Being Women

Raja Festival: The Celebration Of Fertility in Odisha 

Sudipta from Puri, Odisha writes about Raja festival

Raja Festival better known as the menstruation festival

The cultural heritage of Odisha is rich and magnificent enough to evoke awe and beauty in the mind of an outsider. Raja festival is one such unique and unconventional festival in Odisha. Known as a menstruation festival, it celebrates”fertility,” which is the ability to reproduce.

The word “menstruation” is still a taboo topic in different parts of our country. Even today, there are various illogical and infuriating ideas about the term “menstruation.” However, Odisha which has a predominantly agrarian society associates the fertility of the harvest to that of a woman in Raja Parba. The word ‘Raja’ is derived from the term Rajaswala, which means a menstruating woman. It is a prevalent notion that Basudha (Earth), conceived as a feminine entity, goes through three consecutive days of the periodic cycle and receives a ceremonial bath on the fourth day.


Four-day festival

The first day is known as Pahili Raja. The second day is perceived as Mithun Sankranti, and the third day is termed Sesa Raja. The fourth day is called Vasumati Snana. These four days have their own significance.

All types of agricultural work are postponed during these three days. Like the reproductive ability of a woman, Mother Earth is also believed to reproduce in the same way. So the land goes through regeneration. Not a single work of cultivation is practised during these three days. Even in rural areas, girls are prohibited from walking around. They use sandals made from banana trees, which are known as Patoka.

Celebrating women

The rich tradition and culture of Odisha are marvellously portrayed through the celebration of Raja.

On all these days, women are pampered and accorded special privileges. They deck up in gorgeous outfits with decorative bindi. Alta is the most special makeup item in Raja. Mehendi is also an indispensable item for decorating hands. Women and girls are given a complete break from all household activities. They are mostly seen spending their time on swings during these three days. Different types of indoor and outdoor games are played.


A joyous festival

The fourth and last day observes the ceremonial bath of Basumata, which justifies the end of Mother Earth’s menstruation period. It is to be noted that there are also atmospheric changes that occur during this time. The advent of the rainy season and the departure of the summer season, with the gift of ample production of fruits and vegetables, bring joy to the hearts of all. Authentic cuisine, like rice cakes, is made and distributed for spreading happiness and strengthening unity between families and friends. Hence, celebration and merry-making add special charm to this festival.

Celebrating the feminine form

Raja, the agricultural festival, worships Mother Earth as the perennial source of all reproduction and regeneration processes. It also upholds the woman who is bestowed with the divine power of recreation and reproduction. The festivities spread the vibes of positivity all around. The Odiya people around the world wait eagerly for this local festival to celebrate the rich legacy of their state.

The Odiyas embrace each and every aspect of their culture with pride and glory. This is one of the many festivals of Odisha that unites all through a single thread of unity and peace.

Note: This year Raja Festival commences on June 15-June 18, 2023.


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