Menstruation superstitions in India: The Greatest Irony

By: Shyamli Thakur

Menstruation superstitions in India

Menstruation is one of the greatest paradoxes that is existing in the world. Even with the incessant global rise in education menstruation taboos are still widespread in the society as it was centuries back. And India is no exception to this!

India is home to several unbelievable superstitions that revolve around the hormonal cycle. While bleeding is evidence of womanhood and fertility, it’s considered a source of shame and inconvenience by many Indians.

To give you an insight into ridiculous superstitions that are prevailing in the society, we’ve master-crafted a list illogical menstrual old-wives’ tales.

No entry to the kitchen

Indian kitchen superstitions

The most rampant superstition in India will leave you startled and make you question the existence of logic and reasoning. In many parts of India, one long-standing legend states that women ought not to cook when they are menstruating.

You might think men are being generous and giving women much-deserved rest from doing household chores. Only if that was the case!

In reality, the natives blindly believe in the baseless notion, if a menstruating woman touches food it will get contaminated. There is no sound scientific research to back this perception.

However, even educated people adhere to this superstition without trying to get a justifiable explanation.  Therefore to prevent food from getting spoilt menstruating women are restricted from entering the kitchen during their monthly cycle.

Don’t be surprised to know that this is not just the case in rural areas but also urban regions.

Menstrual seclusion

Hygiene is quite crucial when it comes to menstruation for the prevention of any infection. Women ought to be quite careful about changing sanitary pads within a gap of certain hours. 

This fact, however, does not lead to the assumption that menstruating women are dirty, impure and untouchable. In India, women are looked down upon by society when they are already bearing the excruciating pain of cramps.

The origin of this insanely unbelievable notion must have taken birth with a reference to Hinduism. According to Hinduism any excretion from the body is believed to be unclean and unchaste.

The presence of this groundless superstition has resulted in a ruthless tradition which the natives of rural areas follow religiously.

The custom states that women and girls are obliged to leave their houses during their monthly cycle. They’ve to take refuge in an animal shed or a hut outside their houses where safety becomes the prime concern.

No plant watering week

Indian plant superstition

India is the country where women are responsible for carrying out household chores from dawn till dusk. And men are supposed to shoulder the obligations that require them to go out and work. However, during menstruation women are barred from doing several tasks due to the existence of unfounded myths.

One of the common superstitions is, menstruating females are strictly prohibited from watering the plants. The natives have a firm belief in the notion that the plant starts to wither and eventually die.

Like any other superstition, this one is not at all supported by rational reasoning, but people continue to follow it.

Dragged on superstition

Hair washing superstition India

Another longstanding superstition in India never fails to astound anyone hearing it for the first time. This belief has been passed on from one generation to another that it’s deeply rooted in society.

While natives emphasize on hygiene, the old-wives’ tale instructs women not to wash their hair during their period.

Unlike other superstition, this one has sensible reasoning. Indians believe that years back it must have been difficult for women to wash hair in the stream and river.

At present with bathrooms in every house, it should not be a problem at all. However, it is deeply ingrained in the natives’ lifestyle that they feel the need to follow this custom even now.

No hair-wash days

Another bizarre superstition practiced in India comprises with the hygiene of the women. Women in India are instructed to not wash their hair when they are on their periods. 

Two menstrual myths are associated with no hair-wash days. The former one states that washing hair while on periods will decrease the blood flow in the monthly cycle. It’s believed that this can affect women’s fertility later in their life. 

What’s the latter one, you may wonder? The answer: people in rural area firmly believe that if a woman washes her hair while menstruating, water will enter her brain.

It is thought that this can have some ramifications in the future. Therefore, washing hair is off-limit in some rural areas of India.

Stay away from the plants

One of the many unusual superstitions in India that’s associated with menstruation is outright nonsensical. The natives believe that if a woman during her period touches a plant, the plant will wither and eventually die. This long-established belief holds no credence but people still follow it in rural areas.

Indians are very particular in adhering to this myth when it comes to Basil plant. In Hinduism, it is considered a holy plant probably due to its medicinal benefits.

But the orthodox natives and even educated ones believe that plant will die if touched by menstruating females.

In rural areas, people are very vigilant about not letting the shadow of menstruating woman fall on the holy plant.

No Temple Entry

Indian tempel

Speculated to be the most prevalent legend in India, menstruating women are strictly prohibited from setting foot inside the temple.

Although it’s a common knowledge that period is a healthy biological process, natives consider it impure and unclean. It’s long been believed that if women enter the temple, then she’ll have to face the wrath of God.

It’s a puzzle why the sign of a mature woman capable of the reproduction will anger the deities. We may never know why.

But one thing we can be certain of is entering the holy premise while menstruating won’t be entertained by the natives.

Going through a normal bodily function in India isn’t a piece of cake. You have to be aware of what you do so you don’t offend the people of India.

Perfect time to make an offering

Another irrational belief that stops women from entering the holy areas will make the fairer sex feel completely super-powerful.

It’s a common knowledge that bleeding women are thought to be impure and unclean. For this reason, they are not allowed to enter any temple or shrine room. However the other superstition states otherwise.

What is it, you may wonder? The answer: in some parts of India menstruating women are thought to be extremely powerful. The intensity of the power is so high; the natives believe women can drown the offerings made to God by others in the temple.

It can be inferred that an offering made to God by women during their monthly cycle will be accepted straight away. This is one omnipresent myth that is followed by the majority of the citizens in India.

Magic menstrual blood

Unlike most of the menstrual superstitions, this one doesn’t discriminate women as being impure. While this myth portrays women to be mysteriously powerful, without science to back it up it’s just implausible.

Every human being indeed starts to originate from menstrual blood. Due to the power of blood to give life, it is considered tremendously potent. Hence it is known as ‘life-giving blood’.

For being spirituous, in ancient times menstrual blood was devotedly used in numerous religious rituals. People had interminable faith in the power of the blood that they’d use it to curate exclusive magic potions.  

Although it gives high regards to women, this superstition like many others is unscientific.

Separate vessels

You will not be able to digest this far-reaching menstrual superstition that many Indian household follows. It is a wonder even after knowing that bleeding is merely a natural cycle, people still call menstruating women dirty.

What’s the myth, you may wonder? The answer: some small-minded bigots take it a step further and treat women next to stray animals.

You will notice that there are separate utensils for females to use when they bleed each month. And these specific utensils are not used by any other family member. This is so deeply rooted in the society that even the literate ones stick to it. 

Mystical power

Pickles superstition India

Indians seem to be a great fan of inexplicable sci-fi concepts even before Hollywood directed high-tech movies. One of the many archaic menstrual customs in India asserts that women in her monthly cycle have supernatural power.

In fact, superman seems to be powerless in front of menstruating women in India.

Curious, are you? One-touch and they have a mystical ability to rot pickle. Although it sounds ridiculous it’s not uncommon to hear ‘Don’t touch pickles during your periods.’ when in India. Also, women avoiding pickle jar because of this longstanding belief is not at all extraordinary.

One-touch to make you sick

This superstition will definitely make you laugh so hard that you will start crying. However, it would be a dream come true for many women out there.

The natives are of the opinion that a menstruating woman should not touch any man. It is widely believed that if it happens, even unintentionally, the man will fall sick.

The natives have the viewpoint that women radiate negative energy when they are on their periods. And this energy is strong enough to make a man sick. 

It’s quite surprising that many females avoid any sort of interaction with men during their periods. What’s even more surprising is, approximately 20% of females believe that they shouldn’t talk to men during their hormonal cycle.

Determinant of virginity

Menstruation in India is one of the most tenacious biological taboos that’s off-limit for discussion. The natives even the females admit to not being comfortable for public discussion about their hormonal cycle.

Another topic that’s not openly talked about is virginity. And there is a superstition that connects these topics that dare not be spoken in public.

The superstition states that virgin should not use tampons when they are on their periods. Majority of the citizens in India advocate that using tampons means the girl isn’t a virgin anymore. Unfortunately, even the highly-educated individuals tend to support this notion.

Birth of a devil

While every individual is aware that menstruation makes a woman capable of bearing children, menstrual-shaming is quite common in India.

Instead of taking it a bodily function to cleanse itself, natives have given birth to some insane superstition. One unbelievable myth that people in rural areas still follow is the birth of the devil.

The natives believe that if a child is conceived during the hormonal cycle, he’d be possessed by the devil. Also, if he isn’t possessed by an evil spirit then he’d either be deformed or red-haired.

The fear of giving birth to an abnormal child kept the couples from getting intimate during the menstrual cycle. Although this myth holds no sound scientific support, natives continue to follow this old-wives’ tale.

An easy target

India is the country that proudly believes in the existence of good spirits and bad spirits. The latter ones are notorious for inflicting pain on others and giving people a tough time. 

Therefore it should not surprise you that natives are deep believers of black magic and the evil eye. The association with maleficent force is one of the reasons why Indian women have been shamed and sequestered for bleeding.

The menstrual superstition that people follow asserts that women are an easy target of black magic when they are bleeding.

To protect themselves from evil forces, in some parts of India women bury their cloths used during menstruation. Although this one is getting eliminated from urban society, people religiously follow it in the rural areas.

These superstitions are evidence to the fact that menstruation is the long-standing stigmatization in India that limits girls and women from continuing their schedule conveniently.

By: Shyamli Thakur – Also by Shyamli Thakur – Superstitions in India

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