Unearthing Menstrual Wisdom – Why menstruating women don’t go to temples and follow many such practices : Part 2/5

Click here to read Part 1.

In this write-up, I have covered the following cultural practices around menstruation:

  1. Not attending religious functions, visiting the temple and not touching menstruating women
  2. Avoiding cooking and eating with others during menstruation
  3. Avoiding sex during menstruation
  4. Avoid swimming or washing the hair during menstruation
  5. Avoid eating certain types of food during menstruation
  6. Believing that menstrual blood is impure
  7. Taking time off during menstruation
  8. Restricting menstruating women to seclusion huts

In addition to the above, I have also written about my personal experiences so far in experiencing some effects of what menstruation can do.

  1. Not attending religious functions, visiting temples and not touching menstruating women

Some months ago, I received an email from across the globe, sent by a woman who experienced severe pain after being present at a chanting session during her menstruation period, organized by her Indian friends. She later asked why this happens and this is what she learnt: “the energy during menstruation goes downwards into the earth, at the pooja table, offerings, altar etc the energy is going upwards. This can bring discomfort in the body”.

In conversation with Guruji

In conversation with Guruji

To further understand the aspect of not visiting temples during menstruation, our team travelled to Devipuram, in Andhra Pradesh. We found unique answers from Sri Amritananda Natha Saraswati ji (Guruji), founder of Devipuram, a temple in Andhra Pradesh which is dedicated to the Devi. While interacting with him, he told us how in his temple, most of the priests are women, who are free to be at the temple during their period (though it is not forced). There is a Kamakhya Peetham at this temple, which is a natural formation in the shape of a Yoni (vagina) and worshippers gather here whether or not they have their period. Guruji shared fascinating reasons with us behind menstruating women not visiting the temple and turned all our silly assumptions of impurity upside down! Here is an excerpt from his interaction with us:

He said “What is pure, we don’t touch and what we don’t 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 murthi (idol) will move over to her and that (the idol) 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”.

Devipuram Kamakhya Peetham with the female priest and devotees

Devipuram Kamakhya Peetham with the female priest and devotees

As Guruji said, asking menstruating women to not visit a temple has nothing whatsoever to do with a woman being impure. So, the next time someone says that a menstruating woman should not enter a temple, because she is impure, we should let that person know the explanation behind this practice, instead of simply dismissing it as a taboo and let him / her decide whether or not he / she wants to follow these practices.

  1. Avoiding cooking and eating with others during menstruation

As told to us by a pranic / energy healer, eating is considered as a spiritual activity. Many traditional Brahmins even today chant as they cook to ensure that the food has higher and positive energy in it. During the process of eating food, the lower chakras (read explanation at the end of this paragraph) of our body are highly active. It is to change this, that Buddhist monasteries have a practise of reciting the scriptures during meal hours, so that the monks are focussed on higher chakras. So while eating, people expel negative energy all around. In the normal course of things, we would not feel it, but if a menstruating woman who is sensitive to absorb all types of energies around her is in the middle of a group that is eating, she can get affected by the lower energies (as opposed to higher or spiritual energies, which are beneficial). This is probably the reason why menstruating women were told to stay away from others and eat separately.

Note: Chakras are energy centres in the spinal column. There are seven chakras in the human body. The lower chakras are involved in bodily functions while the higher chakras are connected to the higher centres in the brain.

As explained by spiritual and Ayurveda teacher Maya Tiwari, in her book Women’s Power to Heal: Through Inner Medicine:

“Asking women to avoid gardening or cooking during menstruation is not due to the irrational thinking that our menstrual blood is unclean, unhygienic or toxic. The cosmic memory of food – that which is derived only from plant life according to the Vedas – is imbued with prana, a rising energy flowing up from the earth towards the sun and the sky. Conversely, the menstrual blood is instilled with apana vayu, the downward flowing, bodily air pulled down from the body by the magnetic forces of the earth. These two powerful sadhanas do not go hand in hand. Plant-derived food is also kapha in nature, full of youth giving energy that nourishes the body; menstrual blood is dominated by Pitta and Vata, which fosters the cleansing of the spirit. It is most unwise to introduce the rising, energizing nature of our food into our blood, or to mix the downward flowing, cleansing energy of blood into our sustenance, either by preparing food during menstruation, or by slaughtering animals and eating them.”

——to be continued…——

(earlier published on https://mythrispeaks.wordpress.com/)

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