RISHIPANCHAMI, Menstruation and My Practice
When I was young, I rarely went to market during an auspicious day of TEEJ ( a red color festival among Hindus specially Nepal origin). But I mostly went to the market along with mom a day after or the next day of TEEJ which is called RishiPanchami. I was in market to watch and care of clothing and other materials of mom and her friends when they were busy in bathing in holy river Narayani and worship (Puja) after bath. It was continued till I graduate from grade ten or before leaving my home for further study after School Leaving Certificate.
Every year, I watched that very young girls were participated in Puja, few were too young and expressed their shyness through their body language. Meantime, the fellow women and priest also passed so many comments which were related with sex, husband, marriage and future. I really felt sorry with them and also kept on thinking about me, ` the day would come where priest would tease me, women would make jokes, friends would be happy..’. The girls who had first menstruation were easily identified because they were come with few unique materials like small water pot made from mud called Ghaito. Therefore, this Puja recognized as Ghaito Puja. I always hate Ghaito Puja, I always scared from Ghaito Puja. I admitted that I was girl, I would menstruate like my mom, my sisters and my friends but I didn’t like to make public by doing Ghito Puja. I knew all process of how and why do women taking bath, what type of materials they do use for holiness or purity since beginning. They should wash their genitalia for 365 times. Means their genitalia were dirty or impure, or one times for a day of a year. Likewise, they also should have brush of their teeth by 365 green sticks, a kind of herb called Dattiwan and so many things. My childhood brain questioned but no way for response or no way except follow each steps.
Fortunately, I had science and health my majors when I was in high school. Unfortunately, neither health or science teacher taught well about menstruation nor I dared to ask about it. I was good student so far, I passed though I really didn’t understand what menstruation meant? In second year of my nursing course, I really knew the physiology and its value throughout life and beyond personal gain which gave me strength and courage to live with proud, proud on my womanhood.
Because I hate Ghaito Puja so I was in offensive mood of it with my mom. Fortunately, I was out of home during Teej means I was in dormitory. Later, I started to educate my mom, sisters, nieces about menstruation, its values and Hindu’s socio-cultural values associated with menstruation. Anyway, I gave up following restriction what my mom, sisters, friends and neighborhood were following regards to it. Later, my mom also started to abolish restrictions gradually. One day, she allowed me to work in Kitchen when I had menstruation during Dashain. Due to having many daughters, my dad really didn’t aware who had menstruation and when, unless first menstruation. He always seeks for cleanliness at person, place and activities.
Without having deep knowledge on gender equality and rights, I had deep but bad feeling on harmful practices specially on menstruation. Because I saw that on my many girl classmates, they were stigmatized when they were absent at class for more than week due to first menstruation or leaking blood at their school dress. The first menstruation has to hide for few days to month. Thus, it was easily identified by friends, teachers, neighbors and all. In this connection, I had chosen title for my thesis for Bachelor of nursing entitled `the menstrual practice among Newari educated and uneducated women in Gokarna village, Kathamndu.’ During my study I didn’t only knew the various practices across the country including Chhaupadi but also very dangerous practices as well e.g. a same piece of cloths was used by three generation of a family. Later, I went to Jumla where my landlord didn’t touch the foundation of house and slept under sky even during winter or snowing due to Chhaupadi practice. My heart shrank and started to work aggressively however still not getting tail and teeth to get rid of such harmful traditional practice.
I have gone through all religions; Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhism. None of the religion talks about restriction during menstrual period. However, few fundamentalists are not like to disclose about period in Budhhism, Christin and Muslim. In terms of Hindu, the holy epic e.g. Veda doesn’t talk about it but Hindu people manipulate the information while time passes. A holy book called Garun Puran (used for death ritual) published by Jaya Nepal 2058 BS, Kachaudi Galli Baranashi, India, says that menstruation is impure blood which is given by god Indra (6/3). Further it says, during that period not allow to see woman’s face. In Nepali society, we have many such values and saying which imposed women and girls to stay in cowshed, many restrictions for touching, entering, eating, acting and so on. However, I never mind with these all irrational saying and practices. Because I believe in science and nature and respect too. Thus, I am doing everything as normal during my period such as going temple, cooking in kitchen, touching with dad and all. In 2005, I went to Muktinath where I knew that women are priest for Hindu temple which helped to more empower. Finally, my younger sister and I continued the death ritual during mourning,death of our mom in 2009. While travelling in Jumla, many friends, families and relatives are following very strict norms in front of me because they considered that their family god will angry and everything would chaos e.g. sickness or loss. At the meantime, I was eating at their kitchen and attaining religious programs and all. It is really funny to me. Because none of the hotel would close which is operate by women, none of temple of goddess closed for seven days, none of working women take 5 days leave during her period. All are moving from east to west, north to south but the problem with us because we are living still under extreme ignorance, chronic deprivation and excessive poverty. In other hand, it is a primary barrier to bring women in 33 % participation where women are suffering from political, cultural, social, economical etc opportunities at family and community level and encountered various forms of physical, mental, psycho social, financial burden and torture including rape, death due to restriction related to menstruation.
At last but not least, I am expecting all women and girls will abandon this unscientific and irrational practice and will try to do best `for living with dignity as human being as men.