Why am I not allowed to pray, take prashad or enjoy Navratri when I bleed?
Being brought up as Hindu is more of a way of life than a religion with strict rules. However, I can’t help but notice that when it comes to women, their menstrual cycles and their femininity, there is a clear set of rules we are told to abide by.
Once I hit puberty my mum explained to me when I was on my period I wouldn’t be able to take the prashad offered to me at religious events. Nor would she be able to pray at home while I was bleeding, or fast on religious days.
When I was young, I just took these rules as fact.
It didn’t occur to me that the reason behind all of this, is women are taught by society that they are dirty and impure when they menstruate. This isn’t just a Hindu or Asian theory - it’s prevalent in Western societies where women are ashamed to take a tampon from their bag to nip to the loo or when men get awkward at the mention of menstrual blood.
In Hinduism, women are ostracised by society for a few days every month because of natural bodily occurrences. We are told that we can’t step foot in a mandir, go to any religious events, or eat prashad. It’s even worse in some communities in India, when women aren’t allowed to touch other men, have sex, enter a kitchen, or wash their hair. Essentially, these rules make us - as well as the rest of society - believe that we are dirty and impure during menstruation.
It’s upsetting to think that at such a young age, women are taught to be ashamed of their periods simply because society has an unhealthy relationship with women’s femininity and bodily functions/fluids. People claim that bleeding from your vagina is dirty, so to them it makes sense that you can’t enter a place of worship.
But there may be more to it.
Hindus believe in Ayurveda, energy flows and chakras.
This goes hand in hand with women and their menstrual cycles and the reasoning behind these rules that we blindly follow. It is believed that when we bleed, we are ridding our bodies of all the unnecessary energy that we accumulate from our body getting itself ready for a possible pregnancy. All of this energy is released downward out and away from the body during menstruation. When this downward flow of energy meets other energies, they collide and can cause discomfort in menstruation and generally, an unbalanced mind and body.
All of this makes sense, for a culture that believes in the psychic-energy of chakras. But why have I only just heard of this? And why didn’t my mum know about this either? I think it’s fair to say that theory is quite unheard of. Instead, we’ve been conditioned into believing that women’s menstrual blood is dirty, impure. When, in fact, it is believed that menstruation is a normal and natural energy flow. We have the choice whether or not to step foot in a mandir. Will our chakras be compromised? Maybe. But at least then we’re making a choice based on our own bodies rather than blindly following a patriarchal and misogynistic view of periods.