Raja is the most unique and unconventional festival of Odisha. The cultural heritage of Odisha is rich and magnificent enough to evoke awe and beauty in the mind of an outsider. Hence Odisha stands stupendously indifferent by celebrating this particular festival over the years. Raja which is otherwise known as a Menstruation Festival where the term Fertility otherwise known as the ability to reproduce is worshipped as well. Women are pampered and privileged with special treatments.
The word Menstruation is still taboo to even utter in different parts of our country. Still, now we are getting various illogical infuriating ideas about the term Menstruation. However, Odisha is an agrarian society that co-relates the fertility of harvest to that of a woman in this Raja Parba. Raja literally comes from the term Rajaswala which means a menstruating woman. It is a prevalent notion that Basudha (Earth) conceived as a feminine entity goes through the three consecutive days of the periodic cycle and receives a ceremonial bath on the fourth day.
The first day is signified as Pahili Raja. The second day is perceived as Mithun Sankranti and the third day is termed as Sesa Raja. The fourth day is called Vasumati Snana. These fourth days have their exclusive significance. All types of agricultural work are postponed during these three days. Like the reproductive ability of a woman, our Mother Earth is also believed to reproduce in the same way. So land goes through regeneration. Not a single work of cultivation is practiced during these three days.
Even in rural areas, girls are prohibited from walking around. Rather they use sandals made from banana trees which are known as Patoka. So ladies and girls are given the best opportunities to look good in gorgeous outfits with a decorative bindi. Alta is the most special makeup item in Raja. Even Mehendi is one of the indispensable materials for decorating hands.
Authentic cuisine like rice cakes is being made in houses with the value of spreading happiness and the charm of unity between families and friends. The rich tradition and culture of Odisha are marvelously portrayed through the celebration of Raja. Different types of indoor and outdoor games are being played to spread happiness and oneness between family members.
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. The fourth or the last day observes the ceremonial bath of Vasumata which justifies the end of the Menstruation period of our Mother Earth. Last but the least there are atmospheric changes that occur during these periods.
The advent of the rainy season with the departure of the summer season with a gift of ample production of fruits and vegetables brings joy to the hearts of everyone. Hence celebration and merry-making add special charm to this festival.
Menstruation Festival: Raja which is an agricultural festival of Incredible Odisha however worships Mother Earth as the perineal source of all reproduction and regeneration processes. Similarly, the Raja festival also reinforces a woman who is bestowed with the divine power of recreation.
Amboavachi Mela at Kamakhya Mandir Guwahati Assam is similar to Menstruation Festival: Raja which is more of a ritual of austerities, a festival celebrated with Shakti rites that are celebrated in the month of June every year.
Such are the unique festivals of India, celebrating menstruation, female productivity, and ultimate Womanhood, excluding the origins of stigma and taboo associated with them.
Hoping this initiative by Sudipta Mishra in creating awareness, coupled with the annual Raja festival, will help break the taboo around periods completely in the years to come.
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