Festivals

“Raja Parbo” – Festival of menstruation, womanhood and fertility in Odisha.

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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 in menstruating age to enter Sabrimala 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 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 ceremonial bath of Mother Earth.

Mythological belief behind the festival

The mythological story or belief behind this festival is the Mother Earth or the divine wife of Lord Vishnu undergoes menstruation during first three days.

As per the belief since Goddess Earth is menstruating, all agricultural activities are barred during these days. No ploughing, 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 as Pahili rajo, the second is known as Mithuna Sankranti and 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 signifying 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 is equally symbolised as the creator, nurturer and care giver as in like Mother Earth. As a mark of respect to 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 feet of ladies to mark the occasion as auspicious), eat homemade delicacies, 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) . Competition are held to showcase various ways of folding paan by ladies.

Amongst the repertoire of Odia pancakes, Poda Pitha or Smoked Pitha stands out in this three long days festival.

The onset of this festival begins with Poda Pitha. An ancient traditional dish which 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, bringing favourite eateries for the ladies of the house. They pamper the ladies of the house in best possible way, showing their respect to womanhood.

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25 thoughts on ““Raja Parbo” – Festival of menstruation, womanhood and fertility in Odisha.

  1. This is something I had never heard of anywhere, since it comes from a state which is not been in d scenes too much, but such lovely, great open minded people survive there and celebrate such fantastic festivals, which is considered filthy in other parts of India

    1. Culturally Odisha is less known but it has rich culture and heritage to offer to the world. In Odisha all big festivals are woman-oriented. That’s the reason Kalinga was far ahead of its time in pages of History. Thanks for reading and sharing it.

  2. Hope you write more about Odisha. I’ve known about this festival only recently and it sounds great and so worth celebrating! Most of my Odiya friends living away from the state don’t celebrate all their festivals and are often surprised when I read about something and ask them about the rituals/food.
    #ReadByPRB

    1. This festival is very popular in Odisha and especially in family that has a girl child. Odisha’s all important festival revolve around woman.May be that’s the reason Kalinga was a advanced state in ancient India.

  3. It’s so sad to see that there are so many myths and taboos surrounding Menstruation in our country. So good to note that in Orissa, it is celebrated. I wasnt aware of Raja Parbo festival. Thanks for sharing about it.

    1. Odisha celebrates most of its festival for women. This is one state that is still free from clutches of dowry.

  4. In our country where menstruation still is a taboo subject this is truly a delight to know about. Celebrating womanhood through these customs is a wonderful gesture indeed.

  5. I had no idea that such a beautiful festival is celebrated in our country to celebrate menstruation and womanhood. Glad you wrote about it in your post, it should reach more and more people.

  6. This is a new information to me. It is really good to see that a state actually considers this very natural biological state of women as something positive, instead of a taboo.

  7. Whoa, I had never heard of this festival. This is such a great way of celebrating womanhood. I will make sure when my daughter’s hit puberty, i’ll celebrate it alongwith her and everyone we know.

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