At Lord Ayyapa’s Sabarimala temple at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerela, women in their menstruating phase of life (10 to 50 years) are forbidden from entering the temple. The temple has an annual footfall of about 1 million ‘men’. This has always been the case, until recently when a statement by Travancore Devaswom Board President, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, brought national attention which problematized the norm that has existed since forever. He created a buzz by saying, “A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year.”
He also said, “These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.” Perhaps Mr. Prayar thinks that a woman’s uterus is like a weapon. Or maybe it is, every now and then shoots out misogynists like you, who hide under the veil of religion to divide and destroy.
‘Blooming of the flower’ is the metaphor used for denoting menstruation. In terms of simple biology, it is the body’s way of releasing the egg that couldn’t be fertilized, and the female body produces an egg every month. Since nature bestows woman with the capacity of undertaking that role, men cannot restrict women’s mobility or even call them impure for carrying a flowering sac within their flesh. Not to mention the ‘naturally occurring’ pain and discomfort that arises from the pain.
Women from across the country took this opportunity to express their dissent at the various other aspects about female menstruation culture in India. While some women pointed out the blue colored liquid used in sanitary napkin ads as a symbol of the shaming culture, other women resorted to using catchy phrases to highlight the misogyny. The following was particularly interesting to me:
“Khoon tune bahaya to
Khoon maine bahaya to
(Translation: if you shed blood it is strength of your character, and if I do to the same, I am considered impure)
There were also some people who expressed their discontent at the campaign, saying that periods don’t make women happy, rather they are a painful and emotionally tormenting experience that occurs regularly through a woman’s lifetime. Some also claimed that there isn’t enough R &D in the area of women’s menstruation, a harmless solution to the cramps and uncontrollable bleeding.
Nikita Azad, the college student who initiated the campaign, said to BBC that women should have the right to go “wherever they want and whenever they want to.” About the newly appointed temple chief’s comments, Nikita Azad said that such comments reinforce misogyny and strengthen the myths that revolve around women.
Arjun Unnikrishnan, Co-founder of ‘Let’s Talk about Menstruation’ came up with #smashpatriarchy to bring men in solidarity with the #happytobleed campaign and join men’s voices against the taboos around menstruation.
How we see the pure and profane is the manifestation of our own mind, coming out of our own lived experiences. These are abstract concepts, with no fixed markers for compartmentalisation. As citizens of this age of speeding change, we need to question ourselves if we want to be led by the popular narrative or look at a situation critically and resolve it based on subjective evidence.