Menstruation is a taboo topic in the Indian society. Recently, Akshay Kumar’s Padman tried to bring about a slight change in the perception, but there is still a long way ahead. Taking a conscious step in that direction, the state of Odisha observes Raja Parba festival to combat all the prejudices that surround the menstrual cycle and celebrates a girl’s womanhood. A four-day festival celebrated every year in June, it calls for women to come together and acknowledge the gift of Mother Earth or Bhudevi – as they call it.
The festival is natively pronounced as ‘raw-jaw’, while ‘Raja’ is derived from the world ‘Rajaswala’ which means menstruating women. According to the religious belief, it is said that during the first three days, ‘Bhudevi’ (Mother Earth), the wife of Lord Jagannath undergoes menstruation cycle and on the fourth day, she is given a ceremonial bath.
Each day of the festival has its own name and significance — the first day is called Pahili Rajo, the second day is Mithuna Sankranti, which signifies the beginning of the solar month of Mithuna i.e., the rainy season; the third day is Bhu Daaha or Basi Raja and the fourth day is called Vasumati Snana.
People play a lot of indoor and outdoor games and girls play around swings tied on tree branches. Cards, ludo and kabbadi are some other games that are organised among young men. This festival is also popular on social media and people of the state have been posting pictures about the ceremony on Twitter. “Today is the beginning of 3 days long #Raja parba in Odisha. A festival marked with fanfare by every Odia household It’s a celebration of menstruation and womanhood. It is a belief that during this time of year the Earth, perceived to be a woman, menstruates”, said a Twitter user. Even the renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created an art piece at a beach.
— Sudarsan Pattnaik (@sudarsansand) June 14, 2018
Today is Raja (Raw-Jaw pronunciation) In #Odisha #RajaParba is celebrated as the menstrual period of mother earth. A unique festival that celebrates womanhood.
Indic feminism is the answer to Women’s issues in India. We can’t empower them by introducing fake feminism.
— Vivek Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) June 14, 2018
Today marks the beginning of #RajaParba in #Odisha — a three-day festival that celebrates menstruation. The belief being Mother Earth menstruated during this period. It challenges the taboo around menstrual blood being “impure.”
Join in to wish my folks back home. pic.twitter.com/qi89BGBeFl
— Rajesh Mahapatra (@rajeshmahapatra) June 14, 2018
Happy Raja to all the women!! #HappyRaja
(Raja pronounced as 'Raw-jaw' which comes from the word 'Rajaswala' which means 'menstruating woman')
Raja parba is a 3 days festival in Odisha, a celebration of menstruation and womanhood!
— Someone♡ (@Made__Of__flaws) June 14, 2018
— B P (@bhaks9) June 14, 2018
— Sanghamitra 🙋 🦋 (@seenumohapatra) June 14, 2018
Wish you all a fantastic "raw-jaw" (that's the only way in English to get non-Odia speakers to say it right!), Odisha's festival to welcome the monsoon: girls on swings, 'pithas' & other traditional delicacies, music & merrymaking, colourful atmosphere, all great fun🙏
— Baijayant Jay Panda (@PandaJay) June 14, 2018
— Anand ଆନନ୍ଦ (@ACrazy_Boy) June 14, 2018
A folk song called the Raja Gita is sung and people dance.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines