For the farmers of the state, the Raja festival means a few days of leisure, as after the month of Ashadha, they get busy with agricultural activities. Young men also enjoy themselves, playing Kabbadi and Ludo. Young women, of course, have a swinging time during the festival. But what about Odias who live far away from the state? For many of them, Raja is a time of nostalgia, of remembering the good old days.
Pabitra Priyadarshini from Singapore says, “Wherever I may be, the arrival of monsoon reminds me of the Raja festival. I usually host a party on this occasion to spread awareness about Odia culture and traditions among my friends and neighbours here. I serve Odia delicacies like Poda Pitha and Manda Pitha. It’s very interesting to celebrate the festival with people who know little about Odisha and its traditions.”
Pabitra adds that Odias living in Singapore have formed a small club and they throw a party on the first day of Raja. They prepare many Odia dishes, including cakes, for the event.
“We make different kinds of sweets like Rasagola, Rasaballi, and Rasamalai. Besides, we organise competitions for women and kids. We enjoy ourselves on swings though they are not made of wood as is traditional. But we leave no stone unturned to give our Raja celebration a feel of home.”
Sarita Rath, who belongs to Dhenkanal district, now stays in Mumbai with her husband and two kids. “Of course, I miss this unique festival of Odisha,” she says. Sarita, who is a good photographer, lived in Marthapur village as a child. She completed her studies in Bhubaneswar and shifted to Mumbai after her marriage in 1999.
“Frankly speaking, I never got the Raja feel in Bhubaneswar when I was there. In our village, girls used to have so much fun. About 20 girls would take to a single swing and it was pure delight to watch them. This can only be seen in villages,” she says.
There are many Odia organisations which hold Raja functions in Mumbai. The members celebrate by singing the signature Raja song ‘Banaste Dakila Gaja’ and offering paan prepared from betel leaves with nearly 50 condiments including arecanut, tobacco, and sweet spices to each other. The culture and tourism department of Odisha also organises celebrations at various places which are aired on television every year. But Sarita says that they do not capture the real spirit of the festival.
This year, however, she is looking forward to Raja Mahotsav-2019, an extravaganza being organised by a Pune-based Odia organisation where popular Odia artistes including Akash Das Nayak, Prakruti Mishra, Aseema Panda, Abhijit Majumdar and others will perform.
Biswa Bharati Dash is an Odia lawyer and storyteller who lives in Bangalore.
“I used to excitedly wait for Raja when I was a kid. There were so many attractions. Apart from the swings, I used to love the new clothes and the many Odia delicacies. Those four days would pass in the blink of an eye. The times have changed, and I miss those days,” she says.
Biswa Bharati makes sure to participate in the Raja festival organised in her locality by Odia people. There are many Odia cultural organisations in Bangalore and the members install swings in many areas. People dress up in new clothes for the occasion.
“I am happy that non-resident Odias here are conscious of the rich culture of their state. They religiously celebrate all major Odia festivals so that their kids don’t forget their traditions,” says Biswa Bharati.
BIJAY MANDAL, OP