Celebration of festivals is an inseparable part of Indian society. Festivals of any state reflect the culture, tradition and history of the people. Festivals in India are mostly associated with seasonal phases of the sun, the moon, birth of divinities and agricultural operations.
There are some festivals like Rakhipurnima, Holi, Diwali, Durga-puja, Shiva-ratri, Makara-sankranti which are observed all over India though their mode of celebrations are different from state to state. On the contrary, there are also certain festivals which are purely regional and sectarian. In India the months are counted on the basis of solar or lunar movements. While the month is calculated, in solar system, from Sankranti to Sankranti, that is counted in lunar system from Purnima to Purnima (full-moon). The number of festivals observed in Orissa are many compared to other regions of the country. Amongst them Rajasankranti, Kumara-purnima, Prathamastami are some of the festivals which are specifically meant for the young.
The State Orissa, there are 13 festivals in 12 months. Certain divine powers and mottos are linked in celebration of any kind of festival. People also get some sort of respite and refreshment during the celebration of these festivals getting aside from monotonous life.
Legends have grown connecting these festivals with mythological events recorded in the Puranas and other religious literatures. They intend to inspire faith and virtuous life among the people as a result of which religious impact pervadesthe celebration or observance of all the festivals.
Belief: According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sign of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. In our Hindu tradition during menstruation period women need to take rest and don’t perform any ritual at home and don’t visit temple to have a Darshan of the deities. Likewise digging of soil or tampering it in any way is strictly prohibited. The Mother Earth is said to undergo pollution due to menstruation and given rest just like a woman.
Significance: The Rajo (menstruation) is a three day deemed ‘menstrual period’ for the mother earth. It is a date in the solar calendar coincident with Gemini asterism (mithuna). Astronomically, in relation to the geo-space of 170 49’ to 220 34’ N and 810 29’ to 870 29’ E(O±iÐÁ), the Gemini asterism and the Sun get co-incident annually. It heralds the Rajo.
The Raja Sankranti also known as Mithun Sankranti, falls on the first day of the month of Asadha (June) from which the rainy season starts, thus moistening the summer parched soil and making it ready for productivity. The first day is named as ‘Pahili Raja’ (prior Raja), second day is ‘Raja’ (proper Raja) and third is called ‘Shesha/ Basi Raja’ (past Raja). In some places however there is a custom of celebrating the fourth Raja known as the “Basumata Puja” or the bathing of Mother Earth. Raja is considered as one of the main festivals ofRaja is considered as one of the main festivals of the damsels or the potential mothers. They are forbidden from all kinds of manual works during these three days of Raja festival. They don’t walk bare-foot, do not scratch the earth, do not grind, do not tear anything apart, do not comb hair, do not sweep the house, do not sew clothes, do not cut and do not cook. During this festival Mother Earth or ‘Basumata’ is considered to be a menstruating woman.
Social Significance: Although the freedom of women is confined to only 4 days still it makes the humanity remember the importance of the fair sex in the society. So we can term this Raja festival as true manifestation of woman empowerment.
Though festivals are deeply associated with religion (faith), the main purpose seems to be recreational. They mitigate the monotony of life. Man and women tired of hard routine work need change or relaxation which festivals provide. Thus festivals promote a common cause, develop social solidarity, fellow feeling and mutual co-operation. They also instill selfdiscipline and emphasizes the spiritual value of human existence besides providing enjoyment and recreation.
History:In ancient days most of the celebrations were agricultural in their basic character having festivals mostly related to various agricultural operations. People thought certain divine powers were associated with various aspects of human life and festivals were scheduled in honour of Gods and Goddesses, who were supposed to control agricultural operations.
The tradition of such festivals have also come down to the people of Orissa in the form of Raja-Sankranti(swing-festival), Akhayatrutiya, Gamha-purnima, Manabasa-gurubara,
Nuakhai etc. Raja is an agriculture oriented festival, mostly observed in the coastal districts of Orissa for three days. The last day of month “Jestha” is known as “Pahili Raja” and the first day of month “Asadha” is Raja Sankranti (Mithuna Sankranti) from which rainy season starts. It also inaugurates the agricultural year all over Orissa which marks the moistening of summer parched soil with the first shower of monsoon making it ready for productivity. The second day of “Asadha” is known as “Bhuin Dahana”. To celebrate the advent of monsoon the joyous festival is arranged for three days.
Even in some places of Orissa the fourth day of Raja festival is also celebrated in the name of “Basumata Puja”. During this festival Mother Earth or “Basu Mata” is considered to be a menstruating woman. Hence digging of soil or tempering it in any way is strictly prohibited. The Mother Earth is said to undergo pollution due to menstruation and given rest just like a woman imposed with several restrictions.
Celebration: Celebration of Raja is one of the oldest traditions in Orissa. Though celebrated all over the State it is more enthusiastically observed in the coastal districts of Orissa. Festivals reflect the culture, tradition and history of a particular race.
Festivals are generally associated with seasonal phases of the sun, the moon, birth of divinities and agricultural operations. In today’s society we all feel shortage of time because of our never ending quest for materialistic pleasure. This unhealthy mentality eventually leaves us away of our customary practices.
The younger generation is said to have been the harbinger of change in social, political and economic spheres but surprisingly they are not so interested in any of the religious celebrations. Rather, they prefer to waste their valuable time in watching television and playing mobile games though the country expects more from the youths. The self-centered younger generation is not aware of their hoary past and glorious traditions. These traditions safeguard the mind-set of its followers up keeping the moral values of a community. In the context of degradation of morality, it is the high time to remind our youths on the importance and justification of celebration of religious festivals where the glowing tradition of our society and virtuous life of the people prevail. Festivals undoubtedly promote a common cause; develop social solidarity, fellow feeling and mutual cooperation.
They are also intended to self-discipline and spiritual value by which one makes himself pious and well-wisher of the human society. The most important festival of Orissa, Raja is commonly associated with the farming community and celebrated during the onset of the monsoon.
Song:In this Raja festival women and girls used to enjoy a lot by having new sarees/dresses, new bangles and they used to visit the friends and all friends just used to spend time by moving up and down on improvised swings with famous songs-
“Banaste dakila gaja, Barasake thare asichi raja, asichi raja lo gheni nua saja baja…”
“Raja doli rata rata; Mo bhai mundare suna mukut lo, Disuthai jhatajhata…..”
These songs are full of jolly spirit of girlhood days. Songs specially meant for the festival speaking of love, affection, respect, social behaviour and everything of social order and sometimes impromptu songs are also sung.
Swings: Special swings prepared for women and girls are tied to the branches of huge mango and banyan trees. The swings are of different varieties, such as ‘Ram Doli’, Chakri Doli, Pata Doli, Dandi Doli and Bamboo Doli etc. The rope of the swing, branches and trees are decorated with garlands of different flowers. The virgins of the village gather there on this festive occasion and one of them is selected as Doli Rani (Queen of the Swing). During this festival young men also keep themselves busy in various types of country games including Kabadi, Pasa, ludo, playing cards etc. while girls spend their time in Chita (Rangoli) competition, Puchi Khel etc. The girls and women like to chew ‘Mitha Pan’ (sweet betel) during this occasion.
Food Preparation: This occasion creates an opportunity for a ‘Get Together’. The very first day of Raja, women and girls get up early before the dawn, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil, then take the purification bath in the nearby river or tank. They get ready with their new sarees/dresses alongwith Tikili, Alata, Kajjal and Vermilion.
Special varieties of cakes (Poda Pitha/Burnt cake) are prepared out of ingredients like ricepowder, molasses, coconut, camphor and ghee. Cakes and other Odia delicacies are also exchanged among relatives and friends. Young girls and women do not take rice at night. All the domestic works are attended by the men. Complete rest is given to the women and girls as they remain themselves busy in hard routine work throughout the year.
Importance: Raja is also considered as one of the chief festivals of un-married girls or the potential mothers. The women folk, especially the virgins, forbid all kinds of manual works during these three days of Raja-festival. They don’t carry water, cut vegetables, sweep the houses, sew clothes, grind grains, comb hair, walk in bare foot etc. So, all kind of restrictions are imposed both for the land and the women-folk.
Although Raja Sankranti is celebrated all over Orissa, it is more enthusiastically observed in the coastal districts of the State. The unmarried girls or virgins observe the restrictions prescribed for a menstruating woman. On the first day of Raja Sankranti they rise before the dawn, do their coiffure, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil, then take the purification bath in the river or tank. Bathing for rest two days of the festival is strictly prohibited. During these three days girls are seen in the best of their dresses and decorations, eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives.
They move up and down in the swings rending the village sky with their joyous impromptu songs. The swings are tied to the branches of Mango or Banyan trees and decorated with garlands of different flowers. The virgins of the village gather there on this festive occasion and one of them is elected as Dolo-rani (queen of the swing). When the queen takes her seat on the swing, the virgins move her forward and backward with chorus of charming songs.
These songs are full of jolly spirit of girl-hood days and refer to glorious future, happy love and would be marriage with suitable husbands. Special varieties of cake prepared out of recipes like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc goes in the name of Podapitha (burnt-cake ). The size of the cake varies according to the number of family members. Cakes are also exchanged among relatives and friends. Young girls do not take rice during this festival and sustain only with different types of cake, fried rice (mudhi) and vegetable curry.
While girls scatter beauty, music all round moving up and down on the swings during this festival, young men give themselves busy in various types of country games including Kabadi competition. While ‘Yatras’ and ‘Gotipua’ dances are arranged at night in prosperous villages; plays and other entertainment programs are also conducted by amateur artists in relatively less prosperous places.
The communal mode of worship, from time immemorial, has taken the form of festivals. All communal worships have tended to assume the form of festivals. Festivals always involves the community, a gathering, a mela or a fair. It is the expression of a community on a festive and relaxed mood.