Odisha, the land of Lord Jagannath, celebrates 13 festivals in 12 months ( a popular proverb among the locals ) meaning Odisha celebrates endless festivals throughout the year. Among all this one important festival is Raja Parba which is celebrated for three days during the mid of June, preferably starts from 14th June and ends in 16th. During this period, the state remains in a state of jubilation and celebration.
The scorching rays of Summer of April and May calm down by the advent of South- West Monsoon in the first week of June through its tender drops. The sky that was blue during Summers turns out to be dark and white with patches of rain-bearing cloud moving here and there. It is in this occasion of soothing weather, relief from the heat and the new hope for next agricultural season Raja Parba is celebrated. Hence, it is a festival that is of great importance for the people who depend upon agriculture for their livelihood.
Further, the word Raja itself in Odia means menstruation and it’s a conjecture that mother Earth goes for three days long menstrual cycle during this period. So, in this occasion no activities like tilling, construction or any other that hurts mother Earth are done. These three days of the menstrual cycle of earth ends in the fourth day with Basumati Gaadhua which means the bathing of mother Earth. In this eve people worship mother Earth by bathing pieces of stone as it’s a replica and pray for a prosperous agricultural year in the days to come.
This ritual of celebrating the menstrual cycle of Mother Earth through Raja festival is an acknowledgement of the fact that the society had no taboo regarding the menstruation of women in past days. It was treated as normal in the society where today women are kept in segregated place during their periods and are not allowed to enter a temple treating them impure.
For many, Raja festival is significant for it’s closeness to agricultural class and people at large celebrate it for fun and merrymaking. On the other hand, we miss a larger message of women liberation that this festival signifies. It acknowledges the women as it is created by nature and hence freeing her from a societal burden. As a message to society, this Raja festival, has a name Raja meaning menstruation which is often kept secret in many societies, leads to a greater acceptance of genuine woman issues.
Not in many parts of the country except Odisha, celebrate this festival and it is even unknown to many. But in a world where women rights are sought, women menstrual hygiene is a serious issue with 23 million girls dropping school in India due to it, this festival should be an eye-opener for many. Along with all awareness campaigns, the celebration of this festival of Raja will improve the women menstrual hygiene and will help liberate more and more women from societal taboo.
One last important aspect of this Raja festival is the acknowledgement of nature’s contribution to human life and humans’ duty for the maintenance of good health of nature. This mutual relation is very much essential for the promotion of sustainable development along with the protection of nature.
During Raja festival, not hurting mother Earth for three days is exactly the promotion of sustainable development goals of the United Nations for protection of earth through climate action, and the women’s liberation and menstrual hygiene are in the line with sustainable development goal of gender justice for women.
This highlights the fact that the festivals of our society have a greater practical and philosophical Dimension that is often essential for a sustainable universe and egalitarian society for all. Indeed Raja Festival is one of such kind.