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The terms menstruation and menses are derived from the Latin mensis (‘month’), which in turn is same linguistic derivation of the Greek word mene (‘moon’) and the roots of the English words month and moon.

Menstruation is a phenomenon unique to girls. However, it has always been surrounded by taboos and myths that exclude women from many aspects of socio-cultural life.

In India, the topic has been a taboo until date. Such taboos about menstruation present in many societies that impact on girls’ and women’s emotional state, mentality and lifestyle and most importantly, health.


The challenge, of addressing the socio-cultural taboos and beliefs in menstruation, is further compounded by the low girls’ knowledge levels and understandings of puberty, menstruation, and reproductive health. Many girls and women are subject to restrictions in their daily lives simply because they are menstruating. Not entering the “puja” room is the major restriction among urban girls whereas, not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among the rural girls during menstruation. Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books.

Let us see the rituals, myths and taboos associated with menstruation or commonly used term period in the different parts of India.

In most of India, the first occurrence of menstruation is celebrated as a positive aspect of a girl’s life. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, girls who experience their menstrual period for the first time are given presents and celebrations to mark the occasion.

In some traditional homes in India, girls and women face restrictive taboos relative to menstruation, such as being denied entry to the kitchen. In areas around the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, the belief is that “menstruation is a disease and not a normal biological process”, and therefore women who are menstruating are not allowed to sleep on beds, enter kitchens, touch male members of their family or eat spicy foods.

Keddaso, is popularly known as the “festival of worshipping Mother Earth” in the Tulu Nadu region of Karnataka. It is believed that on this day, Bhoomi Devi undergoes menstruation and the day is celebrated holistically in Tulu Nadu. This is an important four-day festival celebrated in the closing days of the Tulu month Ponny (Gregorian month of February).

Entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age were legally banned from entering Sabarimala in Kerala between 1991 and 2018. Women of reproductive age were not permitted to worship there; the ban was said to be out of respect to the celibate nature of the deity to whom it is dedicated, Shasta, an underage teenage male.

Assamese and Bengali Hindus adhering to Shaktism celebrate the menstruation of the goddess Kamakhya during the Ambubachi Mela, an annual fertility festival held in June, in Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati. The temple stays closed for three days and then reopens to receive pilgrims and worshippers. Before the temple is closed for Ambubachi, a white cloth is placed over the yoni-shaped stone in which the goddess Kamakhya is worshipped in the temple. At the end of Ambubachi, when the temple is reopened and Ambubachi Mela is held, the assembled devotees are provided with fragments of that cloth, now reddened to signify menstrual blood. This cloth, known as Raktobostro, is considered especially holy by Hindus since it has been stained by the ‘menstrual blood’ of Kamakhya, the Mother of the Universe.


Hinduism’s views on menstruation are diverse. Menstruation is seen as a period of purification, and women may or may not be separated from place of worship or any object pertaining to it, for the length of their period.

In spite of being born to Bhudevi and Varaha, Narakasura (shown here being killed by Krishna) turned out to be evil because he was conceived when his mother was undergoing menstruation.

Menstruation does not lead to women being considered impure in Sikhism, and women’s behavior is not restricted during the time when she is menstruating.

In Jainism, the bleeding that occurs in menstruation is thought to kill micro-organisms in the body, making the female body exhausted, causing cramps, and producing stress. Hence, women are expected to rest and not perform any religious duties for a duration of four days. In this time, the man of the house may take up the duties of the woman.

In some parts of India, mainly in South India and Assam, the first period of a girl is celebrated in a ceremony organised by the girl’s family. She sits dressed in a traditional saree while her relatives shower her with gifts and flowers, rejoicing her entry into womanhood.


Back in the day, this was done to announce to the world that the girl was now officially a woman, and she was eligible to be married. The ceremony would showcase the family’s wealth, and the potential dowry that their daughter would bring into her new home. Nowadays, of course, the purpose of this practice is no more the same, although the ceremony continues.

In several parts of the country, menstruating women are prohibited from entering the kitchen by virtue of being on their period and thus, “impure”. Women are often made to eat alone, and it is ensured that they use separate utensils on ‘those days’.

It gets worse. In many parts of the country, people are extremely particular about prohibiting women from participating in normal life while menstruating. They’re made to avoid sex and sleep separately from other family members. They’re discouraged from washing their hair for the first few days of their period. The reasons given for this by strict elders are vague and varied and range from “you just shouldn’t”, to “it can make your bones brittle”. While in actuality, the belief stems from the problems faced in the ancient times when people had to bathe in streams or communal bathing areas.

This adamance on the impure and holy is even taken to new extremes with women not being allowed to touch the tulsi plant, since it’s considered holy. They say that the shadow of a menstruating woman can in fact, kill a Tulsi plant. You’re just that impure.

Women on their period cannot… touch pickles. Some say that the impure bleeding woman will ruin the pickle with her body heat. Some say that women were discouraged from eating pickles when on their period because it was acidic with lots of salt and vinegar which would give you acidity and cause water retention. One way or the other… this very specific period taboo is particularly silly and irrelevant in the present times.

In some parts of India, some strict dietary restrictions are also followed during menstruation such as sour food like curd, tamarind, and pickles are usually avoided by menstruating girls. It is believed that such foods will disturb or stop the menstrual flow.

In some parts of India, perceptions of Hinduism center on notions of purity and pollution. Bodily excretions are believed to be polluting, as are the bodies when producing them. All women, regardless of their social caste, incur pollution through the bodily processes of menstruation and childbirth. Water is considered to be the most common medium of purification.



A woman on her period is completely normal. Let her eat what she likes, and sleep where she wants. She should be able to buy feminine hygiene products that don’t need to be wrapped in newspaper as to hide the shame of the natural monthly process. Let’s together kill the period taboo. Bleed in peace, women.