Time and again, we have come across various infuriating practices and beliefs from all around the country regarding the menstrual taboo. However, there are certain cultural practices in India which believe in the opposite, case in point being this 4-day Odisha festival called Raja Parba which is celebrated in June every year.
What’s special about 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.
Pronounced as raw-jaw, Raja comes from the word Rajaswala, which means menstruating women. It is believed that during the first three days Bhudevi (Mother Earth), the wife of Lord Jagannath undergoes menstruation and is given a ceremonial bath the fourth day.
Each day of the festival has its own name and significance – the first day is called Pahili Rajo, second day is Mithuna Sankranti, signifying the beginning of 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 alatha. They are given a break from all the household work and are seen spending time on swings, playing indoor and outdoor games and eating scrumptious food.
As per tradition, on the first day of the festival girls rise before dawn, do their hair, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and take a bath in a river or tank. Bathing for the next two days is however prohibited. The fourth and the last day marks the ceremonial bath of Bhudevi or Vasumati Gadhua which indicates the end of ‘menstruation period’ of mother Earth.