Rituals Have Similarities and Differences Independent of Time and Place

      The article “Rituals of First Menstruation in Sri Lanka” written by Deborah Winslow explains the rituals in Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam when girls go through their first menstruation in the 1970s in Sri Lanka. There are some similarities as well as differences in the rituals followed by all three religions of the same country. The ritual which I went through also has similarities and differences with respect to rituals explained in the article.

The ritual I went through was according to Buddhism in Nepal. A girl must go through a ritual before her menstruation starts which is called gufa. It has the same value as the value obtained after a girl passes through a ritual in her first menstruation. She turns into a mature women being liable to getting married and handling household chores. She will have to follow all the rules and regulations of society and do the activities expected by society. I went through the ritual when I was 13 years old. It was winter and my hair was shaved bald. While my hair was being cut, the priest was chanting prayers for my safety and healthy life. After that I wore clothes that were like the clothes worn by monks called cheewar. There were many nuns like me following the same ritual and we all lived together in a house inside a Buddhist monastery. I was isolated only from my family members; however, I was allowed to meet my friends, roam around the monastery, and talk with monks and nuns. Nonetheless, in Sri Lanka the ritual is quite different. When a girl is following the ritual then she is isolated from all her family members; only her younger sister or brother could stay with her. Moreover, she did not have to cut her hair. However, she was not allowed to meet any males and go outside her house.

Special care was taken in her food with the belief that heating foods would attract devils and harm the girl. Foods like plain curries without oil or coconut used to be fed. The system was the same in my religion: I was given plain foods with no oil or variety of ingredients which was done to protect me from devils. Though the countries are different and the time period is different, there are some similarities between the rituals as well as some differences.

Can you share your experience of such kind of ritual?


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