Raja : The Swing Festival of Odisha
Dr Adyasha Das
Festivals, though built around different occasions, truly showcase culture and tradition. Festivals have been defined as cultural forms of and about ‘culture’ (Bauman 1986); cultural performances allowing to enact and celebrate the multiple symbolic elements
which add sense and meaning to the various oppositions and discontinuities of everyday
life (Singer 1959). Festivals have long been considered the traditional cultural activity of any region. Festivals are the crystallization of culture, spiritual and physical activities which have been chosen, maintained and improved over many generations. Festivals are the living cultural museums of the ways people live their lives.
Festivals and special events are one of the fastest-growing types of tourism attractions. Even in small towns of less then one thousand people, it is not uncommon to see two or three major festivals held per year (England, 1994)As such festivals and special events can compete the other types of ambient attractions, such as climate, scenery, wildlife, permanent attractions, etc.
Raja Sankranti is a salutation to Mother earth with its bountiful resources, where individuals live and prosper. Raja Parba is essentially Odia as it is not celebrated elsewhere in India. The basic purpose of Raja celebration is a gratefulness to the earth which is our abode, an ode to the maternal instinct of the Earth for prosperity and productivity.
As popularized by fables, it is believed that the first raindrops moisten the earth and make it fertile. That is why this period indicates the menstrual cycle of mother earth. Raja Sankranti , popularly known as the Swing festival is spread over three days: Pahili Raja(the first day; the last day of “Jestha” month), Raja Sankranti(second day; the first day of the month of Asadha) and Basi Raja (third day). After the scorching heat of the summer, it is a symbolic welcoming of the cool monsoon showers, so indispensable for a good crop. It is as though the virgin rain sprinkles the earth with a magic spell of prosperity. Just as women observe several cultural taboos during the monthly cycle, all agricultural activities are strictly forbidden. Cultivation, plantation, cutting of trees etc are avoided as indulging in this would ward off Goddess Laxmi. Raja is an occasion to offer obeisance to the earth, for giving us a reason to live, for being with us in our trials and tribulations
It is a festival of fun and frolic for unmarried girls, whether in villages or towns. Like mother earth, they are relieved from all household chores. During the entire period, they wear new attire and adorn themselves with bright jewellery: sparkling silver anklets, decorative toe rings, rainbow-coloured bangles, and sometimes intricately designed waistbands and necklaces borrowed from mothers. With “altaa” adding to the grace of delicate feet, “kajala” emphasizing playful eyes and “chandanapaati”, enhancing the glory of faces, they move around in groups, visiting friends and relatives. They are forbidden from walking barefoot lest it hurts the earth. Their infectious laughter fills the air and scatters a feeling of happiness everywhere.
The greatest attraction of Raja is the Rajadoli….the decorated swing on which young girls fly off into the land of dreams. Raja is the time for merriment. The young men in the villages would play energetic games like “Dudu”, “Kabaddi”,”Bohuchori”. But for the maidens it would be a strong swing in the magical shade of a mango grove or bamboo bush. The gyrations of the swing would be accompanied by melodious songs for every mood, reflecting the joyous youthfulness of the girls. This is also a time to savour mouth-watering specialities. Heading the list is “Poda Pitha” -a delicious combination of powdered rice and spicy condiments, sweetened with jaggery and chopped or shredded coconut. Home-made curries, fresh fruits, especially ripe mangoes are other favourites
Raja swing Pic: Lalit Das
Dr Adyasha Das is an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Tourism & Travel Management (IITTM) Bhubaneswar, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. With a post-graduation from Delhi School of Economics, she has done her Master’s in Business Administration from Xavier Institute of Management and doctoral research in Organizational Behaviour. Adyasha has published extensively in several areas of tourism, focusing on the cultural and management perspectives. Her major publications are in the areas of heritage and cultural tourism, human resource management and tourism, and the psychology of tourist behaviour. She is an avid researcher and has presented papers in several universities abroad, like UET,Italia, Palermo, Lyceum, Phillipines University, Manila, University of Sri Lanka, ETH Zurich, San Antonio University, USA, Seattle, and several other European universities apart from India. She has addressed the students at Singapore Human Resources Institute, Sunrice Global Chef Academy Singapore, STP Bandung, Indonesia to name a few.