First Menstruation Rituals in My Community and Status of a Woman

                When I was reading the article “Rituals of First Menstruation in Sri Lanka” by Deborah Winslow, I was thinking of the rituals existing in my own community. I never thought before that all of those rituals symbolize a woman’s position in my community. In this blog post I want to share some of these first menstruation rituals from my culture.

            I am from an urban area of Bangladesh. There are lots of first menstruation rituals in my culture. Lots of arrangements are taken when a girl has her first menstruation. In some families, they arrange a milad (religious festival) to pray to Allah for a good future for the girl, and in this day, her grandmother or sister-in-law pierces her ears and nose to make her a complete woman (as they think). All her relatives are invited in this milad. They give her clothing and ornaments. After the festival, the girl is sent to her grandmother’s house where her grandmother teaches her house hold chores. The main purpose of this celebration is to prepare the girl as a perfect housewife because they think that she is now physically mature and able to give birth, so according to the religion Islam, parents should marry her off as soon as possible. They invite their relatives so that they can bring marriage proposals for her. When a girl has her first menstruation, suddenly parents give her a shawl to cover her breasts although her breasts aren’t grown up yet. She is no more allowed to play in the field because she is a fertile woman, and fertile woman are vulnerable to bad spirits who can destroy her fertility and make her unable to give birth forever. Also, she has to bear a piece of iron with her when her monthly period begins because bad spirits fear iron. She is also given food without spicy. Her family gives her food made of using turmeric only; also, they give her to drink milk and honey so that she will have a fair skin color. This belief symbolizes how significant a fair skin color is in a girl’s life to have a good husband.

I can share my own experience here. Although I am not from an uneducated family, and my family didn’t celebrate my first menstruation as I have described above, I had to follow some rituals as well. Before my menstruation, I didn’t wear any shawl to cover my head and breasts. However, on that day of my first menstruation, my mother told me to wear a shawl. I was also given food without spicy and a piece of iron to bear. My aunts started to ridicule me saying, “We have heard that you saw flower. Is it true?” I said, “What kind of flower?” They replied laughing, “Red flower to give fruit.” At that time I didn’t understand anything, but now I know what red flower and fruit symbolizes. It is a common joke people make at the girl who has her first menstruation alluding to her fertility.

Finally, every culture has some rituals that play special significance in people’s lives. These are really interesting to explore to know about the beliefs of our own people.

 

 

 

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