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2021 it is! Do you still think menstruation is a taboo?

Hey Girl, have you ever thought I wish I never get periods? Hey Boy, did you ever wish that your mom/sister/wife/girlfriend should have get rid of that menstrual pain? Hello in-laws and desi parents, do you know a sperm is also responsible for a baby to be born? Can you please stop insulting your daughter-in-law? :) Do you know about the menstruation rituals? Did you ever heard any menstrual experiences from females in your circle? Okay, Let's be an open book for some time! :) . . I've read a book on my friend's suggestion, Rtu Vdya by Sinu Joseph which talks about menstrual practices in ancient times. I know, you won't be spending time to read books so I'm sharing the highlights of the book which I found very informative. I believe in the quote "Knowledge increases by sharing not by saving ~ Kamari Aka Lyrikal".

This book is a must read for everyone, if you can spend some time. :) . . “What is pure, we do not touch. And what we do not touch, we call it a taboo. She (a menstruating woman) was so pure, that she was worshipped as a Goddess.The reason for not having a woman go into a temple is precisely this. She is a living Goddess at that time. The energy of the God or Goddess which is there in the mūrti will move over to her, and that becomes lifeless, while this (the menstruating woman) is life. So, that’s why they were prevented from entering the temple. So, it is exactly the opposite of what we think.” . . If the experience of her first period was negative and stressful, it is likely that every subsequent period throws the body into a subconscious stress response. This is one of the reasons why in Indian culture, all efforts are made to ensure that the first period is a happy one, and no stone is left unturned to make the young girl feel special and cherished throughout the menarche celebration. In Andhra Pradesh, the celebration is called samurta function. The word samurta or samarta means that the girl has become able or able- bodied. Below is a detailed account of the menarche rituals of a Brahmin girl in Andhra Pradesh, as shared by the girl’s mother, Smt. Hema Latha Guda. This account is of a menstrual celebration that happened in the year 2016. The girl, around the age of 12, upon attaining puberty, is honored to have become a ‘grown- up’. After her first menstrual period, she is felicitated by women in the family and the neighborhood, in the form of festivities. If the ruling star of the girl is not auspicious at the time of puberty, then a śānti pūjā is performed according to Vedic rites, after giving a purification bath to the girl on the fifth day. Soon after the first period starts, a mat is laid in a corner of a room (to ensure privacy). In some places, palm leaves are spread like a mat. On this mat, a clean, white cloth is spread. A red color solution is prepared by mixing turmeric and a pinch of choona (slaked lime/ calcium hydroxide) with water. The girl’s mother/ aunt/ grandmother dip their hand in the solution and make hand impressions on the four corners of the white cloth. The girl too makes impressions on the wall with this red water (turmeric + slaked lime). The girl is seated in the middle of the mat, facing east or north. The mat on which the girl sits is called dadiyamu. She is given sweets or dry coconut, jaggery, and sesame for consumption. She is taught to be clean and tidy. At all times, she has the company of at least one girl or an adult woman. She receives help and counseling regarding the use of cloth/ pad, hygiene, and other aspects related to menstruation. The women ensure that she will be kept happy. Many girls cry or weep during this time. If this happens, they are embraced by their mother or grandmother, who tell the girl that it is an auspicious and happy occasion and nothing to worry about. A word is sent to the girl’s maternal grandparents, maternal uncle as well as paternal relatives and family. Neighbours and friends are also informed. During the menstrual period, the girl is made to rest for 3- 5 days, seating her separately so that she does not come into contact with any infectious agency, since her immune system will be weak during menstruation. This practice continues during her subsequent periods as well. The dress that the girl wears on the first day of the first period is given away to the dhobi (washer- man). During the first three days, the girl is not allowed to touch anything. Only her mother/ aunt who helps her with the routines touches her, but they take a bath before entering other rooms. On the evening of the first day, she is given a good bath, and usual śṛṅgāra (make- up) like bindi, kunkuma, flowers, bangles, turmeric on the feet, etc. are done. On this day, a perantam is held. Perantam is a practice where married women (suhagan) perform ārati to the girl. Only very close family, friends, and neighbors participate on this day. A tray filled with dry coconut, jaggery, and sesame laddu (a ball of sweet) is given to the girl by one of the suhagans. No expensive gifts are given; only tambulam (betel leaf and araca nut) and mūng dal (green gram) are given to the suhagans. No return gifts are given. Traditional songs are a must and are usually sung by the women. This is a rather private and low- key affair, and it is done for the first four evenings. From the 5th day until the 16th day, the celebrations are more elaborate and extravagant. Fourth- day bath– At very early hours, turmeric is applied on the girl’s body, and she is given a good bath. She comes out of the seclusion room on the 4th day. She is given a drink made with turmeric and water— pasupu theertham— to prevent infection. Fifth- day bathing ceremony– The girl is given a maṅgal snān, that is, an auspicious bath, on the fifth day. After this, she is entitled to enter the pūjā room also. The women who administer the maṅgal snān to the girl will be gifted a saree. During menstruation, the female body produces more free radicals than usual. Free radicals are known to cause cellular damage, resulting in disease and aging. The excess free radicals throw the body into oxidative stress, which is known to be the reason for primary dysmenorrhea (period pain) and also infertility, unless it is countered by antioxidants. Understanding this phenomenon is crucial to decode many of the menstrual practices during menarche. . . How does it effect a sports women? Menstruation does not have to become a painful hurdle for sportswomen, and they can be taught to train in sync with the rhythms of their menstrual cycle. But implementing this requires a massive change in mindset at all levels— from sports management to coaches to sports medics to the sportswoman herself. As the saying goes, “It takes effort to win the game, but it takes courage to change the game.” Frequent use of period postponing pills and excessive exercise during menstruation can have long- term health impacts, even if it doesn’t show in obvious ways immediately. A continuous aggravation of vāta can result in early osteoporosis, as the bone density is reduced when vāta is vitiated. A woman whose vāta doṣa has been vitiated and has become pregnant is likely to face difficulties during childbirth and labor. Since apāna vāyu’s downward movement is the force that pushes the fetus out, any disturbance in it or change in its direction can make labor very difficult. . . Why men are also responsible to conceive a child? In order to conceive a healthy child, the husband is advised to maintain sexual abstinence for one month prior to his wife’s next menses, and strictly abstain from sexual intimacy for the first three days of menstruation. Suśruta Saṃhitā mentions that sexual intercourse during day one or two of menstruation can shorten the husband’s life, and the child, if born, dies immediately or within the first ten days. Sexual intercourse during day three of menstruation can cause the child to be born deformed and short- lived. Whereas, a child born out of intercourse on the fourth day12 of the menstrual cycle will be healthy and will live long. Other days to attempt to conceive go up to the twelfth day. Once impregnated, the husband is advised to practice sexual abstinence for a month after the twelfth day of his wife’s menstrual cycle. The duration of one month’s abstinence is likely to be because the rasa (the essence of food consumed) is converted into semen (śukra dhātu) in the course of a month. Men lose prāṇa whenever they lose semen. This loss of prāṇa by men is compounded during intercourse with a menstruating woman. Loss of prāṇa in men creates a lack of vitality and strength. Days four to 12 of the menstrual cycle (day one being the first day of menstruation) are considered ideal for conceiving a child. The menses of a woman which are due to the interaction of Mars and Moon, set in every month when the Moon is in an anupacaya sthāna (1st, 2nd 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th or 12th house) from the lagna (ascendant). But if the Moon occupies a different position, that is, it is an upacaya sthāna (3rd, 6th, 10th or 11th house) and is aspected by a benefic male planet (meaning Jupiter), the woman lovingly unites with a man. . . What is the food she should take and what are the things she should avoid? Āyurved texts list several dos and don’ts during menstruation which are termed Rajaswala Paricaryā and refers to the regime prescribed for menstruating women. According to Suśruta Saṃhitā4, practices prescribed during menstruation include avoiding sexual intercourse, excessive talking, excessive laughing, exposure to loud noise, crying, applying collyrium5 to the eyes, sleeping during the day, combing the hair, paring the nails, taking bath, oil massage, anointing the body (with sandalwood paste, etc.), and avoiding fatiguing work. Avoiding strong emotions - Strong emotions that disturb the nervous system such as excessive laughter, crying, loud noise, and even excessive talking can aggravate vāta, especially in a menstruating woman. Sour food articles like curd or lemon also increase pitta. Even fruits like papaya and oranges are to be avoided during menstruation as it can increase the already dominant pitta during menstruation. For similar reasons, using henna (Lawsonia inermis) during menstruation is to be avoided, as henna has cooling properties. During menstruation, one should not tamper with the naturally dominant pitta and vāta, and taking a bath is therefore not recommended. Further, being underwater during menstruation has the tendency to temporarily stop the menstrual flow; women can observe this even during a shower. Women who consume non- vegetarian food regularly have a higher chance of heavy menstrual bleeding. All upward and outward movements such as vomiting and burping occur due to the udāna vāyu. Many of us would have been advised to avoid talking while eating. The reason is that speech is controlled by the upward moving udāna, while the downward moving prāṇa is responsible for forcing the food down. If these two opposite forces are activated simultaneously, the chances of choking are high. It's not the reason someone is thinking about you! :) . . Why she shouldn't visit temples during her periods or other days? If menstruating women visited such temples which work on the lower cakras, it could further trigger the apāna vāyu at a time when it is already in action. Menstruation causes the apāna vāyu to be active throughout the duration of the menstrual flow. At such a time, visiting temples that act on the apāna vāyu by energizing the svadhiṣṭhāna and mūlādhāra cakra could result in heavy bleeding or other menstrual disturbances. . . If they don’t want you there, you shouldn’t be. Simple! . . Do you know the reason why she shouldn't chant Gayathri mantra? It is possible that continuous chanting of the original Gayatri Mantra by women in the reproductive age might result in PCOS or POI and associated menstrual and reproductive difficulties. Whereas, when it is chanted as AUM, with the sounds ‘A’, ‘U’, and ‘M’, it also activates the lower cakras. When chanted as A- U- M, we can experience the reverberations from the pelvic area all the way up to the head. Hence, it is recommended that women in the reproductive age group should chant AUM instead of OM. . . Why do many people consider menstruation as taboo and things you don't know: Women in the menstruating age sometimes consider themselves to be at a disadvantage compared to men. Menstruation, for a number of women, is at best an inconvenience to be tolerated. Women feel that menstruation comes in the way of being productive and equal to men. But the fact is that this very aspect of menstruation gives women a decisive advantage— not only because menstruation cleanses the inner system and maintains overall health, but also because the entire menstrual cycle offers a unique opportunity month after month to start afresh, physically and emotionally. It is within every woman’s capacity to recognize the opportunity that menstruation brings and tap into it for a higher purpose. It is the time when women turn inward, effortlessly. Menstruation, in itself, can be a spiritual sādhana. For one who understands this, menstruation is not a hurdle; it is the path itself. :) . . . Before reading the book, I have more questions like why should she follow a certain diet? why is she not allowed into temples? After reading this book I also found many disgusting myths in addition to finding answers to my questions. The author being a Christian stated somewhere "Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion". I really appreciate these words coming from her. She explored Hindu, Islamic and Christian take on menstrual rituals, which is very interesting. Every woman has different experience in periods. The fact is that her periods tune with mind and body. Few can get periods regularly and feel uncomfortable while other few struggle to get periods and struggle with PMS. I would suggest her to change to menstrual cup or cotton cloth which makes her comfortable. If you want to know more, you can always reach out to me and don't ever say I wish I never get my period. And everyone who menstruates should always be supported. :) . . . P.S: “Women are as a class very lusty, and apparently their continuous lusty desires are never satisfied. Women will work out their destinies— much better, too, than men can ever do for them. All the mischief to women has come because men undertook to shape the destiny of women.”The more the human race moves away from understanding itself, the more it must rely on external evidence to validate its experiences.

Book Reference: Rtu Vdya by Sinu Joseph

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