So this is quite an interesting post I have meaning to type up for a very long time.
And I'm not an overly religious person but I like to believe in spirituality aspects of Sanatan dharma.
I have been raised in a Swaminarayan background and was always brought up to practice the Rajaswala Dharma whilst on your time".
Or when mother nature makes her monthly special appearance there were a few rules which had to be adhered to.
And every time I questioned the elders why do we do this ritual, there was always just a basic answer of "because you need rest at this time" or you will "Abhray/Unpurify things as bleeding is a form of body waste".
And just quoted the Shikshapatri Shlokas by them -
173) All female followers, married and widows shall never bath naked not shall they ever conceal the fact of their menstruation.
174) And when they come into menses they shall not touch any person or other clothes for three days but on the fourth day, after taking bath, they may do so.
But no one could give me a satisfactory answer to the true meaning behind it all. And this led me for most of my life to be very skeptical and although knowing there must be something scientific or spiritual behind it.
I personally hated carrying this out and in modern day and time, it feels more like an inconvenience and chore than a few days off to rest!
As I got older and looked further into the scriptures whilst doing GCSE and A-Level Hinduism studies I learned there is so much more to Sanatan Dharma and the daily rituals and faiths have a much deeper, spiritual meaning as well as being practical methods for the past times.
And no it's not to discriminate against women. As the Vedic scripts and Sanatan Dharma has always held womanhood with the highest esteem, and respected as Maa(Mothers) regardless of age, or status and commonly as Devi /Goddess. Blood has never been considered impure but sanctful and pure as the moons 28-day lunar cycle.
And the basic rules are as followed for this
If menses starts up to 17 days prior to last menses she may be purified after a full Ritu Snan. ( full bath)
18days - Take bath after one day of observance.
19 days - Take a bath after 2 days of observance
20 + days - full three days of observance and snan on the fourth day.
In emergencies such as your own wedding, or auspicious holy festivals, war or riots, these rules do not have to be implemented. But an upvas or fast should be observed for the days.
Typical rules that apply are for the first three days and nights, they shall not touch anybody, any clothes or cook food. During the menstruation period, they should not even touch any women who are also in their menstruation. Refrain from sexual activity etc...
On the fourth day, after having a purifying bath, which includes washing her hair she should put on clean clothes. Then she should take nutritious food to gain energy. They can then return to normal household duties. If a woman herself cooks food on the fourth day, this should not be offered to God.
If by mistake they end up not observing any of these they can atone their sin by Fasting on Rushi Panchmi. This is to pay obeisance to the Sapta Rishis which means seven sages and to get purified from Rajaswala Dosha. This comes annually in the Hindu calendar on the 5th day of the bright half of the month of Bhadarvo. Which falls on the 26th August this Year. (2017)
Similar Menstrual seclusions are also practiced in many other religions or sects around the world. From tribal Africa, South Indian Hindus, Nepal to the Japanese Buddhists, Balinese Hindus, Judists Niddah ceremony and many others. Furthermore was even practiced by the Roman Empire, Middle Ages and Renaissance where women, where prohibited, to cook or touch crops during these few days where in which many old wives tales originate.
This journal goes further into this and is a good read http://www.ijssh.org/papers/296-B00016.pdf
So why these Rules?
Why avoid physical exertion and activities and to rest.
During menses, a lot of blood is lost and this can physically and emotionally drain the body. Hormones like Progesterone and Oxytocin have steep changes resulting in mood and emotional changes.
Due to blood loss, they need proper rest and care. In order to prevent aches and pain in the body.
But also because intense workouts increase the Vata Dosha. One of the three ayurvedic body elements. In order to keep these in balance, traditional resting practice is observed.
Why abstain from touching one another and stay individually separate from others?
This is to keep the self-calm and have time on their own. Avoiding conflicts or any unnecessary stress and psychological tension which can lead to anxiety and have an effect on the body and mind.
This is the long run causes hormonal imbalance and affect fertility, polycystic syndromes and so forth.
This would also help prior society where it prevented men from having the urges and refrain from intimate association touched later on in this post.
Also, contact with other females is also scientifically proven to tune their monthly cycles together due to the release of pheromones.
Why not to visit temples or recite certain hymns?
It is said that reciting hymns and visiting places of worship where such mantras and hymns are recited as these carry immense vibrations and can cause imbalance and disturbances within the body and cycle, and chakras. This can have repercussions on hormone balance and the fertility of the female.
Also, many items in the temple are made from metals such as copper and brass and thus conduct energy and magnetism and touching these also could cause an imbalance in the body.
Eating separately and simple foods?
Naturally, you may notice your appetite loss at this time, and therefore the digestive power is also significantly reduced.
That’s why simple foods and fruits are encouraged, and a separate meal or plate is given to you and washed separately. (touched on later in the blog)
Why to avoid the kitchen and touching certain foods?
Even the western world has "old wives tales" for this sort of thing such as menses causes bees and crops to die.
But is there scientific reasoning behind this? And if so why do we not touch certain things.
Maybe it’s due to the body temperature being raised and the release of toxins increase for this reason. Along with the fact that in the earlier years hygiene and methods of bleed control were not as readily available as today, hence avoiding places of food and worship to prevent any leaks and contamination.
Even touching copper utensils is not advised as copper and certain metals emit energy levels. Possibly this along with hygienic reasons may have refrain women from entering the kitchen and touching cooked foods.
Not having a full bath or washing hair prior to the three days
The notion of water flowing over the back has an effect on the Mooladhara chakra. This is the closest to the reproductive organs and can cause changes to the outflow of the menses. Possibly this is why a quick short bath is advised. Also in the past ages bathing was a communal activity and carried out in natural lakes and river beds, to prevent contamination and spread of the menses this is possibly where the rule came about.
Practicing Abstinence – Sexual activity is prohibited as this releases a hormone called Oxytocin which causes antiperistaltic movements (from below upwards) and this can cause hindrance with the natural downwards flow and evacuation on menses. Hence why touching of one another is implemented and sleeping in a separate bed or mattress is practiced. As well as the fact that this stops any spread of leakages and can be sanitized appropriately and separately form the communal areas used by other people in the Ancient times.
These practices are implemented not because the blood is impure but the tissues, blood and unfertilized ovum needs to be evacuated completely to maintain a healthy reproductive system.
Most of the Dos and Don’t are hence designed to help keep this balance and for the best possible hygiene levels in the past days.
And commonly it is said that women undergoing menses need just as much rest as a person undergone surgery or having an active wound which needs time to heal.
Most of us nowadays just get on with our day to day working lives but there is actually scientific evidence that resting and practicing Rajaswala can promote health and well-being.
In fact, there is an excellent study I found along the way to show the benefits of having this break period from certain activities and how it benefits the female body with Ayurvedic basis. I don't know how credible the study is but it's certainly interesting to read. http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jdms/papers/Vol14-issue2/Version-2/R014228287.pdf
There are probably still many questions which remain unanswered but hopefully, this post has helped enlighten a few of you skeptics like me. But do read the study if you have a keen interest in this subject.
I certainly found it very interesting.
And maybe you can carry out the Rushi Panchami upvas on the Saturday 26th August this year.
There are certain things which I feel may need to be updated when it comes to this tradition as the times have changed. Women are not and menstruation has never been impure but this is a misconception which has just followed down as no one truly knows the meanings behind these customs & traditions.
If you think about it in those days there were no Sanitary towels, tampons or menstrual cups like we have today, the only form of control was reusing cloths. The was no sanitizing methods or disinfectants. Even water was not readily available and had to be shared in a communal manner. Possibly why people practice that "water cannot be touched" and "should be given to you by someone"
Also, it gives the chance for the men in the household to carry out some duties and to support the women at this time. Which is a bonus as it allowed the women to rest and let the aches and pains of the process to ease and relax.
I feel that it's an individual's personal choice on how they implement this in their lives, whether they practice or not, and to some extent, I agree that times have changed and we have routines we need to do. I'm not even sure if I would carry this out with my children. I mean some aspects of it I would as I don't think its complete rubbish but I guess in this day and age it can be seen differently. But I love the spiritual and hidden meaning behind it all which has all but changed in this generation.
Agreed that nowadays with work, education, dietary needs, social activities, convenience etc it's not ideal.
Normal day to day life and these restrictions can cause a huge impact. One thing I would like to say is to just respect others beliefs and if a temple has implemented this tradition try not entering to simply respect it and pop by a few days later.
Hope this post helps give a little insight and as I always say this is just MY OWN OPINION and view, I don't know if I'm wrong or right or 100% on what I feel about this whole thing but love the fact that I now know at least some understanding where it evolved from and why. And that it should empower women and should not be ashamed about talking about this, we are strong and have the capability to bear children, this phenomenon is a magical journey itself. And I completely disagree with certain customs particularly in developing countries where they stop females from attending school and participating in daily activities. This process is not a source of shame and embarrassment and needs to stop being stigmatized but awareness made about hygiene and empowering women.
Please vote your views below.
Yes; I follow these rules & will impose some if not all in my family/house tooYes; I follow it only when my family is around & ignore it rest of the timeNo; we do not practise but I may consider some aspects of itNo: I do not currently or intend to carry out this practiceNot Sure
vote votesYes; I follow these rules & will impose some if not all in my family/house too
vote votesYes; I follow it only when my family is around & ignore it rest of the time
vote votesNo; we do not practise but I may consider some aspects of it
vote votesNo: I do not currently or intend to carry out this practice
vote votesNot Sure