Menstruation in India is still a hush-hush topic. Wonder why?
The question that haunts every woman. Why a biological process which is the foundation of creation has to be considered impure?
In this fast-paced world, menstruating women is still considered to be impure. Last year, we witnessed the fracas that was created for giving permission for the entry of women menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple.
When the entire country shuns this biological phenomenon, Odisha stands out and celebrates it with full glory. Originally, it was a tribal celebration but over the decades it has spread to the nook and corner of Odisha.
Every year around mid-June the entire state celebrates it with pomp and show. This year the festival came to an end on 17th June, with the ceremonial bath of Mother Earth.
The mythological belief behind the festival
The mythological story or belief behind this festival is that Mother Earth or the divine wife of Lord Vishnu undergoes menstruation during the first three days.
As per the belief since Goddess Earth is menstruating, all agricultural activities are barred during these days. No plowing, sowing, or any other agricultural-related work is carried out. Rajo is pronounced as Raw-Jaw or Rajawswala, meaning menstruating women.
Name and significance of each day
This is a festival of three long days, each day having a different name and significance.
The first day is called Pahili rajo, the second is known as Mithuna Sankranti and the third day is celebrated as Bhu daha or Basi Rajo. Forth day ends with the ceremonial bath of Mother Earth coining this day as “Vasumati Snana”.
Second-day signifies Mithuna, the solar month, marking the onset of monsoon with it’s first shower.
Rituals and customs of the festival
Menstruation is the metaphor for fertility.
Women of the house are equally symbolized as the creator, nurturers, and caregivers as in Mother Earth. As a mark of respect for womanhood and fertility, women are barred from carrying out any household activities.
It’s a phase of rejuvenation for Mother Earth and so for the women of the society.
Unmarried girls and women adore themselves with new clothes, wear alata ( red liquid worn at the feet of ladies to mark the occasion as auspicious), eat homemade delicacies, and swing and sing throughout the day. Swings are usually decorated with flowers. Women also while away their time by playing cards and chewing paan (tambul) . Competitions are held to showcase various ways of folding paan by ladies.
Women wearing alata for Raja parbo
Amongst the repertoire of Odia pancakes, Poda Pitha or Smoked Pitha stands out in these three long days festivals.
The onset of this festival begins with Poda Pitha. An ancient traditional dish that is made during this period of the year or festival.
Basically, chilling out in a traditional fashion with age-old delicacies passed on from generations.
Men contribute by decorating swings, gifting new clothes, and bringing favorite eateries for the ladies of the house. They pamper the ladies of the house in the best possible way, showing their respect to womanhood.