Menstrual Cycle And Religion
Great significance is attached to the menstrual cycle of women in Swaminarayan Dispensation. Since the days of menstruation, are the days of unusual physiological activities and chemical changes in the female body, they are sure to have somatopsychological impact of unusual nature. The whole process is closely associated with the destruction and elimination of the creative potential principle, associated with potential pregnancy.
The idea of the loss of blood in any form is closely connected with our fear of weakness and death. That is why consciously or unconsciously, the women feel a sense of sickness and depression and some, unknown fear. Nature has provided a peculiar odour to this menstrual blood. This odour is repulsive to all. That is why, by nature the women in menstrual cycle prefer to remain aloof.
As this blood is likely to carry microbes, the women are considered to be sick and the food cooked by such a woman is considered to be unacceptable. Even Africans believed that food cooked by such a woman would make them sick. Some medical experts believe that the menstrual period adversely affects the job-performance. Mythologically the menstrual blood was looked upon as a sin. So the women of Naskapi tribe in Canada conceited their faces with skin-veil and they slept on deer-hyde.
Just before the onset of the ejection of menstrual blood, the woman becomes more emotional and unpredictable. She also becomes slightly depressed. There are bouts of anger. At times, they weep for no apparent cause. They get strange food cravings. All this is said to be the result of chemical changes occurring in their bodies.
Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan ordains in Shikshapatri: "All female followers, married (including virgins) and widows should never conceal the fact of menstruation." - (Shikshapatri verse - 173).
The direction was given to provide a prophylactic effect against the spread of diseases by menstrual blood. Women in various jobs have to touch men at times. This may be inevitable in few cases. However, in most cases women can carry on normally without touching any man or woman for 3 to 4 days without great difficulty or inconvenience. Modern science sees through experiments but spiritually enlightened persons have found out certain truths through intuition. This may be taken as hypothesis for modern medical science to find out truth behind them through experimentation and critical studies.
Shree Hari further directs: "And when they come into menses they shall not touch any person or other clothes for 3 days but on the 4th day, after taking bath, they may do so." - (Shikshapatri verse - 174).
There is deep meaning behind this verse. Women in those days were considered to be an instrument to fulfil all services towards the family and to give birth to children and to bring them up. For the woman, maximum hours of a day are taken-up for the duties towards the family. When the woman is having her period, for those 4 to 5 days she has a very piteous and destructive attitude. She does not know what to do with the energy which vibrates and haunts the innermost core of her being.
To make this destructive energy constructive, the woman has to become more alert and aware, so that she can rise a little higher than her biology. If she does not follow this, she is in the grip of this destructive phase.
People generally deal with woman in these days as if she is a washerwoman of the house. They take maximum work from her in such critical period, which is totally unfair. She is a kind of patient, so she deserves sympathy. Women are prohibited to touch person or clothes because they must be free at least these 3 to 4 days of stress. In such time they cannot perform rituals but they must do recitation and meditation. This will induce a harmony with their biological imbalance. They will also be free from the clutch of the above said destructive and depressive phase of the peculiar 3 to 4 days.
"No woman shall bathe without having clothes on and shall never conceal her periodical menses". (Shlok 173) "No woman shall touch anybody or any clothes, etc. for three days during the period of menses, but can do so on the fourth day after taking a bath". (Shlok 174)
In human females, the onset of the first menstrual cycle is called menarche and represents the start of puberty and becoming a woman. This takes place around the age of 11-13 years, although the age varies between the individuals. The menstrual cycle, which lasts between 25 and 35 days, continues until menopause (between the ages of 45 and 55). The start of the cycle commences with the discharge of blood - known as menstruation, and this event is easily identified. This flow of blood, which lasts about 5 days, is due to the lining of the uterus wall being shed along with a little blood.
Even though we follow the Menstruation Dharma to the best of our abilities, sins are always committed. To be free of these sins, women keep a vrat on Bhadarva sud 5 (Rushi Panchmi). However, if a woman does not follow the masic vrat, then the vrat on Rushi Panchmi cannot wash away the sins. This system was introduced thousands of years ago by great Rishis.