Rajo is a popular festival in Odisha (a Pathways operational area) that lasts for three days. This is a unique festival that celebrates womanhood. Women and girls in Indian families mostly celebrate festivals for their brother, husband, or family. They observe the fast, praying for the long lives of their husbands, and good health and prosperity of their children and family members. Rajo is the only festival dedicated to girls and women. This is also unique as it celebrates mother earth’s and women’s fertility.
Rajo falls at the beginning of the monsoon season. It is believed that during this period (just before the sowing season) mother earth menstruates, just like a female, as a sign of fertility. These three days are observed as the menstruating period of mother earth during which she is given complete rest. All activities that could hurt her such as digging, ploughing, and even jumping on the ground are strictly prohibited. On the fourth day mother earth is given a ceremonial bath (Basumati snan) by applying turmeric powder as is done traditionally for menstruating girls and women. The agriculture activities of the season follow this ceremony.
Along with mother earth, women, especially unmarried girls, are given complete rest for these three days and do not attend to any household chores. Instead, they put on new clothes, eat a variety of local cakes and sweets prepared for this occasion, and get busy playing and visiting their friends. Household chores are taken care of by the male members and elderly women of the family.
Festivals like Rajo could support our efforts initiating the concept of workload-sharing by both men and women. It is nice to see men doing household chores during these three days; it proves that yes, they can. What a wonderful world it would be if the workload is shared by both women and men throughout the year!!!
Contributor: Pranati Mohanraj, CARE India
Photo Credit: CARE India