sentiment, has earned permanence and has gone to make the very substratum of Odisha’s folk-poetry. While girls thus scatter beauty, grace and music all around, moving up and down on the swings during the festival, young men give themselves to strenuous games and good food, on the eve of the onset of the monsoons, which will not give them even a minute’s respite for practically four months making them one with mud, slush and relentless showers, their spirits keep high with only the hopes of a good harvest.
As all agricultural activities remain suspended and a joyous atmosphere pervades, the young men of the village keep themselves busy in various types of country games, the most favourite being ‘Kabadi’. Competitions are also held between different groups of villages. All nights ‘Yatra’ performances or ‘Gotipua’ dances are arranged in prosperous villages where they can afford the professional groups. Enthusiastic amateurs also arrange plays and other kinds of entertainment.