The Celebration of Womanhood: festival of Raja ( pronounced as Raw-jaw)

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Odisha, is a known for its rich culture and tradition. The capital city ,Bhubaneswar which shares similar town planning with that of the city of Chandigarh, is otherwise known as the City of Temples owing to the vast number of temples present . Apart from being the store house to many minerals & iron ore, it also predominantly is dependent on agriculture for its sustenance. There is rapid growth now a days in the IT & ITES sector in recent years . A quaint lifestyle, peace loving people having belief in their roots are some of the many attributes of the inhabitants of the state.

There is a local saying i.e.Baara Masare, Tera Paraba which literally means that in twelve months there are thirteen festivals to be celebrated. This symbolically means that there are numerous ongoing festivals that ‘Odiyas’ ( Hindus) keep celebrating and every single festival has some or the other connotation or a deep linkage to the lifestyle or the belief pattern of the community at large.

Out of all such festivals, Raja ( pronounced as Raw- jaw) Paraba is quite unique. This is a three day long Hindu festival where in the main focus is to celebrate womanhood and the very essence of it. The belief is that Mother earth , referred to as ‘Vasumati Mata ‘undergoes her menstrual cycle during this phase followed by a ceremonial bath which takes place on the fourth day.

The first day is called as “Pahili Raja” (literally meaning the first day of the festival), the second day falls on “Mithuna Sankranti” and the third day which is interestingly today is called the “Basi Raja.” The fourth day is called the “Vasumata Snana Dibasa” indicating the ceremonial bath where the ladies bathe the stone grind which is symbolic of the mother earth or Bhumi with turmeric paste and decorate it with vermilion and flowers as a sign of respect.

During this period all the unmarried girls wear new clothes, play swings to their heart’s desire, indulge in indoor and outdoor games, are free to visit their friend’s place and there is an atmosphere of merry making, cheer and an aura of happiness sets in. The weather patterns tend to undergo a change when the burning sun is on the receding mode and the monsoon is about to set in. The pleasant weather also ads its charm to the festivities.

The worship of all female goddesses , be it in temple or at home is forbidden symbolizing the cycle of menstruation and the female goddesses are believed to be on a break! Women in general are given the liberty to not undertake any strenuous household work and male members are encouraged to step in and share the load . It might feel unreal, but this is a general norm during these times.

Most important fact to note here is that any kind of agricultural activity like ploughing or sowing of seeds is forbidden during Raja as the mother earth is believed to go through a phase of rejuvenation during this period of inactivity. This has scientific significance where in the soil also becomes more fertile in a natural way and promises a better yield in the next phase of harvesting. Like numerous folk tales that India has , here the local folk also has a belief that, because the mother earth is already in pain, any kind of agricultural activity will infuriate mother earth and curse us with a bad yield .

Β It is believed that Lord Vishnu dines at Puri, takes bath at Rameshwaram, rules at Dwaraka and meditates at Badrinath which are the Chaar Dhams of the Hindus or the four important places of pilgrimage. Daily more than fifty six type of Prasad is offered to the Lord Jagannatha at the designated time slots who is the believed to be one of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu . This Prasad is called Mahaprasad. Hence Odiyas take a lot of pride in their traditional cuisine and are known to love food in general. It is another fact that most of these items are not very famous. Probably , the Odia community never quite tries to showcase these things owing to their belief to be away from flashy life pattern and focus on simplicity . Though I respect this thought but personally I believe that there should be a continuous effort done so that the heritage of the land is not only preserved but also showcased so that the next generation takes pride and also develops a sense of responsibility towards preserving it. Otherwise, they would just consider it as a burden to carry on the legacy. This is solely my thought process.

So , every festival is linked to some unique food item in the state. Raja festival is marked Peethas like Poda Peetha, Manda Peetha, Kakera , Chunchi Patra Peetha, Chakuli, Chitau etc are prepared. Apart from it there are many other food items ( that are normally prepared during any special occasion) and various sweets like Rasagola ( favourite sweet of Lord Jagannath and having its origin in the State of Odisha), Chenapoda, Rasamalai, Chena Gaja. Chena Jhili etc are are also consumed.These are prepared elaborately in every house hold. There is a tradition of having Sweet Paan ( Bettel leaf with sweet ingredients and without tobacco) during this time as well. It may be interesting to note that it is believed that even Lord Jagannatha loves his Paan !

In villages , it was customary for young adolescent boys and girls to indulge in games with each other during evening time in Raja and it was not at all seen in bad light. However this tradition has fast got degraded and now this does not take place anymore pertaining to safety measures. Thanks to our technological advancements and degradation of societal value system at large.

The term ‘Raja’ is derived from the word ‘Rajaswala‘, meaning a menstruating woman. This kind of festival is very unique which recognizes menstruation as very normal phenomenon and tries to remove any taboo that is attached with it. There is hardly any such festival elsewhere as far as my knowledge goes , where the entire community comes together to celebrate feminism or womanhood.

Today , being the last day of this festival, I wish my readers happy festivities and basically a time of healing both physically and mentally. May there be more gender equality and may we understand that women are not impure or weak because of their monthly cycles. It is only because of this phenomenon that they can sustain another life form within them just like the Bhumi or Mother Earth gives us new yield in every season.

So, cheers to womanhood and may we be consistent enough to recognize and eradicate any injustice towards the fairer sex . May there be a time in future where women actually feel safe , be it at their own home or in the outside world. Ameen!

The Peetha Platter from the Odisha Tourism Department
Kakera, Arisha & Channa Manda Peetha
PC: Telegraphttps://www.telegraphindia.com/odisha/food-festivals-bring-out-flavours-of-odia-cuisine/cid/1401204 – A real event from earlier times

Love ,

Chinmayee

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.’ 

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Atulmaharaj says:

    This is so insightful Chinmayeeji, I first heard about it on Manas’s feed when you spoke about it. For someone like me who isn’t quite learned when it comes to mythology and festivals, this was quite easy to understand and remember. I doubt if I’ve across such a festival anywhere else. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Atulji for your comments. I am glad I could put across my thoughts regarding such a unique festival which exists but not many know about it.

      Like

  2. Swarnali Nath says:

    I admire this festival from bottom of my heart. To erase the taboo from our society, we need everyone celebrating this kind of festival all around us. Beautifully put, Chinmayee. Loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Swarnali Nath says:

    I admire this festival from bottom of my heart. To erase the taboo from our society, we need everyone celebrating this kind of festival all around us. Beautifully put, Chinmayee. Loved your post. πŸ’—πŸ’›πŸ’—

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Swarna. You are a sweet heart and I am so glad you liked this post of mine!

      Like

  4. Vasumathi says:

    Interesting read. Had not heard about this festival earlier. And there is a curiosity connect to me as well coz of my name which is the same as mother earth ref to in your post πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a lovely coincidence I can say Vasumathi .Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Glad you liked my writing πŸ€—

      Like

  5. I had read about the festival but your post describes it in such detail along with so many other associated legends and stories. Very insightful and informative indeed.
    Deepika Sharma

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and glad you liked it 😊

      Like

  6. Anita says:

    Well written, Chinmayee.
    Raja Parba is a unique festival with so much festivity. I love all the Pithas and Mithas.
    I agree with you that more promotion is needed.
    You rightly state that Odias focus on simplicity and do not showoff.
    That’s why Odisha is “India’s best kept secret!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How can I not agree with this ! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Like

  7. Tarang says:

    Such a lovely post! Informative and interesting and captures the essence of the festival beautifully. Thank you for sharing. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and glad you liked it.

      Like

  8. Mayuri6 says:

    I was wondering why this festival for women has a male name, Raja and you explained the full name of it in your post.
    Hats off to the Odiya culture to celebrate a festival that is so beautiful. Such a great way to honor Mother Earth and Women.
    My fervent wish is to visit the Jagannath Temple and I hope I get to do so soon. I am so looking forward to meeting you someday soon as well, Chinu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your heart felt comments πŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’›. You are always welcome and meeting you would always be a privilege for me too. I look forward to the opportunity in future.
      Jai Jagannatha πŸ™

      Like

  9. Debidutta Mohanty says:

    Lovely post , Chinmayee. Odisha has so many beautiful festivals that the world needs to know. Even our cuisines are so healthy and unique, especially pithas and meethas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debi, absolutely. There is no doubt in this . Odisha is the best kept secret for sure .

      Like

  10. Food Opium says:

    Recently read a write-up on this Facebook by Shefali Vaidya, and today here it’s nice to get to know about our traditions and the values which impart behind these celebrations. Thanks for such a lovely write up and we need to promote our celebrations with their essence so the coming generations get to know about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Immensely thankful for your comments and I strongly feel that we really need to talk a lot about our own celebrations of life . Grateful to you for your time ❀️

      Like

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