Months after social media erupted in rage over Sabarimala temple’s long-held tradition of barring women of menstruating age for being ‘impure’, Odisha is celebrating the biological cycle that many consider taboo.
Wednesday was the second day of the annual three-day Raja – pronounced Ro-jo – festival marked with fanfare by every Odia household. Popular belief has it that it is the time when the Earth, perceived to be a woman, menstruates.
During the three days, ploughing is forbidden and unmarried girls in the countryside are feted. As girls shun cooking during the festivities, their commonest pastime is to take turns on swings hanging from tree branches.
“Everyone who thinks women are impure during their periods should see how Odisha celebrated Raja. Those who believe the menstrual blood to be impure should know that the same kept a life on for nine months inside the mother’s womb,” said social activist Manoj Jena.
Late last year, a social media campaign using the hashtag #happytobleed became a talking point after many women took a stand against the Sabarimala temple and publicly came forward to state that they were not ashamed of their menstrual blood.
The temple in Kerala bans all women of reproductive age from 10 to 50. Its chief priest was quoted as saying that he would allow women into the temple only after a machine is invented to find out whether they are having their periods.
“Menstruation is a part of life cycle and part of reproduction process. It signifies fertility. So it’s important that festivals like Raja are celebrated,” said Bhubaneswar-based activist Tapasi Praharaj.