While many parts of the country, where girls’ periods or menstruation is considered a taboos even today, in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, people have been celebrating this in the form of a festival, named Raja Parba (Festival) with fun and getty.
The three-day long festival “Raja” is a celebration of Menstruation and womanhood.
This festival of Odisha is celebrated for three days and this year Raja Parba is being celebrated from June 14 to June 16. The specialty of this festival is that women are accorded due respect and the festival is a reminder to consider periods or menstruation not a dirt but to be revered celebrated.
The specialty of this festival is that it not only celebrates the womanhood but it also celebrates the happiness of the earth being fertile. It is celebrated for Bhudevi or earth. It is believed in Odisha that the divine wife of Lord Jagannath (Vishnu) is known as Bhudevi and she undergoes her menstrual cycle during this period before the onset of rains.
The word 'Raja' derived from a Sanskrit word Rajaswala means a menstruating woman. The interesting part of this festival is that it celebrates this aspect of womanhood which makes the feminine entity unique. Because menstruation is considered as a sign of fertility, and therefore, it celebrates femininity and her ability to give birth to another life.
At this time the Goddess Earth is given rest and all agricultural activities like digging the soil, ploughing the field, are being suspended. It is believed that after this the earth becomes even more fertile. Each and every woman is compared with the earth and just as the earth is getting fertile, women are also given a special place in this festival. She would not have to work for 4 days and allowed to take rest during these days.
How It Is Celebrated:
Every day of this festival celebrated in the month of June has a different significance. The first day is called “Pahili Raja “or the first day of Raja. The second day is called Mithun Sankranti; the third day is called 'Bhu Daha', or Basi Raja. The fourth day i.e. the last day of the festival is called Vasumati Snan. In this, women have to bathe and decorate. In some parts, women also have to grind turmeric and the earth is being worshipped. All kinds of fruits are being offered. By the way, this festival starts before the 'First Raja'. The day is called Sajabja where preparations for this festival take place. The kitchen and the entire house is cleaned. All the spices are kept separately. During these three days, women do not have to go to the kitchen. However as per the rituals on the very first day, the women rise before dawn, wash 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. Women have to wear Alta. Jewelry has to be worn along with new clothes. 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 major attraction of the Raja Festival is the different varieties of swings, such as 'Ram Doli', 'Charki Doli', 'Pata Doli', 'Dandi Doli' etc. Different folk and local Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behavior 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 monsoon, 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. This is a very special festival for farming families and it is like a break for all men and women because after the arrival of monsoon, everyone's work becomes very important and the earth becomes even more fertile.
Raja Has Some Similarity With Ambubachi Mela.
The Ambubachi Mela is one of the prime attractions of Guwahati's Kamakhya Devi Temple, a shrine that houses the Yoni (Genital) of Goddess Sati.The Kamakhya temple is one of 51 Shaktipeeth centres in India. According to the folklore during the Ambubachi Mela, the temple usually remains closed for the devotees for three days as the Goddess Kamakshya Devi undergoes her annual menstrual cycle. And it is believed that the Goddess's nurturing and feminine powers naturally get passed on to the devotees due to the monsoon season. Many devotees do not do their customary Puja. Three days later, the pind or the yoni-like structure that is worshipped is given a ritual bathing. This is done for purification of the Goddess after her menstrual cycle. After the cleansing ritual, the customary Puja is done, and the doors of the temple are reopened.
Many scientific reports also say that during the periods women get pain and hormonal changes takes place .So they need physical and mental rest during their menstruation. Where most of the parts in India, there are instances that a girl is put to sleep outside even in a storm because she has her periods, on the other hand, this festival, which worships the periods of women and girls, is very special. Hope fully this will be a ray of hope that people across the country may understand that periods or menstruation is not dirt, it is a thing to celebrate and respect the womanhood.