Raja Festival of Odisha: A Wonderful way to Celebrate Girlhood

The legacy of the fertility cult continues in Odhisa. Dr Krishna tells us about Rajo* Mauja, a celebration of menstruation, that’s celebrated in mid-June. It celebrates girlhood, Mother Earth and Godess Laxmi. Special pithas (sweet dishes) are prepared and the girl-child is pampered for three days. Here’s an exclusive report exclusively in Different Truths.

As a part of tradition in Odisha, every year Rajo Mauja (celebration of menstruation) is observed from June 14 to 17 in Oriya families. It is assumed that Mother Earth /Maa Laxmi undergoes menstruation during the three days from June 14 to 16; thus, earth is given total rest during these days, no tilting, digging is allowed three days; girl children and young unmarried girls are also equated with Devi Laxmi and are honored these days as special ones. In nature – these three days are also marked with drizzling rain and clouds roam over the sky showing that rainy season is about to start. In fact also normally monsoon touches Odisha coast during this time. This festival is a splendid mixture of Goddess Laxmi- Maa Basumati (Mother Earth) and importance of girls; in total, a fertility theme.

Girls are given great importance in this festival. They are given relief from all household works like cleaning, cooking, etc. They are presented with new clothes and whole family enjoys good foods these days.

The festival starts with “Sajabaja” (dressing up) on pre-Rajo day, June 13. Girls get themselves ready to celebrate the occasion – they arrange their new clothes, wash hair and take a good bath and then they paint Alta on feet and apply Mehendi designs on hands.

Rajo starts on June 14. Girls enjoy the day with dressing up in new clothes, and family cook good food for them, they are invited by relatives and friend for feast.

On second day of Rajo various types of Pitha are prepared in home; traditional pitha of Odisha: Podho Pitha, Monda, Kakda, and Khiri also made and whole family with special love to girls enjoy these sweets.

Playing on the swing is a special attraction of Rajo, Girls play Doli (swing); doli is tied at home and girls enjoy swinging. In villages and many towns also a big Doli is tied from tree, all neighborhood girls gather there to enjoy swinging.

Rajo is big festival for girls. In many places cultural functions are also arranged by community where girls sing, dance and perform in dramas. Boys also join them.

No doubt Rajo is glamorous festival for Oriya community, centered on and around girls.

On third day of Rajo, non-vegetarian dishes are prepared in the families and everyone enjoys the last day of Rajo.

Fourth day – the end of Rajo – is called Basumati snan (bathing by Mother Earth); normally this day sky pours a good shower and the day remains cloudy. Girls take bath washing hairs for purity and Devi Laxmi Puja is performed in families. Devi is offered bhoga with Mango, Banana, curdle-molasses and parched rice. And with the end of worshipping Goddess Laxmi, Rajo festival ends.

Respect to Mother Earth, homage to goddess of prosperity Devi Laxmi and wholehearted love and pampering of girls makes this festival a very special one. Nature, goddess and girls are assimilated in this Rajo festival in an adoring way.

And for girls of any age this a fun and pleasure – enjoying specially prepared sweet paan (beetle), swinging on Doli relishing lots of pithas, visiting relatives and having good feast – they celebrate Rajo and with all the nice memories they certainly dream for a happy returns of Rajo next year!

©Dr Krishna Hota

Pix by: Pragya Parimita Sahoo.

*Pronounce as Raw-jaw.

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