Raja Festival: Celebrate Womanhood & Menstruation
Published On: 01 Jun 2023 Updated On: 27 Jul 2023
On the auspicious occasion of Mithuna Sankranti, Odisha celebrates a 3-day grand festival to let Mother Earth undergo fertility regeneration and sets herself for further agricultural processes. Raja festival is a three-day festival that is celebrated all across Odisha to commemorate the joy of womanhood and menstruating girls, especially unmarried girls, and allows them 4 days off from all kinds of work just like what happens during menstruation.
When is Raja Happening?
|Raja Festival||Expected date: June 14th – June 16th, 2023|
|Day 1: Pahili Raja||Friday, June 14|
|Day 2: Raja Parba||Saturday, June 15|
|Day 3: Bhuin Dahana||Sunday, June 16|
The Mythology Behind Raja Festival
Raja Festival is one of the important festivals along with 12 other festivals that is celebrated all across the Odisha state in grandeur. Raja word is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Rajaswala’ which means woman who is menstruating. It is believed that the fertility cycle of the Earth is similar to that of a menstruating woman. The Odia people believe that the great wife (known as Bhudevi or Vsumati Goddess) of Lord Jagannath (Vishnu) undergoes this cycle before the onset of the rain.
During this period, the Goddess Earth is given rest from all kinds of activities. Another striking point of this festival is that the celebration of menstruation makes the feminine entity unique during Raja Festival. Every woman is compared with Goddess Earth and as the earth is getting fertile, women hold a special importance in this festival.
Rituals Performed During Raja Festival
The first day of the festival is called the Pahili Raja where in which women wake up before dawn and have a purification bathing by applying turmeric paste and oil and then after bathing for the next two days is not allowed or prohibited.
The second day referred to as Raja Parba marks the beginning of the solar month or ‘Mithuna’ of the Hindu calendar which is significant because it represents the arrival of rain across Odisha according to the meteorological department. The third day of this festival is called ‘Bhuin Dahana’ which is generally called ‘Sesa Raja’.
In most of the villages of Odisha, this festival takes place on a 4-day basis. And this day is celebrated as the Basumata Puja or Basumata Gadhua or Vasumati Snana where women clean, wash, and bathe the grinding stone as a symbol of the Goddess Earth with turmeric paste and decorate them with flowers and sindhoor, and much more stuff.
During all this time women are not allowed to walk bare-footed, scratch the ground, do not tear anything apart, not allowed to grind ingredients, or even cook food is prohibited. They are asked to wear the Alta and along with that, they have to wear fresh, brand-new clothes with jewelry to accompany them.
In each of these days, women are found roaming around eating cakes and having lavish dishes at their friend’s house or relatives or spending quality time and having fun while swinging.
The Delicacies Served
No festival is complete without condiments and delicious sweets. Even during the Raja festival, there are various types of delicious food served to the people. Some of those include Poda Pitha. This sic considered to be Lord Jagannath’s favorite thing to savour after having each meal. The sweet aroma and the mouth-watering taste are extremely alluring. Along with this, there are similar other dishes called Arasa pitha, mutton curry, and Raja Pana that are like a cherry on top for the food lovers out there.
In a country where prejudices and struggles are still present regarding menstruation, we have to applaud the Odia people who not only respect it but also is enjoyed and celebrated it across the state as a tradition and culture. They compare women to Goddess Bhudevi who is mother earth. Festivals symbolize cultural heritage and celebrate glorious traditions. It serves the legacy and brings out a sense of togetherness.
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