Right now, Odisha is celebrating its biggest festival, Raja festival or Mithuna Sankranti which is a three-day-long festival celebrated with great pomp and show exclusively in Odisha.
This festival has two main significances:
- The first significance is to honour those girls who will become mothers in the future. It also acknowledges the pain they bear during the monthly menstruation cycle. It is dedicated to real feminism.
- The second significance of this festival is the relationship between Mother Earth and her Farmer son. When the mother earth meets the sky through rains, then the time of growing crops comes from the earth. With that great union, new hope and new enthusiasm arise in the life of every farmer.
Raja festival falls in mid-June, the first day is called Pahili Raja, second day is MithunaSankranti, third day is Bhudaaha or Basi Raja. The final and the fourth day is called Vasumatisnana. The day before first day is called Sajabaja or preparatory day during which the house and kitchen including grinding stones are cleaned; spices are ground for three days. During these three days women and girls take rest from work and wear new Saree, apply Alata, Kumkum, Mehendi and ornaments to beautify themselves.
It is believed that the mother Goddess Earth or the divine wife of Lord Vishnu undergoes menstruation during the first three days. The fourth day is called VasumatiSnana, or ceremonial bath of Bhudevi. The term Raja came from the Sanskrit word ‘Rajas’ which means menstruation and when a woman menstruates, she is called ‘Rajaswala’ or a menstruating woman, and in medieval times the festival became more popular as an agricultural holiday marking the worship of Bhudevi, who is the wife of Lord Jagannath.
According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sign of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. So, all three days of the festival are considered to be the menstruating period of Mother Earth. During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended. As a mark of respect towards the Earth during her menstruation days, all agricultural works comes to a standstill during these days.Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls, the potential mothers.
People pass these three days in joyous festivity. During all the three consecutive days they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations, eating the traditional cake Podapitha and the very famous paan at the houses of friends and relatives,spending long happy and cheerful hours. The most vivid and enjoyable memories one has of the Raja gaiety is the swings on big banyan trees and the lyrical folk-songs that one listens from the nubile beauties enjoying the atmosphere.
The swings are of different varieties, such as ‘Ram Doli’, ‘CharkiDoli’, ‘PataDoli’,’DandiDoli’ etc. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection,respect, social behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the mind.
While girls spread beauty, grace and music all around, moving up and down on the swings during the festival, young men give themselves up to strenuous gamesand delicious food, on the eve of the onset of the monsoons. As all agricultural activities remain suspended as rest is offered to Mother Earth and a joyous atmosphere pervades, the young men of the village keep themselves busy in various types of country games, the most favourite being ‘Kabadi’. Competitions are also held between different groups of villages. All nights ‘Jatra’ performances or ‘Gotipua’ dances are arranged in prosperous villages where they can afford the professional groups. Enthusiastic amateurs also arrange plays and other kinds of entertainment.
Happiness prevails in every household. It is a festival of brotherhood and social republic. It is also celebrated to commemorate the existence of menstruation in a woman’s life and to develop togetherness.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own)
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