Superstitious Beliefs, Myths, & Traditions Regarding Menstruation in Nepal: – Don’t touch the food, don’t come in the kitchen, don’t worship the Lord, don’t go inside the temple, don’t water the plants. These are some common statements that girls hear most of the time when they are having their monthly cycle.
If by mistake, they conduct some of these activities in their menstruation. Then there is a particular day every year where they fast repenting the sins they have done during their periods.
That day is called Rishi Panchami. So why one of the biological processes which have ironically given to women when they are created is considered so sinful and unpure?
Let’s discuss this. But first, let’s know what menstruation is.
What is Menstruation?
Menstruation is bleeding that usually occurs every month in sexually mature women if there is no pregnancy. During menstruation, rejection of the uterine mucosa, endometrium, accompanies during bleeding. Menstruation usually lasts from 3 to 5 days.
On average, the first menstruation, menarche, begins at 11-14 years. About half of girls 12 years old already have menstruation, however, doctors recognize the normal age at the onset of menstruation from 9 to 16 years.
From this moment, the female body is capable of fertilization and pregnancy. At about 40-55 years, menstruation stops and menopause sets in.
What is the menstrual cycle?
If menstruation comes regularly, they are called the menstrual cycle. However, the length of the menstrual cycle may vary slightly from month to month, which is also normal.
A longer menstrual cycle is characteristic of adolescents. With age, there is a tendency to a decrease in the duration of the cycle and a clearer regularity. Usually, the menstrual cycle lasts from 21 to 35 days.
Do not be afraid to ask!
Unfortunately, the topic of menstruation in society is still considered by many to be taboo and shameful. And menstruation is often presented as something that needs to be hidden from everyone.
Nevertheless, even if you are embarrassed to ask a doctor something, remember: menstruation goes on for most of life. This is a normal biological process and in fact, there is nothing shameful or dirty in them.
So if you have something worried or you want to know if this is the case with others, then ask.
If someone is ashamed of you for having your periods, remember — this person is deeply wrong and should be ashamed of him, not you.
Why are some people embarrassed to talk about menstruation?
The taboo theme of menstruation is also connected with the fact that for a long time menstruation was used by society. In order to justify social inequality in the situation of men and women, because a woman was considered dirty in many cultures during menstruation.
This is due to the fact that in ancient times people did not understand what caused menstruation. And for them, this phenomenon was mysterious and incomprehensible.
Even in the twenty-first century, when the biological essence of menstruation has long been clear. Many religions consider women to be unclean during menstruation.
Myths about Menstruation in Nepal
Despite the fact that every healthy, mature woman has menstruation for most of her life. It’s hard to remember any other biological process in the human body that would be so surrounded by myths and prejudices.
Legends full of ridiculous prohibitions and warnings are made up of menstruation. In fact, during menstruation, a woman can live her full life without problems.
Since the menstrual cycle is one of the main indicators of a woman’s health. You should be especially careful about them and know them all in order to preserve your health and nerve cells!
It is impossible to get pregnant during your period.
Reality: There are no safe days. No matter how popular this myth is, it does not become true from this.
Explanation: The average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it can vary from 21 to 35 days. The day the ovulation occurs, that is, the release of the egg, when the chances of getting pregnant are highest.
In women with a longer cycle, ovulation tends to occur on about the 21st day. And in those with a shorter cycle, for example, on the 7th day. No matter how long your cycle is, it is worth remembering that sperm cells remain active within the female body for up to three days.
Thus, it turns out that the closer you are to the end of your period, the higher your chances of getting pregnant, especially if you have a short menstrual cycle.
If you are not planning a pregnancy and are not taking oral contraceptives, then make sure your sexual partner uses a condom during sex.
If your period didn’t arrive on time, it means that you are pregnant.
Reality: Pregnancy is the most popular reason that a woman does not have her period, but it can be caused by a number of other reasons.
Explanation: The main factors that can cause a malfunction in the menstrual cycle are weight changes, malnutrition, illness, and stress. Especially often, malfunctions in the menstrual cycle occur during the first year after the first menstruation.
Setting up a regular cycle can take anywhere from six months to a year from the time of the menarche. In a third of women, one or two cycles in a year go astray. However, if you have an active sex life and menstruation has not arrived on time. You need to go to the doctor and do a pregnancy test.
During menstruation, you can not play sports.
Reality: during menstruation, if it is not too painful, it’s even useful to play sports.
Explanation: Most likely, you will hardly want to do too heavy exercises, such as lifting weights. But a light load like walking, swimming, or yoga can raise your mood.
Due to the natural production of endorphins and relieve uterine cramps that cause pain in the stomach. If you don’t feel too tired or your pain is not too strong, there is no reason not to play sports.
If the weakness after menstruation continues for several days, then it is worth consulting a doctor, as this may be a sign of anemia.
You must not take a bath during your period.
Reality: taking a bath during menstruation is rather useful.
Explanation: This myth may have originated in those days when bathing, washing, etc were done by people together, for example, in lakes.
Nowadays, we have private bathrooms or space for bathing in the case of villages in our homes so there is no reason to follow these prejudices.
Moreover, washing and bathing during menstruation are useful for hygienic reasons. Because bacteria can multiply on the pad and hair over time, so it is important to wash regularly.
During menstruation, you can’t have sex and masturbate.
Reality: It is safe to have safe sex during menstruation, unless bedding, which can be dirty, is at risk.
Explanation: To have sex during menstruation is a personal decision for each couple. In any case, it is worth discussing this issue with your partner.
Moreover, sex is not limited to the concept of penetration of the penis into the vagina. As for masturbation, there is no harm here if you follow the rules of hygiene.
Everyone has pain during menstruation and you just have to endure it.
Reality: Many women are faced with such severe menstrual pains that can interfere with their daily life and this pain is absolutely real. But not all have the same degree of pain.
Explanation: This is not just about unpleasant sensations or malaise. But about those cases when women are forced to take a day off from work and curl up from pain in bed, so pain can be so acute. This condition is called dysmenorrhea, and it is observed in 20% of women.
Do not wash your hair during Menstruation
Reality: Utter nonsense.
Explanation: These are again our old grandmother’s tales, in other words, complete nonsense. Your head, your hair, wash whenever you like.
Everyone can see that you are having your period.
Reality: There are no specific signs that indicate that you have your period. So no they can’t know if you are having your cycle.
Explanation: You smell and walk, as usual, your skin color does not change. However, do not assume that you should hide it. Girls now know more about menstruation and symptoms such as PMS(Pre Menstrual Syndrome) and cramping. Maybe you will feel better if you tell your girlfriends about your period. In the end, they also have them.
During Menstruation, you cannot drink alcohol.
Reality: Alcohol is not contraindicated during menstruation.
Explanation: To drink or not to drink is always a matter of general health and personal decision. Menstruation has nothing to do with it, but there is one interesting regularity. Some women can drink a lot and have a great tolerance. While some may drink less but have greater effects of alcohol.
You cannot donate blood during Menstruation.
Reality: This is true actually but not because you have become dirty or unclean. As some people tend to explain.
Explanation: During menstruation and for another five days after you can not donate blood. About 500 ml of blood is taken from donors. If you lose, even more, health consequences can appear.
In addition, hemoglobin levels can be lowered during and after menstruation, and this is very important for the donor. By the way, they say that it is precisely because of menstruation that women tolerate donations more easily.
For close friends, your periods are synchronized.
Reality: A big NO.
Explanation: It’s nice to believe it, but no. The cycle normally ranges from 21 to 35 days, so it is not surprising that bleeding dates may overlap.
Menstruation is dirty and dangerous.
Reality: Not at all. This kind of belief should totally be eradicated from.society.
Explanation: The menstrual fluid consists of blood and tissue that have no harmful or polluting properties for the environment.
Women during menstruation are not allowed to consume certain foods that are sour, cold or prone to rapid deterioration.
Reality: You can eat whatever you like. Your taste your appetite.
Explanation: There are no medically recommended dietary restrictions.
Menstruation shows that a girl is ready for marriage and birth.
Reality: Marriage is a huge step for which girls needed to be ready from all aspects. So no, it’s not true.
Explanation: While menstruation is a biological sign of fertility, it does not mean that the girl is physically, emotionally and psychologically prepared for marriage and birth.
Menstruation limits women’s abilities.
Reality: Nothing can affect the women’s capabilities of what they can and cannot do.
Explanation: Menstruation does not affect the physical and mental abilities of women. It’s just pain if severe can cause women to rest and limit heavy works.
Menstruation should not be discussed in public.
Reality: Why not? The more we talk about it openly, the better it is.
Explanation: The more this topic is discussed, the more will be understood the real needs of girls and women in this period. Ensuring their access to hygiene products in schools, public or private institutions.
In fact, it should be discussed with boys and men also making them understand the difficulties of women during their cycle.
All women have a poor mood during menstruation.
Reality: Not all women experience a bad mood. Menstruation is the individual cycle.
Explanation: The menstrual cycle is accompanied by hormonal changes, which manifest differently from one person to another. Not all women are experiencing changes in mood during this period.
If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, it means you have a serious condition.
Reality: As said earlier, Menstruation is the individual process different in each woman. Some may have regular and some may have irregular cycles. It’s completely false.
Explanation: There are many women who do not have a regular menstrual cycle, and the reasons are numerous. If you have an irregular menstrual cycle it does not mean you have a condition.
However, if you want to get rid of any worries, consult your gynecologist. You can talk openly with him about the problems you have. Or the reasons why you think you might have some conditions.
You will discover that there is nothing unusual about having an irregular menstrual cycle.
Pre-menstrual syndrome is imagined.
Reality: It’s completely false. Women do feel and show some discomfort and signs week prior before menstruation.
Explanation: The discomfort is real and is characterized by a series of symptoms that start a week or two before menstruation. And include: acne, bloating, weight gain, headache, joint pain, mood swings, painful breasts.
Cotton is an excellent choice for an intimate area.
It is good to use cotton in daily intimate hygiene. Synthetic linen may be more attractive, but cotton linen, due to the excellent properties of this natural ingredient, is healthier.
Cotton is also hydrophilic, thus absorbing perspiration and fluids, and is also hypoallergenic. Thus, it represents an excellent choice regarding the hygiene of the intimate area.
Synthetic materials favor infections.
For hygienic protection of the intimate area, it is recommended to choose materials that are as natural or as skin-friendly. The reason why this is necessary is that synthetic materials do not allow the skin to breathe.
In addition, friction-induced by clothing leads to increased temperature in the intimate area. Causing sweating and creating an environment that favors infections.
It is necessary to change your underwear frequently when you are menstruating!
A woman should change her absorbent quite frequently, especially in the first days of menstruation. The frequency depends on the menstrual flow.
However, it should be remembered that the possibility of vaginal infections is greater during menstruation and that it must be meticulous regarding its hygiene.
It is also important to change your underwear daily, even twice a day if you exercise. Moreover, cotton underwear is recommended, which allows the skin to breathe. Thus effectively protecting the intimate area from irritation or infection.
Ritual in Nepal During First Menstruation
Gufa Rakhne followed in Newars, Brahmin, Chhetris and other casts. Name only differs but the ritual more or less the same.
During menarche, that is the occurrence of first menstruation in girls. Various traditions are followed according to caste and religion. Among them, one of the traditions is placing the girls in the darkroom for 12 to 15 days. This tradition is followed in Newari and Brahmin casts.
According to the Newari tradition, girls get married three times. First with the fruit called BEL and the process is called Inhi Macha.
In the second process, a girl is married to the sun and is called Surya Darshan or in the Newari language, Bara Teyagu. And in the Nepali language called Gufa Rakhnu. And lastly, a girl is married to the man.
In some communities, girls are kept for Gufa(cave) during their first Menstruation. There is a belief that girls are protected from bad guys and negative forces after this tradition.
During its initial period, the girl is kept locked in a room not exposed to the sun rays. For the first six days, no food with salt is given to the girls. And they are not allowed to see or meet any men.
The girl before eating has to offer her food to the Bara Khya. After six days, the girl after bath put on clean clothes. And several. of her female relatives come to meet her bringing her fruits and foods.
On the 12th day, the girl is brought out by the women of the house in the early morning hours with special makeup. Special rites are performed. The hair is made in the twisted style which is only released after three days.
This Gufa Rakhne Culture though can be argued that it protects girls from evil eyes. It is the tradition followed by our ancestors for which we should give continuity.
Some may even say this is not the tradition followed for Menstruation. But this is, some may put the Gufa before Menstruation, some during the first cycle. Placing someone in a dark room for several days cannot be considered a good tradition.
Chhaupadi a deadly tradition
Chhaupadi which literally means untouchable being is an ancient tradition of keeping away the menstruating female from their family home. Or immediately after childbirth or during their first menstrual cycle.
It is one of the most extreme forms of gender discrimination, rooted in Hindu taboos.
According to myths, the god Indra created menstruation as a means of distributing curses. And women, during menstruation or immediately after childbirth, are temporarily unclean and defile everything around. The most widespread custom of Chhaupadi is widespread in western Nepal.
Taboo violators allegedly expect natural disasters, the mortality of livestock, crop failures and even the death of relatives.
According to beliefs and taboos rooted in Hinduism, a woman during menstruation should not touch other people. As well as cows, vegetables, fruits, and even trees, otherwise, they will stop bearing fruit. You can’t drink milk, otherwise, the cow will stop producing it.
You can’t eat dairy products, you can’t milk buffaloes and cows. You can’t read the book, otherwise, it can cause the wrath of the goddess of wisdom and knowledge Saraswati.
Thus, in order to avoid misfortunes in the family and the village, women are subject to temporary expulsion from their homes. During menstruation, women are strictly forbidden to attend Hindu temples and shrines.
They are not allowed to participate in family celebrations, puja, religious processions and holidays. They can’t use common dishes and other kitchen utensils, go into the kitchen, wash themselves in rivers and draw water from public wells.
The vast majority of women observing the Chhaupadi tradition are forced to lodge monthly in the Chhaupadi Goth or abbreviated Chaugothi. It is a small clay, barn shelters near the house or in separate windowless huts located in the forest or mountains.
Exiled women usually sleep in unsanitary conditions right on the earthen floor, hiding in a thin blanket. Bathe and wash their clothes only in a special stream or pond outside the village.
Usually, married women are driven out of the house for several days (up to five), while unmarried women can be in forced isolation for up to a week. Girls who experience menstruation for the first time are isolated for 14 days.
Apart from these rituals, there are other prohibitions that are still followed and believed in society. Such as
- She is not allowed to participate in plowing and sowing, as she takes power from the land and plants.
- A woman should not ferment pickles, and knead the dough because the dough will turn sour. The pickle will rot.
- The woman is also forbidden to weave at this time since the work done would be torn, and the threads would be tangled. Thus, any work done at this time is recognized as useless and unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous to life and health.
- You can not take a loan – you can not pay.
- You can’t buy shares and generally play on the stock exchange – you’ll suffer from the loss.
- You can not cut your hair, dye, it will ruin the hair.
- You can’t buy a car – it will be stolen.
- You can’t take exams – you’ll fail.
Some may argue that all these rituals, beliefs are must and they are for the betterment of the girls. Even women of modern society voluntarily follow these rules. As these myths have been deeply imprinted in their minds from their childhood.
Influence on Girls first menstruation
When a girl has her first menstruation, adult women should inform her about the need to be careful and not violate certain rules associated with this period.
There are many prohibitions, and they are unusually strict. Some of them are observed to this day. Moreover, even modern women report that they learned this information in their youth after the first menstruation from their girlfriends.
All these rituals and do’s and don’ts are for women only which are piled up on her head by our own people and society. The severity of these rules may vary from one culture to another. But the truth is that they exist still.
They are harsher in isolated rural areas than in big cities like Kathmandu. A middle-class Nepalese family living in the capital will very often ask women to isolate themselves in their rooms for the duration of their period.
In small villages, this menstrual exile is marked by the remoteness of the entire village. Women can then be banished and forced to sleep in huts or simple shelters.
These rituals can have an adverse effect on girls since their young age. Such as:
- Negative impact on Education: The religious ban on reading books and writing leads to the fact that girls who begin menstruation more often miss school or college. This only widens the already existing gap between them and young men in education. And subsequently leads to significant discrimination in employment by gender feature.
- Endangered Health: During exile, women, as well as their young children following their mother, often endanger their health. Women often get sick, do not follow the rules of hygiene, are deprived of basic access to clean water. They are given less food and generally do not give milk and ghee. They are often attacked by snakes, scorpions and wild animals. In winter, exiles live in tiny huts and can be poisoned by carbon monoxide in poorly ventilated areas. Poor nutrition and hard physical labor only exacerbate existing diseases.
- Psychological Impact that can even lead to depression: Many women who have undergone Chhaupadi experience guilt, humiliation, sadness, and depression. During the exile, a woman may die from illness and blood loss, as her relatives, for fear of being defiled will not take her to the hospital.
- Physical Violence: Women isolated from the family are often subjected to sexual violence by drunken men. We have often heard in the news girls and women being raped and murdered in the Chhaugoth.
- Unhealthy Society: These can have an adverse effect on the psychological development of the boys as well. Learning from the elders, they will also contribute to gender inequality, discrimination, violence against women even to their own sister, daughter, and wife.
- Deeply rooted thoughts: There is a deep hold of this thinking in our society which is not getting loose even after wanting it. One reason for this is that women distance themselves from people during their periods. She does not like to sit between people, and even hesitates to talk about it. They follow these rules voluntarily because such thinking has been deeply rooted and cannot be removed easily.
Unholy: Male thinking, not the female body
Whether it is the unlimited sky of politics or the bright sky of business, the scientific journey of space or the green courtyard of the farm-barn.
The women of today are spreading their glow, waving the glory of their success. Breaking the domination of men, women have infiltrated every area today. And this infiltration is a strong claim to occupy and therefore men are in confusion and haste naturally.
Nepal is a religiously dominated country and Hindu religions are in abundance here. Religion rules the lifestyle of the people here and the contractors of religion upheld the male supremacy. Only kept men and gave importance to men’s thinking.
The woman’s menstruation is considered her defilement. And it is said that for this reason, she can’t take part in any religious activities. This impurity has become an excuse that women are denied Yagya, Vedic studies. And they are told that they cannot follow such strict rules.
For her, the fruit of the Yagya lies in the service of her family and husband. Such emotional matters have thus excluded her from Yagya, Hawan, Vedic studies, Funerals, Sharadda, etc.
Menstruation or periods is a common important event in the life of women. But our cultural conditions are such that such an important thing is not usually told to girls. If they have to face periods for the first time, then they are scared for a long time about this change in them.
There is awareness among girls and women about the periods in the cities. But it is not enough because even today in rural areas it is contagious. Even in the cities, it is not the case that women talk about it in public places.
Due to the purity and impurity is associated with menstruation, it is felt hesitant to talk about this subject. While it is a normal cycle related to women’s health. Which has an effect on the hormones of women, not on their nature, and their religious activities?
This menstruation is a periodic cycle solely associated with the ability of women to conceive. The complete ill-treatment of Nepalese society is due to illiteracy, ignorance. And a sense of dominance over the female race of the male class and consequently barred them from religious activity.
Women themselves keep the thinking of men higher and important. They become subordinate to men for the work of the household. And also being uneducated went on to make it impure, whereas the princely. And Brahmin Girls of ancient times were highly educated and they used to do all religious work.
From the very beginning, our social structure was such that men continued to carry out responsibilities outside the home. And women continued to take care of household and family-related activities.
The situation is changing, however. Activities in the religious rituals of the house-made women religiously active in the social environment. There are now female pujaris, female priests, who carry out the religious rituals better than the male priest.
Menstruation is a gift, not a curse
If menstruating is a curse or sin of a woman, then how will she become a mother without menstruation? How can we consider such state impure from which a human (whether male or female) body is formed? In fact, menstruation is a great gift of nature to a woman !! Due to this boon, a woman can become a mother !!
Actually, during these four-five days, the body of the woman becomes a little weak. Many women also have unbearable pain. So keeping this in mind, perhaps our elders must have started the tradition that on this pretext, the woman will get some rest.
But the result of the good initiative also turned upside down! The menstruation woman was considered to be impure. And she was forced to live in exile.
Free yourself from the world of superstitious thinking, only then we women will live with self-respect. If we ourselves think that not following rules during the period will result in sin. If we consider ourselves guilty then the world will also consider us guilty.
Changes in the Society
In May 2005, the Nepal Supreme Court banned the practice of Chhaupadi. In August 2017, the country’s parliament recognized Chhaupadi as a criminal tradition and criminalized it.
From now on, anyone who coerces a woman into menstrual exile can be imprisoned for three months or sentenced to a heavy fine. However, in rural areas, the majority of the population continues to follow traditions and practice menstrual expulsion.
However, the Chhaupadi ban has intensified the work of non-governmental organizations that carry out outreach to women, teachers, and doctors. Protect the rights of adolescents and women, and seek the construction of separate toilets for girls in schools.
Recently, the local government of Western Nepal has been destroying the Chhaugoth. Even local women have been bringing the change in their thinking and raising their voices against Chhaupadi. The number of women is increasing who are against the DON’T TOUCH pratha of Menstruation.
More and more women in cities and villages have been boycotting the tradition of Menstruation. They are now entering the kitchen, cooking food, going to work, sleep in the same room that they have been using daily. Some are even worshipping God during their cycle.
Women are carrying out their activities during their period just like in normal days. Families are also supporting their women, accepting them, eating food cooked by them. So it’s the positive side of our society.
Various Media’s now freely showing the advertisements of sanitary pads. Documents and films have been made to motivate women to maintain their hygiene, using sanitary pads instead of clothes. All these are the positive changes that have been taking place in society.
However, these thinking are so deeply rooted that it still is difficult for women to completely abandon the rules of Menstruation. We hesitate to do PUJA that is to worship God.
May be a complete change in society will take time. But it will happen, for which both male and female members of the society should be awakened.
How to Bring Change in society regarding Menstruation as a stigma?
To bring the desired change in the society, the first step has to be taken from the home within the family. Both mother and father, grandparents, sons, and brothers should be initiated to support their daughter and female members of the family during Menstruation. You can:
Prepare your daughter for the first menstruation:
Girls go through a lot of stress when they have their first menstruation. They often have different kinds of feelings. The girl who is ready for the first menstruation can often cope with it even better. Today, girls get menstrual information in many ways.
Like, from school teachers, doctors, books and magazines, even small films made on it. Many parents have found that these methods provide much valuable information such as what happens in a girl’s body during menstruation and how she can take care of cleanliness.
Nevertheless, this information does not answer every question that arises in the mind of girls nor does it fulfill their every need. Even if girls know what they should do when the first menstruation arrives.
They are often not ready to cope with the various emotions that come with it. In this case, grandmothers, nannies, older sisters. And especially mothers, can give more information about menstruation to young girls and help them to cope with their feelings.
Often girls go to their mother to learn more about menstruation. How about fathers? More and more fathers will have to accept the challenge of teaching their daughters about menstruation.
These fathers need to be aware of the basics of menstruation, as well as the physical and mental changes their daughter is going through. Such fathers can seek the help of their mothers or sisters for effective suggestions and help.
Not letting her follow the DON’T TOUCH ritual:
After informing her about the Menstruation, another important duty of the parents is not to let her follow the rules that they have followed in their life.
Let her sleep her in her own room, let her rest, let her bath, let her take part in sports, let her cook in the kitchen. To summarize, let her perform all the tasks that she normally does in her daily life.
Even let her worship God, let her do the Puja. Starting from home, the mentality of girls will change slowly.
Motivating your sons to support their sister during her period:
Fathers, grandfather, and sons, brothers have to be educated to bring the change in their thinking. They have to understand that Menstruation is just a monthly cycle that is needed to give continuity to the origin of lives.
They have to learn to respect this cycle and made to understand that if this cycle would not have happened to their mothers. They would not have been born.
Education is needed regarding Menstruation more in rural areas than in cities. Still, the female members of the society have been suffering especially in the remote villages.
The NGOs and INGOs, government sectors should reach out to those people and educate them regarding Menstruation.
Discuss more in public:
Menstruation is considered to be an embarrassing topic to talk in public. Even daughters are shy and hide their pads in bags. First of all, women and girls need to understand this is nothing to be embarrassed about.
They themselves need to accept that this is just a biological process that happens only to women every month. Because they are only capable to endure the pain and give origin to live. They should be comfortable to talk about it openly with boys and girls openly.
What happens every month in half of the world’s population should not be a taboo subject. And the first step towards eliminating prejudice is to have an open discussion on the topic of menstruation.
Overcoming the negative stereotypes associated with menstruation. As well as active actions will give girls and women around the world the opportunity to live peacefully during this period and change their lives.