Monday, June 13, 2016

How to Celebrate Raja Parba in Odisha

Odisha is a beautiful land of temples and ancient art and craft. Its festivals, traditions and culture are also quite unique. They draw a lot from their rich past and still have maintained many of the cultural traditions like celebrating the Raja Parba. All their festivals are known all around the world for the pomp and show because they are generally held on a large scale. Festivals are an integral part of the Odisha culture and people there live their lives in the perfect blend of modernity and traditional values. Odisha has a distinct flavor to its cultural celebrations which attracts lot of tourists.

The Raja Parba or festival is one such cultural celebration of Odisha. It is also known as Mithuna Sankranti which marks the beginning of the solar month of Mithuna; the start of the rainy season. The festival continues for 4 days and the second day actually signifies the beginning of the rain month. The festival normally begins from 14th of June when the entire Odisha welcomes the rainy season and celebrates the first brush of monsoon on their soil with flowers blooming everywhere. From here begins the year of productivity and hence people are happy and celebrate all over Odisha.

There is an interesting myth around this festival. It is believed by the Odisha people that Bhudevi, the divine wife of Lord Jagannath menstruates for 3 days and on the 4th day she goes through Vasumati Gadhua which means the ceremonial bath of the divine wife of Lord Jagannath and the mother of all. The period of worshipping Bhudevi begins from this day and the name Raja Parba has been derived from the term Rajaswala which denotes a menstruating woman. As a woman gains her fertility through menstruation, so also mother earth begins to realize her power of producing and this entire festival is a worshipping of fertility.

Celebrating Raja Festival In Odisha

Women do not indulge in pampering themselves with new dresses and jewelry. They refrain from doing any household chores during the 3 days. They mostly adorn themselves in traditional sarees and put Alatha on their feet to look more beautiful. Nobody walks barefoot on the ground and lots of delicacies are served like pithas which are sweet and tasty. Chakuli and podophitha are the hot favorites. Women also indulge in playing indoor games and girls spend time on swings with their friends. There is a folk song associated with Raja Parba which is known as Raja Geeta which eulogizes Mother Earth.

All 4 days of Raja Parba have different names- first day is Pahili Raja, second day is Mithuna Sankranti, and third day is Bhu Daaha while the fourth day is Vasumati Snan. The grinding stone representing the fertile earth is bathed by ladies on the 4h day after smearing it with turmeric paste, vermillion and decorating it with flowers. Mother Earth is offered all types of fresh seasonal fruits and the day before the celebration is known as Sajabaja and is a preparatory day when everything in the house is cleaned including the grinding stone.   

Though entire Odisha celebrates Raja Parba, yet Balasore, Puri and Cuttack celebrates it with great grandeur. Puri is already the most popular religious place in Odisha and any festival is observed with splendor there. No agricultural activity is carried on during the 3 days to provide rest to Mother Earth who will later produce crops and sustain life. Soon to be mothers and unmarried girls celebrate it with utmost dedication and abide by all the restrictions during the period. Women are only allowed to take bath on the first day and through the rest of the festival they must refrain. Dance and music is integral to Odisha festivals and here also yatra performances are arranged in Gotipua style. 

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