Samachar Live

Raja Parba Festival: A celebration of Womanhood and Menstruation

Odisha, the land of Lord Jagannath, celebrates a variety of festivals throughout the year. One of the most important festivals is Raja Parba, which takes place in mid-June and lasts three days, starting on the 14th and ending on the 16th. 

This year the state celebrated Raja Parba on Wednesday, June 15 with traditional gaiety and fervour. People enjoy the festival by cooking traditional delicacies, relishing paan, playing a variety of games, and spending time with family and friends.

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“In my childhood Raja meant a yearly trip to my native where the celebration centred around dressing up, roaming in the streets, eating delicious pithas and other delicacies and endless rides on the swing. Over time, the essence of the celebration has remained the same except for a few modifications to adapt to the urban lifestyle. My Raja still includes dressing up, eating delicious food made by my mom, going out with my girls and enjoying myself. For me this festival has evolved into a yearly self-care ritual where I focus on having a good time and unwinding amidst the chaos of life.” says Anwesha Jena from Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

The festival is celebrated in both rural and urban areas and came to an end on Friday with the Basumati Snana bath of Bhudevi (mother earth).

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Talking about the significance and importance of Raja, Anwesha said, “Well, the notion behind the three-day festival is celebrating the onset of monsoon which aids in agriculture. Raja Parba also celebrates the idea of fertility and menstruation as mother earth is considered to be menstruating these three days of the festival. And so, no heavy soil and land activity are conducted in these three days. Accordingly, this ancient festival is intricately associated with the celebration of fertility, menstruation and life. Even the name Raja is derived from the word Rajas which means menstruation.” 

Raja Parba festival is crucial for many because of its connection to the agricultural class, and it is celebrated for pleasure and merriment by the general public. However, the festival has a larger message. It acknowledges that women are created by nature and therefore relieves her of a societal burden.

As a message to society, the festival has the name ‘Raja’ which means menstruation. Hence, the festival has empowered many who celebrate it.

“As a woman and an Odia, it gives me immense pride and joy to have a festival that just centres around menstruation and women relaxing and having fun. I cannot think of a festival that celebrates womanhood and menstruation in our country with such joy and extravaganza. As I have mentioned before, Raja has become a ritual where I prioritise my emotional and mental well-being. It’s a festival that I will always keep looking forward to.” says Anwesha.

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Despite being a festival that celebrates womanhood and menstruation, not many are aware of its existence and relevance. Menstruation is still considered to be a taboo and it is often associated with many myths and misconceptions.

To gain a better understanding of these myths, Samachar Live interviewed Dr Swadhin Panda, Senior Residency, 3rd year in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

What according to you are some of the most pertinent misconceptions and myths associated with menstruation?

  1. The menstrual cycle is not the same as her period. The actual time that a woman bleeds is known as menstruation, but her menstrual cycle is the entire time from one period starting to the next.
  2. The pain we get during a period is real. It’s not like some other pain. The cramps are so severe even some of us have to take a day off.
  3. It may be tempting to write seemingly drastic changes in moods as “just hormones,” but mood changes caused by hormones are still real.
  4. Period blood isn’t rejected body fluids or a mechanism for the body to get rid of toxins. Consider it an evolved vaginal secretion, including traces of blood, uterine tissue, mucus lining, and bacteria. It’s not dirty blood.
  5. Another myth associated with periods is that only women get periods. Actually transgender and nonbinary people also get periods
  6. Periods are treated as a personal issue. However, it should be of national concern to have hygienic toilets.

Why do you think these misconceptions or myths exist?

On being asked the reason for the existence of these myths and misconceptions, Dr Swadhin said, “Discussion are suppressed. Women are not allowed outside during periods and are excluded from public places.” He further added saying, “The myths are very widespread and there are very few people raising their voices.”

Do u think festivals like Raja will help break these misconceptions and myths?

Highlighting the pertinence of Raja, Dr Panda said, “Glorifying and celebrating periods as a symbol of creativity and womanhood, manifested through the Raja festival, has always been an integral part of the culture in Odisha. It signifies fertility and creativity. It celebrates womanhood and menstruation.”

What can be done to reduce or avoid these myths and misconceptions associated with menstruation?

Talking about the ways to avoid these myths, Dr Swadhin said the following: 

  1. People should start taking it as a normal physiological process, the secrecy should be omitted.
  2. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has introduced a scheme for the promotion of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 years in rural areas. It includes increasing awareness, pad distribution etc.
  3. May 28 is now celebrated as menstrual hygiene day. This year the theme was making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030.
  4. Youth groups have been actively raising their voices against the taboos and encouraging rural women to use pads.

Image Credits: Zee News

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