June 13, 2022
Celebration of Raja is one of the oldest traditions in Orissa. Though celebrated all over the State it is more enthusiastically observed in the coastal districts of Orissa. Festivals reflect the culture, tradition, and history of a particular race. Festivals are generally associated with seasonal phases of the sun, the moon, the birth of divinities, and agricultural operations.
The Celebration of Raja is the true Manifestation of Woman Empowerment with the moral values of a community. The Raja Sankranti also known as Mithun Sankranti, falls on the first day of the month of Asadha (June) from which the rainy season starts, thus moistening the summer parched soil and making it ready for productivity. The first day is named ‘Pahili Raja’ (Prior Raja), the second day is ‘Raja’ (proper Raja) and the third is called ‘Shesha/ Basi Raja’ (past Raja). In some places, however, there is a custom of celebrating the fourth Raja known as the “Basumata Puja” or the bathing of Mother Earth. Raja is considered one of the main festivals of the damsels or the potential mothers. They are forbidden from all kinds of manual work during these three days of the Raja festival.
During this festival, Mother Earth or ‘Basumata’ is considered to be a menstruating woman. According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sign of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. In our Hindu tradition during the menstruation period, women need to take rest and don’t perform any rituals at home and don’t visit temple to have a Darshan of the deities. Likewise digging of soil or tampering with it in any way is strictly prohibited. Mother Earth is said to undergo pollution due to menstruation and given rest just like a woman.
In this Raja festival, women and girls used to enjoy a lot by having new sarees/dresses, new bangles and they used to visit their friends and all their friends just used to spend time by moving up and down on improvised swings with famous songs- “Banaste dakila gaja, Barasake thare asichi raja, asichi raja lo gheni nua saja baja…” “Raja doli rata rata; Mo bhai mundare suna mukut lo, Disuthai jhatajhata…..” These songs are full of the jolly spirit of girlhood days. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behavior, and everything of social order, and sometimes impromptu songs are also sung.
Special swings prepared for women and girls are tied to the branches of huge mango and banyan trees. The swings are of different varieties, such as ‘Ram Doli’, Chakri Doli, Pata Doli, Dandi Doli, and Bamboo Doli, etc. The rope of the swing, branches, and trees are decorated with garlands of different flowers. The virgins of the village gather there on this festive occasion and one of them is selected as Doli Rani (Queen of the Swing).
The girls and women like to chew ‘Mitha Pan’ (sweet betel) during this occasion. This occasion creates an opportunity for a ‘Get Together. On the very first day of Raja, women, and girls get up early before dawn, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil, then take the purification bath in the nearby river or tank. They get ready with their new sarees/dresses along with Tikili, Alata, Kajal, and Vermilion.
Special varieties of cakes (Poda Pitha/Burnt cake) are prepared out of ingredients like rice powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, and ghee. Cakes and other Odia delicacies are also exchanged among relatives and friends. Young girls and women do not take rice at night.
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