Raja festival, which usually falls on June 14, is dedicated to girls and women. The festival gets its name from Sanskrit word ‘Rajas’, which means menstruation. And the word ‘Rajaswala’ means a menstruating woman.
Girls enjoying Raja festival
Festivals reflect the culture and tradition of a particular race. Raja festival is no different either. It reflects the way we respect our menstruating women and girls.
Even in this 21st century, when menstruation is still considered as a taboo, in Odisha, it is a reason for celebration.
Raja festival, which usually falls on June 14, is dedicated to girls and women. The festival gets its name from Sanskrit word ‘Rajas’, which means menstruation. And the word ‘Rajaswala’ means a menstruating woman. This suggests that the festival is especially for menstruating women.
During the festival, young unmarried girls are refrained from cutting, cooking or doing anything because that might make them tired. They are even not allowed to walk barefoot. They are allowed to take complete rest. They enjoy the three-day-long festival to their fullest. They in new clothes look their best in these three days.
On the first day of the festival, which is called ‘Pahili Raja’, they get up early in the morning, do their hair, and anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil before going for bath in a river or pond. Then they wear new clothes and soak in festive fervour.
They throng the village ends where different kinds of swings such ‘Chakri Doli’, ‘Pata Doli’, ‘Dandi Doli’ and ‘Bamboo Doli’ as are prepared. Not to mention, rope swings are hung from the branches of mango and banyan trees. The swings are decorated with different colours of flowers. Preparations for swings start days ahead of the festival.
During the three days of the festival, the beautifully dressed girls move around the village and swing in rides, singing different folk and local songs. These songs, most are composed extempore, speak of love, affection. The most famous one is ‘Banaste dakila Gaja, barasake thare aasichhi Raja, asichi raja lo gheni nua sajabaja.’ The air gets reverberated with these songs.
They choose one of them as ‘Doli Rani’ (Queen of Swings), make her sit on the swing and push her and have fun. In some parts, ‘Puchi khela’ and ‘Jhoti’ competitions are organized for the girls. They visit one another’s house and are treated with different ‘pithas’ and typical cuisines.
In celebration, the young men aren’t behind either. They keep themselves busy by playing several country games like ‘Kabadi’, ‘Ludo’ and playing cards.
The festival is celebrated in rural and urban areas with equal intensity. In Urban areas, different organizations make arrangements for the celebration. They set up swings; arrange competitions like ‘Raja Queen Pratijogita (competitions for Raja rani) and display an array of food items including different pithas. City girls throng these places and have a whale of time.