New dresses, decorated foreheads mark Orissa festival

June 14th, 2008 - 3:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, June 14 (IANS) Young girls wore new dresses, decorated their foreheads with artistic motifs in sandalwood paste and swung from ropes hung from trees Saturday to mark the beginning of a three-day annual festival in Orissa. The girls, mostly in coastal districts, took an early bath and ate specially prepared home-made cake known as `poda-peetha’ as part of the Raja festival (swing festival).

The festival is observed every year on the last day of the Hindu month of Jyestha (June), during the beginning of monsoon.

According to a legend, the festival is to mark the changes mother earth undergoes and it marks the start of the agricultural year.

After the end of the festival, the ceremonial ploughing of the earth takes place.

Young girls decorate their feet by putting lines using red colour and spend hours on the rope swings. They also sing special songs while swinging.

“I have been celebrating this since my childhood,” said Sukanti Mohanty, a graduate student of Utkal Universty. “We do not read the whole day and spend most of our time in swinging.”

“Most of our celebrations have ancient roots,” said Mihir Meher, a writer. People do this to honour gods and goddesses, who they believe control nature, he said.

During the three days of the festival people do not plough their land.

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