Cuttack, Puri & Balasore, Orissa
Also Known As : Mithuna Sankranti or Swing Festival
Falls On : The first Day of the month of Asara (June - July)
: Celebrating the arrival of Monsoon Season.
Raja is one of the most popular festivals of Orissa, though it is not observed in western Orissa. The first day of the Raja festival is always celebrated in the last day of the solar month of Jaishtha. The festival continues for three days. It is supposed that the Earth goddess had started to menstruate on the first day of the Raja and after the third day she is taken to a ritual bath and returned to normalcy. So this is called as the menstruation time of the earth, so the earth is to be avoided like a woman.
Therefore men and women avoid touching the earth. Practically for three days there is a complete stoppage of work and especially boys and girls take to the swing and sing the typical Raja songs. Singing, merry-making, feasting and display of gymnastic feats and playing games become the most important preoccupations for this three days. On the fourth day, when the earth is ritually clean and is ready for fertilization, the traditional ploughing is undertaken in the paddy fields.
Welcoming the Monsoon
To celebrate the advent of monsoon, the joyous festival is arranged for three days by the villagers. Though celebrated all over the state it is more enthusiastically observed in the districts of
Cuttack, Puri and Balasore. The first day is called "Pahili
Raja" (Prior Raja), second is "Raja" (Proper
Raja) and third is "Basi Raja" (Past Raja).
According to trendy belief as women menstruate, which is a sing of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. So all three days of the festival are considered to be the menstruating period of Mother Earth. During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended. As in Hindu homes menstruating women remain secluded because of impurity and do not even touch anything and are given full rest, so also the Mother Earth is given full rest for three days for which all agricultural operations are stopped.
Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls, the potential mothers. They all observe the restrictions prescribed for a menstruating woman. The very first day, they rise before dawn, do their hair, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and then take the purificatory bath in a river or tank.
Peculiarly, bathing for the rest two days is prohibited. They don't walk bare-foot do not scratch the earth, do not grind, do not tear anything apart, do not cut and do not cook. During all the three consecutive days they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations, eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives, spending long cheery hours, moving up and down on improvised swings, rending the village sky with their merry impromptu songs.
The Melody of the Festivity
The swings are of different varieties, such as 'Ram Doli', 'Charki
Doli', 'Pata Doli', 'Dandi Doli' etc. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social
behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the minds of the singers. Through anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through sheer beauty of diction and sentiment, has earned permanence and has gone to make the very substratum of
While girls thus scatter beauty, grace and music all around, moving up and down on the swings during the festival, young men give themselves to strenuous games and good food, on the eve of the onset of the monsoons, which will not give them even a minute's respite for practically four months making them one with mud, slush and relentless showers, their spirits keep high with only the hopes of a good harvest.
As all agricultural activities remain suspended and a joyous atmosphere pervades, the young men of the village keep themselves busy in various types of country games, the most favourite being 'Kabadi'. Competitions are also held between different groups of villages. All nights 'Yatra' performances or 'Gotipua' dances are arranged in prosperous villages where they can afford the professional groups. Enthusiastic amateurs also arrange plays and other kinds of entertainment.
The special variety of cake prepared out of recipes like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc. goes in the name of "Poda
Pitha" (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 the three-day festival and sustain only with this type of cake, fried-rice ('Mudi') and vegetable curry.