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The most important festival of Orissa,India, Raja is generally associated with the farmers and is celebrated during the onset of monsoons.Also known as Mithuna Sankranti, Raja falls on the first day of the month of Asadha (June-July) from which the rainy season starts, thus moistening the summer parched soil and making it ready for productivity.Though celebrated all over the state it is more enthusiastically observed in the coastal districts of Orissa. The first day is called Pahili Raja (Prior Raja), second is Raja (Proper Raja) and third is Basi Raja (Past Raja).In some places however there is a custom of celebrating the fourth Raja also known as the “Basumata Puja”.Conceiving mother earth to be a woman on menstruation, which is a sign of fertility, she is given rest for all these three days. As such all agricultural activities remain suspended during these three days of celebration.
Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls;the potential mothers. Girls are forbidden from all kinds of manual work during these three days of Raja-festival. They don’t carry water, cut vegetables, and sweep the houses. Neither do they sew clothes, grind grains, comb hair, walk in bare foot etc. During all these three days, they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations spending time visiting their friends or moving up and down on improvised swings. Special songs meant to be sung during these days only, can be heard everywhere. Though anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through seer beauty of diction and sentiment, have earned permanence and have gone to make the very substratum of Orissa’s folk-poetry.
Almost every Orissa village transforms into a great melee of colors as traditionally everybody is required to adorn new robes.Another common sight during these times are those of swings which naturally come up in every nook and corner of the villages.The entire surrounding of the villages turn into a cauldron of ricocheting songs that go up with the oscillating swing.The festival is also associated with the Oriya delicacy of "Pitha" (dough cakes)which is prepared in almost all household.
Also by Saroj Swain
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