This is how Odisha is challenging the taboo around “impure” menstrual blood. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Menstruation is a taboo topic in the Indian society. Recently, Akshay Kumar’s Padman tried to bring about a slight change in the perception, but there is still a long way ahead. Taking a conscious step in that direction, the state of Odisha observes Raja Parba festival to combat all the prejudices that surround the menstrual cycle and celebrates a girl’s womanhood. A four-day festival celebrated every year in June, it calls for women to come together and acknowledge the gift of Mother Earth or Bhudevi – as they call it.
The festival is natively pronounced as ‘raw-jaw’, while ‘Raja’ is derived from the world ‘Rajaswala’ which means menstruating women. According to the religious belief, it is said that during the first three days, ‘Bhudevi’ (Mother Earth), the wife of Lord Jagannath undergoes menstruation cycle and on the fourth day, she is given a ceremonial bath.
Each day of the festival has its own name and significance — the first day is called Pahili Rajo, the second day is Mithuna Sankranti, which signifies 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.
People play a lot of indoor and outdoor games and girls play around swings tied on tree branches. Cards, ludo and kabbadi are some other games that are organised among young men. A folk song called the Raja gita is sung and people dance.