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Why can’t girls enter temples during menstruation?

By Kumkum Bhatia

A look at major religions of the world shows that, without exception, they have placed restrictions on menstruating women. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism have all made statements about menstruation and its negative effect on women, leading to prohibitions about physical intimacy, cooking, attending places of worship, and sometimes requiring women to live separately from men at this time. –Deepu P.Thomas

Practice

In pre-Christian centuries, women were considered to be “impure” during their menstruation and in some cultures (e.g. Huaulu of Indonesia) they were confined to special menstrual huts. Moreover, menstruating women were believed to be dangerous in early western societies and social restrictions were placed upon them. In fact, the British Medical Journal in 1878 claimed that a menstruating woman would cause bacon to putrefy.

As recently as 25 years ago, it was reported that farmers in Eastern and Central Europe believed women, during their periods, should not bake bread or churn butter. Most Christian denominations do not specify rituals or rules related to menstruation, but the Eastern Orthodox Church does advise women not to receive communion during this time.

The Qur’an forbids intercourse during menstruation and women are excused from prayers and fasting. They are also restricted from entering the mosque. In Sikhism, Guru Nānak condemned the practice of treating menstruating women as impure and felt that it should not prevent her from wanting to pray or accomplishing her religious duties.

In Hinduism the first menstruation of a young girl is a cause for celebration, with special presents given. However menstrual blood has generally been considered impure. At my grandmother’s house, women were not permitted to cook in the kitchen, had different utensils, ate and slept separately. They were also not allowed to enter the prayer room. Nonetheless, when as a 12-year-old girl I visited my grandparents during the summer holidays, my loving and pragmatic grandmother spared me this embarrassment by asking me to not tell anyone about my periods!

Rasion d’être

Swami Chinmayananda explained this practice in physiological, hormonal and emotional terms. Earlier the traditional role of a woman in the house involved arduous and physically demanding tasks such as carrying heavy pots of water, grinding of wheat, daals, rice and masalas, farming duties and so on. During periods women suffer in varying degrees from discomfort to cramps and headaches to PMS syndrome which includes depression, anger and mood swings.

Thus they were prescribed rest during the three days of menstruation. However the only way this could actually be enforced was to put a religious taboo on it and exempt women from all household tasks. In fact in orthodox homes in India men, who would otherwise not lift a finger to help at home, actually do the cooking!

Prayer – a personal relationship with God

A few weeks ago, I discussed this topic with Swamini Vimalanandaji, a senior and highly respected Swamini of the Chinmaya Mission. She emphatically stated there was no need to feel any guilt in doing one’s pooja, chanting, and prayers at the altar of one’s home. There was absolutely no sin incurred. However, since a large number of people in India are still strict believers, one should, as respect to their beliefs, refrain from entering public places of worship.

 

 

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9 Responses to Why can’t girls enter temples during menstruation?

  1. Alisha September 11, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    We Hindus very conveniently follow what we wish to. The rest we say,”I do not believe in all this. I am modern”. One should change with times. Look ahead and not backward when you walk. Rise all women and stand up for what is not right.

  2. Yana January 27, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    I know that in new times, hygiene is better developed but come on!
    Even if you are wearing pads, doesn’t mean the blood isn’t flowing. You can still feel it flowing out from you body, so, whether it was before without pads or with pads, it doesn’t make much difference.
    Temple are sacred and divine places, so, we should exercise some rules to respect them. That’s all. I don’t why people make a big issue out of it.
    Its not that woman are ‘dirty’ when having menstruation. It’s just disrespectful that you are in the middle of a puja with people around with divine thoughts while you are having period with blood flowing into pad. That sounds so wrong!!

    • DeepThought February 26, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      Base on this statement, I would guest that, if a person who is injured and having clean bandages, meanwhile blood is dripping slowly into the bandage. That person should not enter divine places? Just for thought.

      • nanthini May 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

        Good one..

      • nani November 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

        A perfect statement…luvd it…wish people could change

  3. pragya February 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    we are all creations of god.we are also taught that everyone is equal in the eyes of god.god loves his/her creation.and we girls are the creators of god since giving birth gives continuity to life on earth for which mensturation is a must..then how can girls be impure n forbidden while going through the process of continuing life and creation on earth with the will of god.
    Everything god does is said to be for the betterment of his/her’s creation “EARTH” and “Life On It” and girls Create for Him/her and so mensturate to prepare themselves for it.Then how or why the hell girls would all of a sudden become impure going through what is the will of god..

  4. Roopa March 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Why do temples have restrooms?, just asking out of curiosity, if the menstrual blood is not pure, the stuff we do in bathrooms carries more purity than the life cycle of a woman. In the olden days they might have thought to rest women for 3 days but is there a rule that we should not enter temples or pray.

  5. Shan April 13, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    U have 26 days a month to pray at the temple. So why are stuck with these 4 days?
    There are still a whole lot more that we haven’t discovered let alone sense it. We are still bound by our 5 senses.

  6. nanthini May 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Hi..but how about bramacharis like ganesha and hanuman. Pls advice. Thx.

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