Odisha’s regional ‘Raja festival’ breaks taboos associated with menstruation

Girls enjoying ‘doli’ or swing during Raja festival

India is quite known for celebrating one of the largest number of festivals; both regional and national combined. Further, Odisha is one such state of India with many festivals lined up in a year. As the odia saying goes, “bara masa tera parba”(13 festivals in 12 months). It’s no exaggeration.

The ‘Raja Festival’ is one of the unique festivals of Odisha; the celebration of which spans for three-long days. The first day is called ‘Pahili Raja’ while the second day is called ‘Raja Sankranti’ or ‘Mithuna Sankranti’ and the third day is ‘Basi Raja’. Basumata puja is the concluding and fourth day of Raja. It is celebrated around mid-June with the onset of south-west monsoon. It is commonly known as ‘swing festival’ since girls take to swinging and rejoice.

No agricultural activities such as digging of soil or alike take place during this period as it is popularly believed that Goddess Mother Earth or ‘ Basumata’ menstruates and hence, women are also not allowed to cook during these days.

This festival seeks to celebrate menstruation and womanhood. Odisha is probably the only state to celebrate a festival on menstruation. Further, the festival creates a celebratory aura for both sexes and not just for woman. This makes this festival even more unique. While on one hand, women are discriminated and belittled because of the menstrual cycle, Odisha stands out by celebrating this phenomenon.

Raja Sankranti is a harvest festival and is mostly celebrated by the coastal districts of Odisha. The three days period is aired with the aroma of “pithas’ and other delicacies. Girls wear new outfits and are ready to swing. Since, adolescent girls and women’s are shun from doing cooking chores, they engage themselves in swinging, playing ‘puchi’, etc.

This festival also gives a vibe of togetherness in families across odia communities as people migrated to other cities for work or education return home during Raja and celebrate with much joy. The festival is also showcased through the actors speaking on raja and its significance and how it brings happiness. The markets turn lively due to large crowd of customers for Raja.

May this festival live long and not be influenced by modernity which often tends people to forget their traditional roots and culture.

A writer, local guide, fitness freak, environmental enthusiast, a social worker....
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