Menstruation is a unique natural process that a woman is blessed with. The onset of this process is linked with many social beliefs and taboos. There are many places in the world where a unique tradition is followed celebrating a girl’s transition to womanhood. However, the abandon of menstruating women to temples or any holy places is still not clear to me.
In India, Assam and few South Indian states seem to celebrate the onset of menstruation in grandeur. The girl gets clad in a beautiful sari or with their traditional wear, people from the neighborhood are informed and they come to bless the girl with gifts. The girl is given healthy and extravagant food to eat. In western countries, they follow almost the same tradition. The tribes in Africa believe that a menstruating girl gets into divinity and holds some divine power with wisdom. They consider their blood sacred and celebrate the onset of puberty with annual events. The Japanese celebrate this occasion by eating red-colored rice and beans. Rice is precious and is eaten only during the celebration. This tradition is kept secret until the rice is served. Similarly, countries like Nepal, Australia have their own way of celebrating the first menstrual cycle to a woman.
We have seen how people from different regions of the country celebrate the beginning of womanhood. Then on the other hand why these people abandon the women from entering holy places or offering prayers? Why their blood termed dirty and menstruating woman treated as an impurity.
For example, In Japan, the followers of the religion Shinto pray the Kami (the spirits they worship) follows a strict rule for menstruating women for not entering the temples. They believe that the Kami don’t grant wishes for those who have traces of blood, dirt or death on them.
In Hindus, the menstruating women are asked not to involve in any of the household activities. They are not entitled to enter either a temple or a kitchen. Some families even ask menstruating women to sleep on the floor rather than on their normal beds. They are given separate room to stay and cutlery to have food.
Hence, I am a little bit confused with the rituals that go around during the menstrual cycle where on one hand the menstrual onset is a celebration, it is castigated on the other for the menstruating cycles. If the society feels proud and happy to announce the transgression to womanhood then why it becomes ashamed and abandon women to follow daily rituals during menstruation? Don’t you think so that the girl should be the sole decision maker rather than the society? I would like to understand this ritual ambiguity associated with menstruation. Please share your thoughts and experiences so that we can understand it better.
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This is a guest blog by BananiVista