Raja Parba, a three-day festival in Odisha, is a celebration of menstruation and womanhood.
It is based on the belief that Mother Earth menstruates for those three days and she is given a ceremonial bath on the fourth day. For those three days, no agricultural activity like ploughing or sowing takes place as Mother Earth is expected to be going through rejuvenation.
In a country where it is common to shun women from social life when they are menstruating, Odisha stands out. According to The Hindustan Times, social activist Manjo Jena said,
“Everyone who thinks women are impure during their periods should see how Odisha celebrates Raja. Those who believe the menstrual blood to be impure should know that the same kept a life on for nine months inside the mother’s womb.”
The first day of the ceremony is called Pahili Rajo, the second day is Mithuna Sankranti, and the third is Bhu Daaha or Basi Raja. Each day signifies a different phase of celebration with the second day signifying Mithuna, the solar month, according to Unite for India.
Until the fourth day, which is called Vasumati Snana, the day of the ceremonial bath, women and young girls do not take part in cooking and instead, play games and celebrate. Men also take part in this festival, conducted around the middle of June every year. This year's festivities concluded recently.
The festival, which started as a tribal practice, has now spread to all parts of Odisha. Though it has undergone a lot of changes over time, it still revolves around respecting and celebrating women.