Here is a festival celebrated in Orissa that likens the fertility of harvest to that of a woman, thus celebrating a girl’s onset of womanhood i.e. menstruation.
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Raja Parba is essentially a festival of harvest held during four days in June, that inaugurates and welcomes a nourishing harvest through the year in Orissa. The biological symbolism of this event comes from the the moistening of the sun dried soil with the first showers of the monsoon in June, thus making the it ready for productivity.
Menstruation is a metaphor for fertility.
Under mythological terms, it is believed that the Mother Goddess Earth goes through three days of menstruation during the first three days of this festival, and by the fourth day is given a ceremonial bath. The term Raja pronounced as Raw-Jaw comes from Rajaswala which means menstruating woman.
Rituals and customs of the festival.
The premise of the festival, is like how women menstruating is a sign of fertility, Mother Earth also menstruates for these three to four days, and thus all agricultural work will be suspended. Now even though this may be a celebration, during the three days of Raja Parba ,women must adhere to traditional customs observed during menstruation. As per orthodox Hindu traditions, women must suspend all house work and not touch anyone else, which indicates the supposed ‘impurity’ of the female body .This acts as a paradoxical factor of a festival that supposedly ‘celebrates’ women. Rituals like rising before dawn, covering their bodies in tumeric paste and taking a ‘purifactory’ bath in a river or tank are common practices as well.
One significant part of the festivals involves women and unmarried girls to look their best, therefore wear new outfits, eat delicious good and spend long hours on homemade swings, singing. This provides for a happy and joyful atmosphere throughout the town or village.