India is the land known for its great culture and heritage. Indian culture is a combination of several various cultures from different states. The Nation has been influenced and shaped by a history that is several thousand years old. Throughout the history of India, Indian culture has been heavily influenced by Dharmic religions.
In different parts of India, we have come across various infuriating practices and beliefs. When the menstrual cycle of a woman is discussed, we come across various beliefs regarding the menstrual taboo all around the country. However, there are certain cultural practices in India which beliefs in the opposite, like this 4-day Odisha festival called Raja Parba which is celebrated in June every year.
What’s special about Raja Parba is that this particular festival correlates the fertility of harvest to that of a woman. In simple words, it celebrates a girl’s onset of womanhood, i.e. menstruation.
Written as RAJO/ RAJA, the festival is pronounced as raw-jaw. Raja is taken from the word Rajaswala, which means menstruating women. The people of Odisha believed that during the first three days Bhudevi (Mother Earth), the wife of Lord Jagannath undergoes menstruation and is given a ceremonial bath the fourth day. Each day of the festival has its own name and significance – the first day is called Pahili Raja, second day is Mithuna Sankranti, signifying the beginning of solar month of Mithuna i.e., the rainy season, the third day is Bhu Daaha, Bhoomi Dahana or Basi Raja and the fourth day is called Vasumati Snana.
During the first three days of the festival, from plucking flowers to plowing and irrigation, all agricultural work is suspended. It is believed that the land goes through regeneration during this period, an act likened to the menstrual cycle of an unmarried girl or woman, which should not be ‘disturbed’. Women and unmarried girls are encouraged to look their best, wear new clothes and decorate themselves with alatha. They are given a break from all the household work and are seen spending time on swings, playing indoor and outdoor games and eating special cakes/ pithas like Poda pitha, Chakuli pitha, etc. In rural Odisha, girls are not allowed to wear slippers and special kind of slippers are made with the stem of Banana tree.
As practiced, on the first day of the festival girls rise before dawn, do their hair, smear their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and take a bath in a river or pond. The fourth and the last day marks the ceremonial bath of Bhudevi or Vasumati Gadhua which indicates the end of ‘menstruation period’ of mother Earth.
Not only that there is a special arrangement of Swings known as Raja Doli. Girls also play Puchi, Skipping and other outdoor games.