Raja is all about celebrating happiness, relaxing and enjoying with each other. Women of the house are on a period of rest and refrain from doing their day-to-day activities. They spend Raja days by engaging themselves in various fun-filled activities.
Here is a list of fun facts associated with Raja:
1. Raja Ghara (house)
One room of the household serves as Raja Ghara where young girls gather and worship a clay block with vermilion, flowers, incense sticks and delicacies. They wear new clothes and stay decked up throughout the day and spend the three days of the festival there. They make their beds on the floor of that room. Men are prohibited from entering that room.Traditionally the girls are not supposed to walk barefoot; they wear footwear made up of banana stalk or areca nut shells.
2. Raja Doli (swing)
Raja Doli is hung either from mango, tamarind, neem trees or the verandah of the household and young girls and boys swing to and fro cheerfully. According to an old Odia adage, if you never play on a swing during Raja, you will reincarnate as a Katha Benga (frog); hence it is mandatory to play the Raja Doli.
3. Doli Gita (Songs sung on the swing)
While swinging on Raja Doli, the girls sing Doli Gita (songs) in chorus in the colloquial language. These songs are not just celebratory in nature but also focus on realities of life and experiences in form of anecdotes. Lyrically, all the songs follow the same tetrastich and metre pattern. Baishnav Pani, Brajabari Das, Baishnav Charan Das, Lala Gopinath Chand are some of the famous composers of Doli Gita.
4. Raja Paan
Paan, an Indian delicacy made up of betel leaf is an integral part of our Odia culture. Usually prepared with some basic elements like gua (areca nut), tobacco, sweet spices, as many as 60 condiments are used to make a classic Raja paan. Coconut, dhaniya (corriander), labanga (clove), paana madhuri (anise), gulkand, paan chutney, cherry etc. are some of the special ingredients. In order to attract customers during Raja, vendors give unique names to paans like Sultan, Deewana, etc.
5. Raja Saja (dolling up for Raja festival)
In many Odia families when any girl hits puberty for the first time, it is an occasion for celebration. The girl gets to wear new clothes and her family throws a feast for the entire community. Similarly as Raja is the time when mother earth is experiencing her periods, adolescent girls and women in the family celebrate Raja by wearing new clothes. Days before the actual festivities begin, women go around shopping clothes, accessories and makeup in preparation for Raja.
Disclaimer: The above information has been compiled from popular beliefs and traditional practices. Odisha Sun Times, in no way endorses superstition or undermines the sentiments of the people observing the age-old tradition.