Rajodharma (रजोधर्मः)

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Rajodharma (Sanskrit: रजोधर्मः), is the natural biological process of menstruation seen not only in the female species of humans but also primates and a few other mammals. Rajodharma or Rtudharma is that dharma of female physical body to undergo the physiological process of menstruation starting from the time the body attains a particular age until a certain age. The author of The Sabarimala Confusion - Menstruation Across Cultures: A Historical Perspective, Shri. Nithin Sridhar outlined various headings under which the Hindu view of menstruation has been explored, namely menstruation as Asoucha, as a period of austerity, as a self-purifying process, as a period of rest, as a sacred celebration, from yoga perspective, as in Ayurveda, the restrictions and attitudes involved.[1]

परिचयः॥ Introduction

Starting at about the age of twelve years (of a girl) extending up to around fifty years of age, a woman's womb undergoes natural changes resulting in a "bleeding" or menstrual discharge called Artava (आर्तवम्) or Rajasraava (रजस्रावम्) from her womb, roughly every month (on the 27 -28th day of the Lunar month). From the first day of the Rajasraava when Rajodarshana happens (रजोदर्शनम् । sighting of the menstrual discharge) till the sixteenth day, a woman is said to be in Rtukaala (ऋतुकालः). Sixteen days of Rtukala is said to be the fertile or reproductive time of a woman when she can conceive to bear children. According to Bharatiya traditions, of these sixteen days of Rtukala, there are a few days on which certain restrictions are to be followed by women and not following them is said to cause garbha (uterine and related) doshas.[2]

Now this topic is very sensitive given the post-colonial era when in the name of "modernization", "liberalism" and women's rights many ancient traditions are being questioned and debated. Be it a change in the education system of India or due to an increasing number of women choosing/requiring to join the work force, many families consciously have moved away from their age-old traditions. At the other end a few families still chose to adhere strictly to the dharmik practices, usually half-heartedly, either due to family pressure or blind faith. A majority of women still practice the restrictions associated with menstruation based on their personal situations and conveniences. While many question and blindly reject all traditional practices, a very few explore them out of curiosity and even few are those who have understood them and practice wholeheartedly.[1]

The recent Supreme Court ruling about ladies (in the reproductive age) entering the Sabarimala Devasthana in India has brought to the forefront - a serious debate -about very fundamental issues related to faith, modern science, shastras, associated social, health and psychological angles of dharmik activities; needless to state all Indian cultural entities hold firm diverse views not only regarding menstruation in women and associated restrictions but also many other tenets laid out in the Dharmashastras which are associated with Bharatiya Jivana Vidhana.

It is quite important to visit these issues and find reasons in our traditional texts as to why a lady having her menses should not enter a temple (dharmik tenet) or perform puja at home (personal rituals), nor mingle with other family people (social contact). In this article an attempt has been made to put out the traditional perspectives and their textual sources (proper pramanas) but ultimately it is left to the readers to delve deeper and understand the essence behind the practices and decide for themselves what maybe good for them, exclude outdated/corrupted traditions or identify long lost required practices that they can put to use for better lives and society.

पञ्चकोशेन सह संबन्धः ॥ Relation with Panchakoshas

Much of the modern scientific view, which is largely rooted in materialism, perceives an individual as simply a physical body. Even the mind and its functions are perceived as being rooted in the physical organ brain. But, contrary to this, Sanatana Dharma advocates an individual as a being with five layers of individuality or the five sheaths (gross and subtle) that covers his/her innermost Self (Atman). These five sheaths, which are together called as Pancha-Koshas, are: Annamaya Kosha (physical sheath), Pranamaya Kosha (vital sheath), Manomaya Kosha (mental sheath), Vigyanamaya Kosha (sheath of intellect), and Anandamaya Kosha (sheath of bliss). Hence, each Individual is constituted of five bodies- physical, vital, mind, intellect, and bliss. But, in day to day lives, at the Vyavaharika (transactional) level, a person is mostly active at his physical, vital, and mental sheaths. Hence, it is with respect to these three layers of individuality that one must understand the process of menstruation.[1]

In the Annamaya Kosha or physical body, ‘Rajasraava’ represents the flow of menstrual blood, which contains blood, cervical mucus, vaginal secretions, and endometrial tissue that are being thrown out of the physical body.

In the Pranamaya Kosha or vital body, Rajasraava represents the flow of excess Rajasic energy, i.e. Prana Shakti (especially the Apana vayu). Blood is the carrier of Prana-shakti within the physical body. Thus, through the excretion of the blood, excess Prana Shakti, which is Rajasic in nature, is being thrown out of the body during menstruation.

In the Vigyanamaya Kosha or intellectual sheath, Rajas represents thoughts and emotions such as anger, frustration, uneasiness, irritation, mood-swings, etc. to which menstruating women are more exposed to. Therefore, menstruation is a complicated physio-psychological process that exposes a woman to the excess Rajasic condition of the physical, vital, and mental levels.[1]

Keeping these in view, the ancient seers have established important tenets, for woman is Prkriti and the root of creation, and any disturbance in her physical, vital and intellectual bodies affects not just her but her family and society. Bharatiya Ayurvedic texts have discussed this holistic perspective of what a woman endures in the time of menstruation at all the above three mentioned levels.

ऋतुकालः ॥ Rtukala

Before the onset of puberty, a girl at different ages is revered and called by various names.

अष्टवर्षा भवेद्गौरी नववर्षा तु रोहिणी ।। ७.४ ।। दशवर्षा भवेत्कन्या अत ऊर्ध्वं रजस्वला । (Para. Smrt. 7.4-5)[3]

A girl of eight years of age is called Gauri; at the ninth year of age she is called Rohini. A girl of ten is denominated Kanya and thenceforward she is called Rajasvala.[4]

Rtukala starts with the onset of menstruation and the vidhis which are to be or not to be performed are mentioned in Smrtis such as those of Manu and Yajnavalkya, and other authoritative texts for samanya dharmas.

The first four days of Rajodharma are included in Rtukala (sixteen days from the time menstruation starts) and a woman going through these four days is called a Rajasvala (रजस्वला).[2] Manusmrti mentions about Rtukala thus

ऋतुकालाभिगामी स्यात्स्वदारनिरतः सदा । पर्ववर्जं व्रजेच्चैनां तद्व्रतो रतिकाम्यया ॥३.४५॥

ऋतुः स्वाभाविकः स्त्रीणां रात्रयः षोडश स्मृताः । चतुर्भिरितरैः सार्धं अहोभिः सद्विगर्हितैः ॥३.४६॥

तासां आद्याश्चतस्रस्तु निन्दितैकादशी च या । त्रयोदशी च शेषास्तु प्रशस्ता दशरात्रयः ॥३.४७॥ (Manu. Smrt. 3.45-47)[5]

Let (the husband) approach his wife in due season, being constantly satisfied with her (alone); he may also, being intent on pleasing her, approach her with a desire for conjugal union (on any day) excepting the Parva days (Purnima and Amavasya). The natural (fertile) season of a woman generally lasts for sixteen nights (days) inclusive of the four days of the flow (of menstrual discharge) which are censured by the virtuous. Of these days (the sixteen days of Rtukala), the first four days (starting from the day of Rajodarshana), eleventh and thirteenth (so a total of six days) are forbidden by the wise for sexual union and the rest of the days (ten days) are recommended.[6] Yajnavalkya smrti further states about Rtukala

षोडशर्तुर्निशाः स्त्रीणां तस्मिन्युग्मासु संविशेत् । ब्रह्मचर्ये च पर्वाण्याद्याश्चतस्रो विवर्जयेत् ॥ (Yajn. Smrt. 1.49)

He who does not seek union on the six forbidden days and on eight other days (out of the recommended ten days) is equated to a Brahmachari, irrespective of the order he belongs to.

स्नाता रजस्वला या तु चतुर्थेऽहनि शुध्यति ।। ७.१५ ।। प्रथमेऽहनि चण्डाली द्वितीये ब्रह्मघातिनी ।। ७.१८ ।। तृतीये रजकी प्रोक्ता चतुर्थेऽहनि शुध्यति । (Para. Smrt. 7.15,18-19)[3]

A woman regains shuddhi on the fourth day of her flow after purificatory bath. A woman is termed Chandali on the first day (of her menses), a Brahmaghatini on the second day and a Rajaki on the third day of her menstrual flow. She regains her shuddhi on the fourth day.[4]

Both smrti texts clearly mention the time in terms of nights when a woman should be approached by her husband for union and the result of such an association (like male, female, twin children etc). It is said that union on the odd days (except 11th and 13th days) results in girl child if conceived and sons are born out of union on even days.

आयुर्वेददृष्टिकोणम् ॥ Ayurveda Viewpoint

Bharatiya Ayurveda shastra has enlightened us on the aspects related to menstrual flow and important Ayurvedic texts - Charaka and Sushruta samhitas - have discussed this topic with a holistic approach. Ayurveda has always considered not just physical or mental health while assessing a patient; on the contrary it addresses the patient's constitution and the combination of Doshas involved in the physiological manifestations of a human body. Artava or menstrual blood is classified as the eighth dhatu

रसादेव स्त्रिया रक्तं रजःसंज्ञं प्रवर्तते । .... आर्तवं शोणितं त्वाग्नेयम् अग्नीषोमीयत्वाद्गर्भस्य ७ (Sush. Samh. Sutrasthana 14.6-7)[7]

Described as one of the saptadhatus (seven dhatus), blood is different from Artava (आर्तवं) or menstrual blood in that the normal blood is said to be of "soumya" quality whereas Artava blood is said to be "agneya". Thus Artava is classified as eighth dhatu. So men have seven dhatus only whereas women have eight dhatus with the additional dhatu in the form of Artava or menstrual blood.[2]

While menstruation is recognized as a natural physiological process, it divides the monthly cycles into Rtukala, Rtu Vyateeta kala and Rajasraava kala and each of these phases are predominated by a different Dosha.[1]

  • Rtukala - Proliferative phase (12 - 16 days) during which follicles inside the ovaries develop and mature in preparation for ovulation. This phase is dominated by Kapha Dosha.
  • RtuVyateetakala - Secretory Phase (9 - 13 days) during which hormones and nutrients are secreted in anticipation of nourishing the embryo if conception were to take place. This phase is dominated by Pitta Dosha.
  • Rajasraava-kala - Menstrual Phase (3 - 5 days) during which the menstrual blood along with the endometrium is shed from the body. This phase is dominated by Vata Dosha (and Apana Vayu).

रजस्वला इत्याख्यानम् ॥ Name Rajasvala to Menstruating Women

According to a legend narrated in Taittriya Samhita, and later elaborated in many Puranas, Indra once out of his pride insulted Devaguru Brhaspati, because of which he dissociated from them, leaving the Devatas without a preceptor. After consulting with Brahma, devatas decide to instill Tvaastra (also called Vishvarupa and Trishiraska, Trishira), the son of Tvashtra as the Acharya for devatas. His three heads were engaged in three activities Somapana (drinking Soma), Surapana (drinking Sura or liquor) and Anna-aadana (eating food) तस्य त्रीणि शीर्षाण्य् आसन्त् सोमपानꣳ सुरापानम् अन्नादनम् ।[8]

Vishvarupa's father Tvashtra was one of the Dvadasha Adityas but his mother was the sister of Daityas or Asuras, thus she belonged to the Asura clan. Outwardly Trishira supported the devatas but inwardly he was completely loyal to the Asuras. With affection for his maternal uncles, the Daityas, Vishvarupa secretly passed on the Yajna-bhaga (part of yajna offerings) belonging to the devatas to his maternal relatives. As a result the strength of the Daityas increased day after day. When Indra came to know this secret and Vishvarupa's role in it, he cut off the tree heads of Trishiras with his Vajrayudha. The head engaged in Somapana became Kapinjala (कपिञ्जल - a Chataka bird), the one engaged in Surapana became Kalavinka (कलविङ्क - a Cuckoo bird) and the one engaged in Anna-aadana became Tittiri (तित्तिरिः - Patridge sps). Indra came to be affected by the Brahmahatya papa (sin), which he bore until a year and then to purify himself from such malefic effects approached three entities[2]

  • Prthvi (Earth) to accept one third of the Brahmahatya papa. She accepted barrenness (Usarabhumi) as a result but also received a boon from Indra that all the unevenness of earth be removed.
  • Vrksha (Trees) to accept one third of the Brahmahatya papa. They accepted Brahmahatya dosha seen in the form of gum seen in trees. In return they received the boon that upon being cut they will regain that part.
  • Stree (Women) to accept another one third of the Brahmahatya papa. They accepted the dosha of Indra which manifested as Rajasraava for four months in approximately a month. In return they receive a boon to enjoy the company of the males at all times and to beget children after menses which was earlier restricted to the time of Rtukala (sixteen days) only. Because of papa which appears as Rajasraava, she has stained clothes and is called मलवद्वासा or रजस्वला also.

स स्त्रीषꣳसादम् उपासीदद् अस्यै ब्रह्महत्यायै तृतीयम् प्रति गृह्णीतेति ता अब्रुवन् वरं वृणामहा ऋत्वियात् प्रजां विन्दामहै कामम् आ विजनितोः सम् भवामेति तस्माद् ऋत्वियात् स्त्रियः प्रजां विन्दन्ते कामम् आ विजनितोः सम् भवन्ति वारेवृतꣳ ह्य् आसाम् । तृतीयम् ब्रह्महत्यायै प्रत्य् अगृह्णन्त् सा मलवद्वासा अभवत् तस्मान् मलवद्वाससा न सं वदेत । (Tait. Samh. 2.5.1.5)[8]

By distributing his dosha Indra purified himself and similarly woman also is said to attain purity every month after the Rtusnana or purification bath.

According to Sanskarprakasha, the Brahmahatya papa of Indra is distributed in one-fourth parts each, to the above three as well as to Jala (water). The papa is visible as foam, bubbles etc in water which is removed before usage.[2]

रजस्वलानियमाः ॥ Rajasvala Niyamas

Shastras state that a woman before her Rtusnana (the purificatory bath of a woman after four days of menstruation) is called Artavi or Rajasvala. A Rajasvala stree has to been suggested to follow some important restrictions during these days. Many texts such as Angirasa Smriti, Manusmrti, Sushruta Samhita, Kashyapa Samhita and Taittriya Samhita have given important advice to menstruating women.

Taittriya Samhita

मलवद्वाससा न संवदेत न सहाऽऽसीत नास्या अन्नम् अद्याद् ब्रह्महत्यायै ह्य् एषा वर्णम् प्रतिमुच्याऽऽस्ते । अथो खल्व् आहुर् अभ्यञ्जनं वाव स्त्रिया अन्नम् अभ्यञ्जनम् एव न प्रतिगृह्यं कामम् अन्यद् इति । (Tait. Samh. 2.5.1.6)[8]

A malavadvasa (one having stained clothes) or a woman in her menses should not converse, nor live along with other family members, nor should anyone eat the food cooked by her as it amounts to Brahmahatya papa.

Parashara Smrti

कुर्याद्रजो निवृत्तौ तु दैवपित्र्यादि कर्म च । रोगेण यद्रजः स्त्रीणां अन्वहं तु प्रवर्तते ।। ७.१६ ।। (Para. Smrt. 7.16)[3]

She (a rajasvala) is not privileged to undertake any rite whether Daiva (pertaining to devatas) or Pitr (in honour of one's departed ancestors).[4]

Sushruta Samhita

ऋतौ प्रथमदिवसात् प्रभृति ब्रह्मचारिणी दिवास्वप्नाञ्जनाश्रुपात-स्नानानुलेपनाभ्यङ्ग-नखच्छेदन-प्रधावनहसनकथनातिशब्दश्रवणावलेखनानिलायासान् परिहरेत् । ... दर्भसंस्तरशायिनीं करतलशरावपर्णान्यतमभोजिनीं हविष्यं त्र् यहं च भर्तुः संरक्षेत् ततः शुद्धस्नातां चतुर्थेऽहन्यहतवासः (Sush. Samh. Sharirasthanam. 2.24 - 25)[9]

A woman with healthy menses should forego the bed of her husband, lie down on a mattress made of Kusha grass (during the first three days of her menses), should take her food from her own blended palms or from earthern-ware or trays made of leaves. She should not sleep during the day, not shed tears, nor bathe, not do exercises and activities of physical exertion, not anoint her body, do not have oil massage and bath, do not pare her finger nails, refrain from running, not indulge in excessive and loud laughter, should not indulge in conversations or hear loud noise, nor comb her hair or expose herself to wind do fatiguing work at all. She should sustain on Havishya diet and refrain from seeing her husband. After the menses, on the fourth day she should purify herself by sachela snana (ablution with her clothes on) and put on new garments and decorate herself, and then first see her husband.[10]

रजस्वलां प्राप्तवतो नरस्यानियतात्मनः १२१ दृष्ट्यायुस्तेजसां हानिरधर्मश्च ततो भवेत् ।(Sush. Samh. Chikitsastanam. 24.121-122)

Acharya Sushruta further states that the longevity, brilliance along with loss of dharmik standing are the consequences of co-habitation with a woman in her menses.[2]

Vyasa Samhita

रजोदर्शनतो दोषात् सर्वमेव परित्यजेत् । सर्वैरलक्षिता शीघ्रं लज्जितान्तर्गृहे वसेत्।।

एकाम्बरावृता दीना स्नानालङ्कारवर्जिता । मौनिन्यधोमुखी चक्षुःपाणिपद्भिरचञ्चला।। (Vyas. Samh. 2.36-37)[2]

A woman having noticed the onset of her menses should immediately renounce all the duties as she gets the rajodosha which gets transmitted by cooking food for the other members of the family. Bashfully she should withdraw from all others and restrict herself to the inner chambers and avoid interacting with friends and relatives. Clad in a single lengthy cloth, she should sit silently with her eyes downcast, avoiding all restless movements of her eyes and extremities.[11][2]

Vyasa samhita similar to other texts further prescribes sleeping on the ground covered with grass and eating from earthern-ware etc.

Summary of Niyamas

A list of prescriptions laid down for menstruating women include[2]

  1. दैवपित्र्यादि कर्मनिवृत्तिः - Refrain from performing activities related to fire, devatas and ancestors.
  2. गृहकर्मनिवृत्तिः - Relieved from performing any household chores including cooking food for the family. By performing exerting activities a child afflicted with mental problems (Unmatta) is said to be born.
  3. एकान्तवासः (अस्पृष्या) - Segregation and isolation from rest of the family members without seeing, touching, sitting and sleeping next to other family members especially the husband (this excludes treatment and meeting people for medical necessities).
  4. असम्भाषणम् - Not speaking with other family persons especially husband if married, friends or outsiders for any reason including household activities
  5. अनधिगमनम् (ब्रह्मचर्यपालनम्) - No sexual intercourse during menstruation is an important advice given by many texts. Vedas as well as Ayurvedic texts mention that if a sexual intercourse during menstruation leads to conception, it may result in inter-uterine death or death within few days of birth or some form of deformity of the child. Even if conception is prevented, ayurvedic texts mention that an imbalance of the Doshas will flare up due to sexual intercourse during that time.
  6. Prohibition of Personal Grooming - The principles for such prescriptions by dharmic and ayurvedic texts are two-fold: toning down activities during period of austerity and prevent imbalance of Doshas caused even by activities such as bath etc. The following activities are forbidden.[1][10]
    • दन्तधावन-स्नानत्यागः - brushing the teeth and bathing (child will be of miserable nature)
    • तौलाभ्यंगनम् - Anointment with oil, oil massage and bath (child has skin disorders)
    • अञ्जनधारणम् - Application of Anjana (Collyrium) to the eyes (child becomes visually impaired)
    • नखनिकृन्थनम् - Paring of nails (child having deformed nails)
    • अवलेखनम् - Combing of hair (Baldness in child)
    • पुष्पालङ्कारधारणम् - Wearing of flowers and ornaments
  7. Restrict activities causing negative psychological impact - according to local customs these activities of a prospective mother bring about harmful effects on the child she conceives. At the time of imbalance of her Doshas a woman experiences mood swings, depression etc and the following activities directly impact her psychological state [2]
    • अश्रृपातम् - weeping or shedding of tears (increases depression and sad state in mother and visual disturbances in child)
    • दिवास्वपनम् - sleeping during the day (child becomes over-sleepy)
    • वस्तुछेदनभेदनवर्जनम् - breaking and tearing of things
    • पर्णपात्रात् जलपानं निषेधः - drinking water from vessels shaped out of leaves (usage of such items is common in rituals)
    • लधुपात्रात् जलपानं निषेधः - drinking anything from small vessels (child will be short statured)
    • रज्जुसृजनम् - binding/making of ropes
    • प्रधावनहसनकथना - running (child will be very reckless and indecisive), laughing (child will have discoloured teeth, yellowish lips) and excessive conversations (talkative child)
    • Listening to loud sounds/conversations - makes the child deaf.
    • Exposure to winds - makes the child mentally ill.
  8. Promote activities causing positive psychological impact -
    • Eating light and easily digestible food restriction of eating meat is also given as it disturbs the doshas in the body.
    • भूमिशयनम् - Sleeping on the floor
    • पुण्यश्लोकस्मरणम् - remember shlokas (mental recitation)
    • पुण्यग्रन्थोल्लिखित दयावीर-दानवीर-क्षमावीर-धर्मवीराणां स्मरणम् - remember and meditate on the stories of great personalities as well as pativratas such as Savitri and others.

From the above discussion, we can very well note the importance of activities of a woman during her rtusravata time and the effect on the child she conceives. The underlying concept here is that she be given rest, and be undisturbed so that she does not get stressed due to any reason. This is the time when she is totally aware of her femininity and it is the time of solitude and mentally engages herself in a tapas or penance. Elderly people reflect that during this time her fragile mental status is ready to take impressions and hence she should be reminded of positive things both in thoughts and in actions. For example, a broken utensil is symbolic of miscarriage, small vessels of short stature (of a child), breaking and tearing of things as well as binding a rope is symbolic of stress and unpleasantness. A woman is also told not to draw on the ground (making pictures) during this time because she is very susceptible to mental impressions. It is for this reason that while she is in seclusion she constantly reflects on the good qualities of her husband, her personal time with him and bears that imprint strongly in her mind. This positive frame of mind brings about not only good marital relationship but also the transmission of good qualities to the child from the husband. She is asked to reminisce about great personalities such as Rama and Krishna so that the child she bears gets those qualities.

Exceptions

A vaidya is not restricted to reach out to a rajasvala in case of ill-health and does not get Asoucha in case she has to touch her to evaluate her. A woman suffering from any kind of uterine hemorrhage is not required to practice Asoucha niyamas, as in this case the menstrual discharge is due to a disease and not the outcome of a normal physiological function.[4]

Dharmik Perspectives

Even to this day, the tradition of celebrating a girl's onset of puberty is practiced in many households across India observing many local customs, as a woman's reproductive phase is highly revered in dharmashastras. Stree is sacred and represents Adi Shakti, or Mahalakshmi or Supreme Deity (Feminine). She is the Prakrti which creates and sustains life on earth. Though in present days, this process is attached with many taboos and "looking down on women" or "discrimination". Many consider it as discrimination to restrict activity of women, however, according to dharmik perspective it is viewed as a period of rest for them from doing tough household chores.

Bharatiya texts abound with many instances where the mother's mental status has a clear bearing on the child's psychological nature. The legend of Varuthini and Pravara (वरूथिनी प्रवराश्च) given in Markandeya Purana testifies to the fact that the impressions of person (husband) in the mind of woman (wife) during conception are crucial in determining the personality of the child born out of that union. Mahabharata presents yet another example of Ambica who at the time of conjugal union with Vyasa closed her eyes, with dislike towards his form, due to which Dhritarashtra was born blind having a selfish nature. Ambalika went pale disliking Vyasa's approach to her, thus her son Pandu Raja (the father of Pandavas) was born pale with sickly disposition. However, when the Ambalika sent a maid to her in her place, the maid having great reverence and understanding the reason behind Niyoga (is a process when a brother of the deceased person is allowed to mate with his widowed wife to continue the lineage) accepts union with Vyasa and her son is Vidhura, who is known for his wisdom and Dharma. Thus preserving the chaste, pious character rests on the woman's mental and physical health to maintain which these niyamas or restrictions are given by our ancient seers. It has to be stressed that this dharmik holistic understanding of woman and child welfare has been advocated, emphasised and revered in no other country in the world.

During Ambubachi festival in Kamakhya temple in Assam, the temple is closed for three days to give rest to the Goddess, who is believed to be menstruating during that time. Similarly, during the Tulu festival called Keddasa in Karnataka, mother earth is believed to have begun her earthly menstrual cycle and is given a rest for three days. This is also practiced during Raja Parva (menstruation festival) in Odisha, where farmers don’t plough the land and give rest to Goddess earth.[1]

Ceremonies in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are carried out in much fanfare when a girl "comes of age", while in northern states the process is similar without much fanfare. The girl is given purificatory bath with turmeric and adorned with sumangali items such as ornaments, bangles etc along with gifts and draped in silk half sarees for the first time. Special foods such as balls made of jaggery and sesame (this is believed to help improve the menstrual flow) are distributed among the friends and family who visit her and bless her. She is introduced to the knowledge of her being the bearer of the next generation, along with sacred thoughts about her future husband and grhastaashrama. Along with the information about her menstrual symptoms she is educated about the reasons to follow the niyamas beneficial to her as well as the future children.

Nithin Sridhar rightly points out the lack of dharmik awareness regarding menstruation in women thus: It is a different issue that on the ground, many of these practices have today picked up a highly negative connotation, largely due to the fact that they have been reduced to blind mechanical restrictions that ignorant and ill-informed parents are imparting to their young children by packaging them as ‘forbidden practices/superstitions’. This may also be the result of “modernization” and “convent education” that takes on Christian ideas of taboo (subjects and impurity.) But, if we were to consider the essence of the traditions and the knowledge preserved in them on their own standing, it will become clear that the Hindu ceremonies associated with the onset of menstruation perceives menstruation and menstruating women in a highly positive manner. It associates menstruation with womanhood and a woman’s ability to give birth to life.[1]

Discussion

The ayurvedic texts conclude that the paricharya prescribed for menstruating women will assist in the natural cleansing process and will restore health to menstruating women who face many symptoms from simple pimples to severe debilitating abdominal and lower backpain. The prescriptions aid by preventing any imbalance in the Doshas and nourish the Agni which is in a weakened state (Agnimandya) resulting in loss of appetite. Thus the diet prescribed is also simple and aids in rekindling the digestive fire. Doshas in ayurvedic terminology indicates the bodily attributes and it must be noted that the term does not imply "fault" of a woman.

Restriction of other activities such as not sleeping during the day, not participating in strenuous exercises even household activities assist in fast healing of the delicate organs of a woman's body. These prescriptions primarily protect the woman who is the future mother, as her health effects the children born to her. It does not mean that each and every woman who does not follow the paricharya will end up having children who are afflicted with deafness, laziness or mental disorders. The gist is that the children born to such women are more suceptible to developing such conditions because of their exposure to the vitated doshas, while they were in their mother's womb.[1]

The usefulness of the mode of life prescribed by the Ayurvedic Rajaswala Paricharya in protecting the health of the menstruating women and in ensuring that they undergo normal menstruation, without any pain and other unpleasant symptoms, has been scientifically established by at least one study conducted by Dr. Pallavi Pai, Dr. Sarita Bhutada, and Dr. Prasad Pandkar. Their study titled: ‘Rajaswala Paricharya: Effect on Menstrual Cycle and Its Associated Symptoms’ was published in IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences in February 2015 (Volume 14, Issue 2 Ver. II).[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Nithin, Sridhar. (2019) The Sabarimala Confusion: Menstruation Across Cultures: A Historical Perspective. New Delhi: Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Sanskarprakash by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. (Pages 493-509)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Parasara Smrti (Adhyaya 7)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Dutt, Manmath Nath, (1979) The Dharam Shastra, Hindu Religious Codes (Vyasa, Parasara Samhita and others), Volume 3, English Translation and Text. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications (Page 569-570)
  5. Manusmrti (Adhyaya 3)
  6. Dutt, Manmath Nath, (1979) The Dharam Shastra, Hindu Religious Codes (Manusmriti and others), Volume 5, English Translation and Text. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications (Pages 89-90)
  7. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthana)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Taittriya Samhita (Kanda 2 Prapathaka 5)
  9. Sushruta Samhita (Sharirasthanam)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kaviraj Kunjalal Bhishagratna (1911) The English Translation of The Sushruta Samhita, Volume 2. Calcutta: Bharat Mihir Press. (Pages 126-127)
  11. Dutt, Manmath Nath, (1979) The Dharam Shastra, Hindu Religious Codes (Vyasa, Parasara Samhita and others), Volume 3, English Translation and Text. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications (Page 512)