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Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Hindu festival which celebrates menstruation

While the anti-Hindu brigade routinely criticizes Hindu Dharma, alleging that it is anti-women and misogynic, they cunningly conceal all the grand festivities through which we celebrate womanhood, including menstruation. Among such vivid festivities, one is the festival of Raja, celebrated primarily in the state of Odisha.

A famous proverb often quoted by locals in Odisha, the land of Lord Jagannath, is that they have 13 festivals in 12 months. This proverb implies that Odisha celebrates infinite festivals round the year. But among all these festivals, the one that is perhaps only second to the Rath Yatra in terms of prominence is the festival of Raja Parba, commonly known as Raja. For three days during mid-June, Raja was celebrated from the 15th to the 18th of the month this year. In some rare traditions, they also have an added fourth day of celebration. 

The sweltering summer of April and May gives way to the advent of the South-West Monsoon towards the beginning of June, and the land experiences tender drops. Right amidst this mild weather with relief from the heat, Raja Parba is celebrated, welcoming the agricultural season. The coastal state stays in a mood of perfect festivity and frolic during these three days of Raja. The festival holds great importance for those who depend on land and agriculture for their livelihood. Raja is also considered to be the manifestation of fertility. 

Interestingly, the word Raja in Odia translates to menstruation. People in Odisha and some parts of the adjoining state believe that mother earth goes through her annual menstrual cycle during this period. And to honour mother earth and allow her some rest during this time, all activities like tilling, farming, or construction that can hurt mother Earth are halted. 

As we stated above, as per some traditions, a fourth day is also observed after the three days of Raja. This added day is observed as Basumati Gaadhua, which represents the bathing of mother Earth. While observing Basumati Gaadhua, devotees give bath to pieces of stone that represent the Earth and pray for a thriving harvest in the agricultural season ahead.

The most significant part of these rituals of the Raja festival is acknowledging that our society is free from the taboo regarding women’s menstruation. Women are greatly cared for during this time; they are given time off from daily chores like cooking or cleaning. Instead, they are showered with gifts including new clothes and beauty products to indulge themselves. Swings are put out on the branches of trees in the villages, and girls go out with their friends to have fun on the swing. 

Through these celebrations, Raja also recognizes women as the natural nurturers and bearers of life as nature chooses. She is freed from any societal restrictions one might harbor concerning menstruation and accepts women for the natural way their body functions. Raja, hence, becomes the celebration of womanhood, and the Hindus of Odisha leave no stone unturend to pamper their daughters who have come of age during this period. 

Left-liberals had attacked Hindu dharma for the one temple of Sabarimala, among countless Sri Ayyappa temples, that doesn’t allow women of reproductive age to enter the premises as the deity has taken the vow of brahmacharya. They had dubbed the entre faith system as ‘opposed to womanhood’. However, in Hindu Dharma, multiple occasions celebrate the various aspects of women, including her going through her periods. The anti-Hindu brigade may not tell you this. But we will keep bringing these interesting facts to you every time. 

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