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According to traditions, if a woman is on her periods, she is not supposed to enter the temple or Puja room in the house. She should keep a distance from others in the family, should not wash or comb her hair, should not touch pickle, should not put on kajal or any type of makeup, should not enter the kitchen, etc. In short, a woman should lead a simple life during menstruation.
Well, while most of the Hindu theories have been found to be true and the beliefs are observed and followed across the world, are those related to menstruating women being considered impure also true? Well, orthodox Hindus and those liberal ones might be able to run a long debate on it.
During the old times, women were actually kept secluded in a dark room at the time of menstruation. A menstruating woman was supposed to wear only a piece of cloth throughout the days of the periods, keep her hair uncombed, avoid talking to anyone, eat simple food, sleep on the floor and avoid touching anything that is considered pure. Hindu houses on the other hand, were considered equivalent to temples. This is the reason why women on periods are exempted from performing any Puja or doing any housework.
But are you aware of the reasons why menstruating women are considered impure according to Hinduism? Read on to find out some amazing facts.
In the Mahabharata, when Yudhisthir lost Draupadi in the game of dice and Dussashana went to bring Draupadi down to the court, she was on her periods (Rajasvala). She was living in a secluded room wearing only a piece of cloth. This shows that there were a lot of restrictions regarding menstruation at that time. Insulting a woman in such a state was considered to be the highest form of sin. And the sin undoubtedly came back as death to him.
Once due to Indra's growing arrogance, his Guru Brihaspati left heaven in anger. As a result, the demons attacked and captured the throne of Indra. Realising his folly, Indra went to Lord Brahma for help. Brahma said that Indra would have to serve a Brahma Gyani (highly learned sage, who has acquired all the knowledge) for appeasing his Guru. So, Indra went on to serve a Brahma Gyani. The Brahma Gyani happened to be the son of an Asura and hence, unlike what Indra wanted from him, he offered a sacrifice in heavan for the asuras instead of offering to Gods. Indra grew very angry and killed the Brahma Gyani.
Indra Hides In A Flower
After killing a Brahma Gyani Indra was accused of killing a Brahmana, which was again a great sin. The guilt of this sin followed Indra everywhere, as a demon. So, Indra hid himself in a flower and started praying to Lord Vishnu for years. Lord Vishnu appeared and freed him from the demon representing the sin, but the guilt was still on his head.
Indra's Sin Divided
To get rid of the sin, Indra requested the trees, land, water and women to divide his sin into parts and take it on themselves. In return he promised to grant a boon to each of them. So, the trees took one-fourth of his sin and Indra promised that they could regrow from their roots. Next, water took another part of his sin and was granted the boon that water would have the power to purify everything. Third, the earth took a part of his sin and was blessed that any kind of blow on the earth would get easily healed on its own.
Why Women Cannot Enter Temples?
Finally, women took a part of Indra's sin which resulted in menstruation. Women would be impure for the time while they menstruate. In return, Indra granted the boon that women would enjoy sexual pleasure more than men. So, because women took the sin of Indra, women menstruate once in a month and are under the accusation of killing a Brahman (Brahma Hatya). Therefore, they cannot enter the temple at the time when they are menstruating.
Reasons Behind Seclusion
The first reason why women were kept secluded is that at the time of menstruation, a woman is more prone to get affected by infections. Therefore, she was kept in a different room to avoid getting infected. Secondly, women are barred from doing housework at this time because a woman's body becomes very weak and needs good amount of rest. That is why it is advised that women excuse themselves from housework and take rest in a room.
A few menstrual traditions are followed keeping the woman's health in mind. But a lot of traditions are only based on superstitions. For example, if a menstruating woman touches a bottle of pickle then it gets spoiled. It is not something which a woman should be ashamed of and putting such restrictions solely based on superstitions actually makes the existence of a woman all the more humiliating.
Can You Pray During Menstruation?
There is a simple answer to this. Like you can think of anything good or bad, speak sweetly or harshly or express happiness or grief. In the same way you can pray to God in any condition and in any way you like. If traditions exempt you from touching the idol, just recite the name of God in your mind. Your spirituality cannot be polluted by a physical condition.
Menstruation In Islam
In Islam also a woman is considered to be impure when she is on her periods. A menstruating woman is not allowed to pray or touch the Quran. A woman also cannot observe fast during the holy month of Ramadan if she happens to be on her periods.She is not sent out of the house during the time and only after taking a bath on the seventh day, she is considered to be purified.
Change Of Times
As we move towards a more civilised world, the menstruation restrictions are slowly disappearing. For example, you cannot expect a working woman to stay in the house and keep herself secluded from the rest of the world. Though women are still not allowed to visit temples or perform Puja, for which we might not feel much need to question, at least the social seclusion and humiliation is taking a backseat.