“Aunt Flo,” “The Red Express,” “P,” “Problem,” “That time of the month,” the monthly routine of menstruation, simply called periods, is known by many names. For women with a regular cycle, it occurs between 28 to 32 days and lasts for 3 to 5 days. A period means the time the inner lining of the uterus is shed, giving way to forming a new layer.
More importantly, periods are nature’s way of informing us that we aren’t pregnant.
But I am not sure exactly when periods became associated with uncleanliness. A woman on her period is considered to be dirty, unclean, in some instances, not even human. She’s made to sit separately and not allowed to touch anything. She is kept isolated on “those” days, degrading her self-respect. Nobody even talks to her much, let alone engage with her.
And this is not a scenario from the 1800’s. This system is very much prevalent in today’s times too.
Periods and Impurity
Like the majority of other mothers of her generation, my mother also taught me that periods were an abhorrent issue. Though I wasn’t made to sit separately and served food on an aluminum plate kept specially for such days, I couldn’t enter the Pooja room or touch God’s idols or their prasad. And if my periods came during any festival, it was as if I had committed a major crime! In fact, I’ve seen my mother taking tablets to delay or prepone her periods according to festivals and weddings in the family. I remember once we had a trip planned to Shirdi and bang! I got my periods the morning we were about to leave. I still remember my grandmother’s face, looking at me as if it were my fault.
Even when I was young, I used to wonder why women had periods at all if it was so impure. Men didn’t have to go through all this on a monthly basis. If God thought periods were so bad, He wouldn’t have given it to anyone, would He?
All through my younger years, I vividly remember awaiting each auspicious occasion, subconsciously wondering whether I’d get my periods (I have PCOS) and how everyone would react if I did.
As the years passed and I began to read more and more about this issue, I began to realize that keeping a woman aside during her periods had started as a gesture of goodwill in olden days. A woman usually lived in a large family with a huge amount of work on her shoulders. During menstruation, she would be given rest to ensure that she didn’t overexert on those days.
Somewhere along the line, this became a tool to abuse women, to isolate them, even torture them. In some parts of rural India, women on periods are made to sleep in the cowshed.
Yet, people worship cows.
Let’s Bring The Change
How can something that is capable of bringing new life be impure? Is sweat considered impure? It is a bodily secretion too. If we started barring sweating people from entering temples, would anyone be still there?
We worship the female form of God, the Devi. Yet, when it comes to the living female, we treat her with indifference, making her suffer for something that is as natural as feeling hungry or sleepy.
The most ironic part of all this is that it is usually the older women of the house that enforce these rules rather than the men. It has been so deeply ingrained in their brains that they cannot help but pass it on to the next generation.
Visiting religious places or doing pooja during periods is, in the end, a very personal call. It depends on your beliefs. But if you take time to look at it logically, there’s no need to abstain from such activities just because you are menstruating. All creatures – men, women, children, animals, birds – are equal in the eyes of God.
Think about it and let us know what you think! Share it with your friends and ask them their opinion too!