Raja: celebration dedicated to unmarried girls in coastal Odisha
Three day long Raja festival observed mainly in coastal part of eastern Indian state Odisha has many unique features traditionally associated with.
With changing time, though the celebration has went through sea of changes, the inner spirit giving space to unmarried girls their due of joy and celebration continues since time immemorial.
The festival is observed in mid June. The most popular among numerous festivals in Odisha, Raja is celebrated for three consecutive days. Just as the earth prepares itself to whence its thirst by the incoming rain the unmarried girls of the family are groomed for impeding matrimony through this festival as part of traditional faith.
In the remote rural backyard of Odisha these three days the girls spend time in joyous festivity and observe customs like eating only uncooked and nourishing food especially Podapitha, do not take bath or take salt, do not walk barefooted, rather walk in specially prepared slippers made up of banana trunk.
The most vivid and enjoyable memories one has of the Raja gaiety is the rope-swings on big banyan trees and the lyrical folk-songs that one listens from the nubile beauty enjoying the atmosphere.
To celebrate the advent of monsoon, the joyous festival is arranged for three days by the villagers in special style.
During all the three consecutive days the girls 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.
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 Orissa’s folk-poetry.
In modern times in urban centres community celebration of Raja takes place. Hotels and Restaurants these days are selling pithas (traditional pancakes) and Raja pan (special betel leaf to celebrate Raja).
In the run up to the Raja, garment shops run special schemes and discount packages to attract potential buyers.
Whatever your liking, various cultural organisations in state capital Bhubaneswar and elsewhere in the state are holding events just for you to celebrate Raja to the hilt.
From folk songs and dances to preparation of authentic local dishes, cultural organisations are giving urban revelers a chance to experience the original traditions of Raja.