Since the term ‘Menstruation’ ever came into existence, the social beliefs and norms associated with it never ceased to make it look less like a normal scientific process of the female body and more like a taboo.
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But little did we know that these postulations do have a firm scientific reasoning behind them. Here are few such beliefs regarding female menstrual cycles which were formulated to assure the better comfort of the Indian women. These menstrual rituals have originated from the Ancient Indian Science, which includes Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation, Mantra and Astrology.
To avoid going to temples, touching the idols and attending religious functions
Ever since we gained puberty and had our first menstrual cycle (Menarche), we’d been told by our Mothers to avoid visiting temples and touching auspicious things while our periods were going on. Although it does seem like a superstitious practice considering menstruating women as impure creatures, it holds a reason behind it exactly the opposite of what we’d been thinking for all the while. Sri Amritananda Natha Saraswati (Guruji), the founder of Devipuram, a temple in Andhra Pradesh, which is dedicated to the Devi, says that a menstruating woman is not impure. Indeed she is as pure as the living Goddess herself which makes her the most superior of all and too pious to be touched. Moreover, if she touches the idol in such a condition, its entire energy moves to her body making the idol lifeless. Still, it’s totally up to the women herself to choose whether to practice this ritual or dismiss it.
The liberty given to the female priests to be present in the temple even while they’re menstruating proves this statement and turns all our silly assumptions of impurity upside down!
To avoid cooking food and eating with others
The Indian culture firmly believes in the fact that food is a method of absorbing positive energy inside our body and letting the negative ones go away. That’s why we’ve been worshipping our food and treating our kitchen as a sacred place. Normally we’re not affected by the energies around us while eating but a woman who is having her periods is more prone to any pessimistic energy present there. So, in ancient times, such women were advised to eat alone away from others to secure them from people’s negative aura.
By the same token, it was also not recommended to mix the rising, energising nature of our food with the downward flow of energy in case of menstruation by cooking. Although, this belief may not have any significance now, the reasons do convince us to believe that these rituals were made for the well-being of the menstruating women and not because of treating them as impure.
To avoid sex during menstruation
One of the cultural practices surrounding menstruation is the restriction on sexual activity. It’s not possible to generalize this rule as different body reacts differently even in the same situation. But the logic behind this ancient ritual gives us some serious thoughts over this matter. While menstruating, a women loses her energy as a downward flow…. which is exactly the opposite of what happens during sex where a woman absorbs the male’s energy. So sex was avoided during menstruation in contemplation of giving rise to no interference in the energy release. It was also aimed to provide women the needed rest as sex requires a lot of stamina which they usually don’t have while menstruation.
To avoid eating certain kinds of food
This belief still holds a lot of importance as women are advised to avoid eating too much spices and oil during menstruation in order to soothe their stomach. Even in ancient times, menstruation used to bring along food restrictions just to ensure better health of women. In places like Assam, young girls who have just had their menarche were given only fruits and water to consume for the first 3days of the cycle. Specific food like ragi, drumstick leaf, fenugreek, jaggery, etc. was given in places like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In some of these places, mothers are passing on this legacy to their daughters till today.
Ayurveda mentions the ill-effects of consumption of heat generating foods like animals and dairy products at the time of menstrual flow. These rituals were also meant to reduce any chances of vomiting, loose motions, stomach upset and cramps during periods.
Undergrounding menstrual women in seclusion huts
This ritual was practiced at times when the conditions of living were not that well in India, especially in the villages. Several families used to live together in small-spaced houses where it was quite challenging to accommodate the needs of menstruating women. In order to ensure their comfort, they were restricted to seclusion huts which were meant for women having their periods only. They could change clothes and bathe there without any kind of embarrassment and uneasiness.
Moreover, in ancient times the source of economy was limited to agriculture and rearing of animals only. Cattles, sheepetc. used to live with their owners under the same roof. Since women are down on their immunity in those days, the chances of them getting infected by the cattle’s’ diseases are high. So, seclusion huts were the only option left to avoid any kind of infection and ensure better health of menstruating women.