Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The three-day Raja festival is being celebrated across Odisha, especially by young women with pomp and gaiety.

The first day of the popular festival is known as ‘Pahili Raja’. The festival is also a time when young girls attired in gorgeous dresses take to the swings.

Raja marks the onset of the agricultural season. On the occasion of this special festival, people in Odisha pay homage to mother earth for her bountiful blessings. The festival is centered around the reverence for nature and fertility.

The streets have come alive across the State during the festival. People have stopped their work and they will make merry during the three-day festival. Women clad in dresses of resplendent colours and some traditional attire are enjoying up to the hilt during the festival.

Swings adorned with flowers and mango leaves, called ‘doli’, are set up both in rural and urban areas inviting people of all ages to sway and enjoy the festival. Mostly, young women are enjoying the swing with special Raja songs. A special cake named ‘Poda Pitha’ along with other delicacies has been prepared in every Odia house. The aromas of special delicacies and traditional sweets have filled the air. Raja is incomplete without a special pan.

The celebration of Raja could not be imagined without traditional games like cards and kabaddi and many cultural activities.

Some special arrangements have also been made at several places by many organisations during the three-day festival.

“We have been waiting for this day throughout the year. It’s a great moment and we are enjoying it up to the hilt. The weather is very pleasant with an overcast condition and we are so much excited,” said a girl from Kendrapara.

“We started our day early by bathing and wearing new dresses. Then we took blessings from elders and came to take sways in the swing after devouring Poda Pitha and other traditional delicacies,” said another girl.

Meanwhile, an organisation named ‘Swapna’ has started a new initiative by creating awareness about Raja in Banjhiama slum. The voluntary organisation has involved all the women of the slum in the unique festival.

The organisation distributed new dresses among the poor families in the slum and extended a helping hand to them to celebrate the festival with enthusiasm and fervour.