Odisha celebrates a Menstruation festival symbolising womanhood

Celebrating menstruation is not a taboo anymore in Odisha. Menstruation is still a taboo in some parts of India. Females are not allowed to go to temples or anywhere near the place of worship. In some Indian families, the girl is considered to be unhygienic and has to eat in different utensils, use different bathrooms and are also not allowed in the kitchen. The central theme of the festival, 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 and to put an end to the taboos connected with it.

Taboos related to menstruation are deep-rooted in Indian society in order to celebrate menstruation and womanhood, a three-day long festival is celebrated in Odisha. The widely-cherished Raja Festival is celebrated by and for the women. Raja comes from the word Rajaswala, which means menstruating women. Myths say, during these three days of the Raja Festival, the mother earth or commonly known in the state as Bhudevi undergoes menstruation and as per the process, on the fourth day of the festival, a ceremonial bath takes place.

The festival is also known as Mithuna Sankranti, which implies the beginning of the Mithuna month. It also signifies the onset of monsoon in the state which prepares the state’s soil for further productivity and a healthy crop in the upcoming season. The three-day celebration is marked by women by buying new clothes, play games and celebrate it by taking off from their regular schedule. Each day of the festival has its own name and significance. The first day is called Pahili Rajo, the second day is Mithuna Sankranti, signifying 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.

From plucking flowers to ploughing and irrigation, all agricultural work is suspended during the first three days of the festival. 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 Altaha. Reports claim that the agricultural work in the state to comes to a standstill during these days. This festival has become a talking point on social media and applauding the state Odisha for its cultural heritage.

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