Raja Sankranti is a three day festival which marks the onset of harvest season. It begins with Pahili Raja and ends with Basi Raja.
According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sing of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. So all three days of the festival are considered to be the menstruating period of Mother Earth. During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended.
As in Hindu homes menstruating women remain secluded because of impurity and do not even touch anything and are given full rest, so also the Mother Earth is given full rest for three days for which all agricultural operations are stopped. Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls, the potential mothers. They all observe the restrictions prescribed for a menstruating woman.
The very first day, they rise before dawn, do their coiffure, anoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and then take the purificatory bath in a river or tank. Peculiarly, bathing for the rest two days is prohibited. They don’t walk bare-foot do not scratch the earth, do not grind, do not tear anything apart, do not cut and do not cook.
During all the three consecutive days they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations, eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives, spending long cheery hours, moving up and down on improvised swings, rending the village sky with their merry impromptu songs.
The swings are of different varieties, such as Ram Doli, Charki Doli, Pata Doli, Dandi Doli etc. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the minds of the singers. Through anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through sheer beauty of diction and sentiment, have earned permanence and have gone to make the very substratum of Orissa’s folk-poetry.