Times have changed in India. As we move towards a progressive society, people don’t shy away from talking about menstruation as much as they used to. But since people are talking about it, it doesn’t mean that it still isn’t a taboo.
Recently, the people of Orissa celebrated a 4-day long festival that celebrates menstruation. Called as Raja Parba, the festival correlates the fertility of harvest to that of a woman. It celebrates a girl’s onset of womanhood, i.e. menstruation.
The Raja comes from Rajaswala, which means menstruating women. The belief behind this festival is such that in the first three days, mother earth goes under menstruation and is given a ceremonial bath the fourth day.
Related Article: Looking At Menstrual Hygeine Through The Years
Each day of the Raja Parba festival has its own name and each name has a significance. The first day of the festival is called Pahili Rajo. Women and unmarried girls are encouraged to dress up and look their best and decorate themselves with Alatha. They are asked to take a break from all household work. The women have a ceremonial bath on this day as they are not allowed to bathe for the next two days.
The second is called the Mithuna Sankranti, which signifies the beginning of the solar month Mithuna. The solar month is said to resemble the heat and pain that women go through while menstruating. Since the women have a break from all their responsibilities, they spend time playing indoor and outdoor games, taking turns on a swing and eating tons of good food. It is believed that this is done so the woman can rest and satisfy her cravings.
Bhu Daaha or Basi Raja which means the rainy season, is believed to signify the flow of blood. On this day, women are prohibited from bathing.
The fourth day is called the Vasumati Snana. This day marks the end of the menstruation cycle. Women dress up and prepare for a holy bath in either a river, lake or tank to wash off all the impurities of menstruation and cleanse themselves.
As this festival is believed to be the menstruation cycle of mother earth, all farming activities like plowing, seeding, and harvesting are stopped as to not disturb nature. Another fun fact about this festival is that the men do all the work during these days so that the women can take part in the festivities.
The Raja Parba festival comes once a year in mid-June and is celebrated in various parts of Orissa. This festival is proof that there is still hope for India when it comes to taking menstruation seriously. Imagine what a nationwide festival like this would be like!