Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 15:
Raja is celebrating the fertility of mother earth, pampering our daughters, rejoicing at the outset of the monsoons and getting ready for hard work in the fields. Odisha the agrarian state becomes a myriad splash of colours against the grey, gloomy sky pregnant with rain clouds.
It is the time when Odia festival Raja is celebrated in all its vibrant colours and flavours. Raja is music to the ears for all girls, age no bar.Sleep evades the eyes of these excited raja kanyas (girls) as plans and programmes are fixed up with friends and families.Nothing can beat the happiness of these festive filled days of non-stop fun with no studies and no work!
No work? Yes you heard it correct, girls are not supposed to work on these festive days! So it is all fun, games, devouring heaps of peethas, sweetmeats, looking pretty in new dresses and sharing the traditional Raja paana (betel) with friends and family.
Fragrance of the podha peetha wafting out from kitchens tantalises the taste buds and the combination is always a winner with spicy mutton curry. Days are spent in a relaxed way eating scrumptious food and playing indoor games like ludo and cards. Kabadi is another sport that both girls and boys love to play during the festival.
Young mothers become artists trying out beautiful traditional ways of making their daughters look gorgeous. Exotic chandan (sandalwood) motifs are designed on the forehead, dainty feet are beautified with pretty alta designs and encircled with silver anklets. For these young mothers it is also a trip down memory lane for the lovely moments experienced in the past.
“It is like going back to my young days when my mother used to make me look beautiful with alta, chandan and new dresses. I want to do the same for my daughter so that she remembers and enjoys this festival.” said Sharmilla Patnaik a young mother and a career woman .
The khilli paana or betel leaf is done up in different shapes and sizes which is a huge attraction. Paan shops and small roadside shops selling custom made Raja paana do great business on these four days as it is an Odia custom to gift sweet paana to the girls celebrating Raja.
The doli khela (swing) plays a very important role and everywhere girls are seen flying high on different kinds of dolis squealing and giggling with undiluted joy.
During this festival different swings or dolis are seen like the Ram Doli, Charki Doli, Pata Doli, Baunsa doli etc.Swinging on the baunsa doli (bamboo swing) and singing the traditional Raja songs, Suna and Rupa two little village girls were happy swinging up in the air not bothering about the long queue of raja kanyas waiting down below for a chance to swing.
Raja festival is celebrated in reverence to the onset of the monsoons which is very important for the farmers. Too much or too less causes havoc to the agricultural cycle as many depend on this profession. This festival is an all time favourite for the festive loving Odias all over the world and celebrated with much fervour. June is a month when Odisha goes through intolerable heat and humidity.The silver lining is the beautiful Odia festival which comes to give respite by bringing in the much sought for monsoons !