Raja in Odisha: The festival for girls

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There are certain taboos in every society. Indians too have many such beliefs and yet, in the same India we can find contrasting traditions. While in most parts of India, the mark of the onset of a girl’s womanhood, i.e., menstruation is considered a taboo to be spoken aloud, Odisha sets itself apart and goes to celebrate a festival for the menstruating women. Raja or Raja Parba is a festival that celebrates the onset of womanhood.

Pronounced as raw-jaw, Raja comes from the word Rajaswala, which means menstruating women. It is believed that during the first three days Bhudevi (Mother Earth), the wife of Lord Jagannath undergoes menstruation and is given a ceremonial bath the fourth day. 

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 and the fourth day is called Vasumati Snana.

As per tradition, on the first day of the festival girls rise before dawn, do their hair, apply their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and take a bath in a river or tank. Bathing for the next two days is however prohibited. The fourth and the last day marks the ceremonial bath of Bhudevi or Vasumati Gadhua which indicates the end of ‘menstruation period’ of mother Earth. 

For three days, women are not allowed to do any household chores and are let to enjoy their while by swinging and playing indoor an outdoor games. They are given special considerations and are fed to their heart’s content. They are made to wear new clothes and are made to look their best during this festival.

All irrigational and farming works are suspended during these four days and the land is given a complete rest. It is believed that the land goes through regeneration during this period, an act likened to the menstrual cycle of an unmarried girl or woman, which should not be ‘disturbed’.

Just another hidden fact about our INCREDIBLE INDIA!

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