Raja : the Pristine Communistic Festival of Orissa

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Raja is Orissa’s pristine communistic festival, wherein all artificial caste divides vanish in the effervescence of nubile girls of all castes that wipes out every iota of the spread of social inequality, when the farming community, comprising all castes and status in social strata, reorients itself with the perception that all of them are children of the same mother, i.e. Mother Earth. No wonder, Raja is Orissa’s festival of universal brotherhood addressed to Mother-right in its splendid entirety.

Orissa, the motherland of Buddha, son of Suddodan literally meaning inventor of high quality paddy, is the only land that had rejected Brahmavad (Cult of Veda projecting Brahma as creator) with promulgation of its own philosophy of Maithunavad (Cult of coition establishing Mother as creator).The two all-time best Buddist epoch-makers of Orissa, given by Uddiyan, the modern Sambalpur region,Indrabhuti, the Chief of Sambalaka, created Vajrayan and his sister Laxminkara, queen of Suvarnapur (Sonepur)created Sahajayan that together formulated the Cult of Coition, which eventually metamorphosed to Cult of Jagannath. So, Jagannath is so much the epitome of mother-right in the citadel of who agro-magic manages the affairs.

When a nubile Oriya girl for the first time menstruates, she takes a ceremonial bath with fanfares and retires to total rest in a secluded room and on completion of the period, takes a fresh bath on the soil and then with appropriate attractive makeup dazzles as suitable for suitors. In tribal heritage, she prefers the suitor that succeeds in dragging her to his chest. This exactly happens to Jagannath, the epitome of Mother Right from Bath Festival (Snana Yatra) to Car Festival (Ratha Yatra). This happens also to the Mother Earth. In Oriya vocabulary, Raja is menstruation. In the period of menstruation, as Oriya girls (and women) take total rest, even coition quashed as a conjugal right of the husband during the period, Jagannath the epitome of Mother-Right rests in Anasara Ghar (room for rest); the Mother Earth also takes rest till Basumati-Snana (Bath on the soil).

Scriptural injunctions in vogue in Orissa emphatically say,

ବୃଷାନ୍ତେ ମୈଥୁନସ୍ୟାଦୌ  ତଦ୍ଦ୍ବିତୀୟେ ଦିନତ୍ରୟଂ

ରଜସ୍ଵଳା ସ୍ୟାତ୍ ପୃଥିବୀ କୃଷିକର୍ମ ବିଗର୍ହିତମ୍  ।

ହଳାନାଂ ବାହନଂ ଚୈବ ବିଜାନାଂ ବପନଂ ତଥା

ତାବଦେନ  ନ କୁର୍ବୀତ  ଯାବତ୍ ପୃଥ୍ବୀ ରଜସ୍ଵଳା ।

ପୃଥ୍ବୀ ରଜସ୍ଵଳା ଯାବତ୍ ଖନନଂ ଛେଦନଂ ତ୍ୟଜେତ୍

ଅନ୍ୟ କର୍ମାଣି କୁର୍ବୀତ ପୈତ୍ରଂ  ଦୈଵଂ ନମାନୁଷମ୍ ।

This Orissan practice is reflected in the Report of Census of India, 1911, in the following term: “Earth prepares herself for being fertilised by menstruating . During that time, there is an entire cessation from all ploughing, sowing and other farm works.” (Vol I, p.189).

In celebrating this peculiar festival, people of Orissa make the earth equal to their mothers. From this, comes the concept of equality, as to the mother, all her children are the same and entitled to all her wealth. This concept has given birth to the Cult of Jagannath, which is entirely Orissan.

Hence Raja is absolutely Orissan and is linked to its pristine communistic perception.

It is sad that, non-Oriyas and a section of anglicized Oriyas are writing this unique Oriya festival Raja as Rajo or Razo. Conscious Oriyas ,in order to keep its Oriya origin undiluted, even though they are not aware of the philosophical background of Raja, have started objecting to wrongful non-Oriya spelling of the peculiar Oriya word Raja, as the following video would showt:

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