This is not really a subject I ever planned to talk about. But now I realize that I’m not the only one who is questioning tradition on this issue. So I think I need to admit my feelings about it.
Okay, to back up for a moment, tradition dictates that a woman is ritually “unclean” during her menstrual period and does not go to the temple or worship during those times when she is bleeding.
However, I will admit that I have never followed this rule. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business but mine when I’m on my period. I also cannot get on board with the idea that this natural process of my body is in any way unclean, dirty, or bad. So yes, I do still go to temple even when I’m on my period (don’t tell on me!)
Hinduism is not the only religion with this particular taboo. A lot of older cultures connect periods with ritual uncleanness. And while I usually respect ancient traditions and trust that there are good reasons, this one is something that I think needs modernizing.
There are reasons people will bring up for this. But honestly, they all sound like excuses to me. Here are some examples:
- Women in ancient times worked very hard and needed to be given an religious reason to rest. Okay, but in the society I live in I am trusted to make decisions about what I can and can’t handle at any given time. It doesn’t have to be forced on me from the outside.
- Some people speak of their grandmothers telling them that periods are inauspicious and are a curse. There’s a lot of superstition wrapped up in it and I cannot accept the idea that the processes of our body are a curse. The Gods made us this way and this beautiful cycle is what creates life.
- It’s worked for the culture for centuries, so why mess with it? I think there’s a problem when we don’t know the reasons behind a tradition and just blindly follow it. Also, the world is changing and is extremely different now than it was a thousand years ago. Things don’t necessarily keep working forever.
- The tradition appears to come from Manusmriti, which is not acknowledged as a religious text or mandate. Some people follow the cultural rules in it and others (like me) do not believe that it has any authority over Hinduism.
So I think it comes down to your decision, ladies. As of yet there is no one standing at the door checking your underwear for blood (there is actually a dude who wants to create some kind of period-detecting machine to keep us out!). You have to decide if you want to go with tradition on this one or not. As I said, I do not. I believe that my menstrual cycle is no one’s business but mine!
To get a Hindu male perspective on this, I really found this article insightful: Can a Female Enter a Temple or Perform Puja During Periods?
A very detailed and well researched article: Three Days of Impurity: Menstruation and (In)Auspiciousness
A young Indian woman’s perspective: My Country’s Problem with Menstruation