Bhubaneswar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJP vice-president Baijayant Panda on Sunday greeted the people of Odisha on the occasion of Raja, hoping that the festival will strengthen the spirit of brotherhood in society.
Story Behind Raja
It is believed that Prithivi (Mother Earth) goes through regeneration, which is likened to the menstrual cycle, during these three days and this is reason enough to celebrate. Though primarily an agrarian festival, Raja is celebrated with fervor by girls and women in rural as well as urban areas of Odisha.
The three days are referred to as Pahili Raja, Raja Sankranti and Bhuin Daaha (Sesa Raja). Mother Earth is given complete rest for three days and hence no agricultural activity like ploughing and sowing is carried out during this period. She is then given a ceremonial bath (Vasumati Snana) on the fourth day.
Streets in cities and villages wear a colourful look on all the three days with girls decked up in their best finery and new attires, enjoying the festival. They decorate their foreheads with chandan cheetas, and apply alta on feet glittering with silver anklets. The girls are also forbidden to walk barefoot on these days, and they instead wear footwear made of banana stalk or areca nut shells.
Eating paan (betel leaf) on these three days has almost become a ritual. Paan sellers in the city offer interestingly flavoured paans, especially for Raja. Varanasi Paan Bhandar at Saheed Nagar in the state capital has the widest range of Raja paan. The shop offers around 10 flavours of paan, apart from specialties like dry fruits, ice and fire paan.
“Around 250 types of paan masala are available in my shop,” Umakanta Senapati, owner of Varanasi Paan Bhandar, proudly informed. Flavours like strawberry, chocolate, pineapple, butterscotch and mango flavours are also available, he added.
The prices range from Rs 20 to Rs 1,000. “We have arranged online facility this year. One can order paan from my shop online. We will deliver the order within four hours,” said Umakanta. This is only for people in Bhubaneswar.
Beautifully decorated swings are hung from trees and the sounds of laughter reverberate everywhere. Swinging is one of the major highlights of the festival.
Girls shun cooking during the festivities, and their favourite pastime is to take turns on swings hanging from tree branches.
Colourful Raja dolis (swings) have also been installed at Panthanivas in Bhubaneswar for the occasion.
Pitha (Traditional Pancakes)
The smell of happiness wafts through homes and streets as Pithas (traditional pancakes) are freshly made and relished. Poda Pitha comes to everybody’s mind at the time of Raja. It is famous in the Jagannath cult. Arisa Pitha and Kakara Pitha are among the other varieties of Pithas that are also made during Raja.