Menstruation taboos unfolded – Science/Tradition

I’m happy about the whole stigma around menstruation easing out day by day and campaigns about menstrual hygiene doing the rounds. However, Women in India have a lot of restrictions to be followed during menstruating period. This is common in Hinduism, Islam & Christianity. As per Indian tradition, women are not allowed to visit temples/church/mosques, not allowed to fast during special days, not allowed to involve in special prayers & the list goes on.  Some follow these religiously, some out of compulsion, some aren’t able to follow even if they wish to, due to lifestyle changes & some brush them aside as superstitions. These are also prevalent in many other parts of the world like China, North America & Africa with slight modifications as part of various other religions.

So let’s unfold the science behind the insistence of these practices. This is gonna be Worthy read & need of the hour insight for every woman out there!!!

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Goddess in Menstruation, Kamakhya temple, Assam

Ayurveda: It is difficult to understand the science behind these traditions without basic knowledge of ayurveda. It’s pretty simple though. Ayurveda is based on 3 primary life forces in the body namely-

  • Vata – the element is air & is responsible for communication, perception & cognition
  • Pitta – the element is fire & is responsible for metabolism
  • Kapha – the element is water & is responsible for stability

In the female reproductive tissue, vata acts through blood vessels, helping flow go down and out. Vata has a multitude of directional flows and the downward flow of menstruation can be compromised by strong, upward functions in the body. Apana vayu, which governs downward flow, particularly in the pelvis, is the vehicle for outlet of wastes, such as feces and urine, in addition to menstruation. Without balance of this vata subtype, many imbalances happen in the pelvis, creating a variety of disorders. Generally it is the upward flow of energy caused by activities, like too much speaking, thinking, laughing, and running, that pull apana vayu up out of its normal directional flow.

Avoid Visiting temples: 

  • All spiritual activities contribute to uplifting the spirits and turn our energy upwards. They activate certain energy centres(particular chakras) in human body.
  • This may collide with the natural downward movement of the apana vayu creating imbalance.
  • The same logic applies to not eating just before a Pooja or Temple visit for everyone so that the digestion process dusnt hinder the uplifting & vice versa.
  • Also, temples are built in points where energy is abundantly available from the electric & magnetic fields of the north/South Pole thrust
  • The deities are placed on copper plates to absorb earth’s magnetic waves and emit radiations to the surroundings.
  • Indian architecture is designed with complex calculation involving various levels of physical & metaphysical elements. So praying in temples are more uplifting than self prayers.

Seclusion:

  • This is because menstruation is considered as a take off time for women. During menstruation, women suffer from lots of discomfort, cramps, excessive blood flow, depression, mood swings, sensitive psychological state, etc.
  • Also in early days women had to perform everyday physical tasks like grinding, carrying heavy vessels, farming, cooking & cleaning. So to let women rest & stop them from straining during this phase, they were made to rest in seclusion.
  • They had no sanitary napkins and had to handle lots of blood. Inorder to let them bleed peacefully without external disturbances, they were made to spend time in a secluded place without any public obligations.

Avoid Cooking:

  • Again, this also means the lady doesn’t have to cook & can rest.
  • As discussed, sanitation was an issue, so it wasn’t advisable for menstruating women to enter the kitchen where food is prepared to avoid spreading infections, etc.
  • Also, If U believe in the importance of cooking food with love, then understanding another concept is easy. During menstruation, a woman’s body will be in strain with cramps, pain, etc along with high sensitivity of mind with mood swings & irritability. So it is not desirable for her to cook food in that mindstate.
  • In addition to this, we all know that food gets spoilt faster in summer than in winters. Applying the same logic here which is rate of heat in the menstruating body is higher than in other days, easily spoilt items like pickles are considered untouchable during this phase.

Eating Certain food:

  • During menstruation our hormones are all over the place and we already feel like falling apart. So it is adviced to eat easily digestible food.
  • Warm food with spices that enhance digestion and ghee is ideal. Caffeine & meat should be avoided.
  • Otherwise ur periods would lengthen. Shorter the periods, the better. 3 days is ideal but it’s not the case these days!

Avoid Fasting:

  • The way I see it, fasting is done mainly for three reasons – self control, body cleansing periodically & to empathise with the deprived.
  • A menstruating women dusnt have to fast because she is already weaker in that phase and her BP will be low, so nowhere, no religion backs up self suffering as a part of austerities.

Avoid going out:

  • In those times, people lived in areas surrounded by forests with wild animals. Animals have better sensing abilities & can easily smell blood. So if bleeding women steps out of the house, it was obviously unsafe.

Avoiding Hair wash:

  • For this we need to see why this tradition came into practice in the first place. Ancient days, people used to take bath in common areas like rivers, lakes & ponds. So if a menstruating women takes bath in such places the water will be polluted and can’t be used by others.
  • One more reason for this is it is adviced to keep the body warm during this phase so that the blood discharge will be easier. By washing hair, our head is cooled and so is our body temperature, so the blood discharge may slow down & the menstruation may prolong for a longer period.
Goddess in Menstruation, Kamakhya temple, Assam

Current Scenario:

  •  It is observed that 3 out of 4 women have menstrual pain of varying intensity & 1 out of 10 women have severe abdominal pain. The pain in abdomen signifies hindrance in free flow.
  • We wouldn’t have failed to note the alarmingly increasing rate of PCOS(polycystic ovary syndrome). 1 out of 5 women in India face this.
  • Cases of endometriosis is more than one million per year in India.

 

Today, these traditions are majorly viewed as suppressing women and termed as ‘myths’ or ‘taboos’ without trying to understand the intention behind them. None of the traditions were devised to suppress women unlike it is conceived today. Infact menstruation was seen as a process of austerity & purification and the practices were therapeutically designed exclusively for welfare alone.

In my earlier days I never followed any of these and the earlier oversmart version of me just did exactly the opposite to confront them because I too thought they were just superstitions/foolishness. The current generation is not ready to follow anything blindly in the name of religion or tradition. They keep questioning anything & everything. These followings were blindly passed on to our generation without explaining the reason behind them, the knowledge of which is not easily accessible. I remember questioning my mother & grandmother on why I should do this n that n they had no answers which is also why I wasn’t ready to follow them. So the only way to pass on this traditions to benefit our future generation is to pass it on along with the science associated with it.

Now, if U ask me to follow all of these, I definitely can’t. The reason being some are relevant today & some were designed for their time. Also, Certain things even if I wish to follow I can’t due to our change in lifestyle, work, etc & it’s too late to sit n crib about it. The wiser thing to do is to apply whichever is possible & is in our control to the maximum extent and move on.

There are lot more facts to dig on but I have covered just the basic logics for easier understanding.

Happy periods gals, the next time U menstruate feel like a Goddess in the purest state😊😊😊

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Smiles,

Shameena

Sources:

https://mythrispeaks.wordpress.com/

 

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