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.




My Ideal World

My ideal world would be a world free from religion discrimination. In my world, there will be the religion that people now follow, but without suppression and favoritism. People would be following their prayers, their culture and traditions, but they would also be the part of other religions’ events and practices.

My ideal world would not revise the doctrines from masculinity to femininity; however, it would add the great and historical deeds done by women in a very sophisticated way. The children of my ideal world would equally learn about Virgin Mary, Daughter Fatima and Mother Pattini as they had learned about Jesus, Mohammad and Buddha.

My ideal world would be a world with no gender bias. There would neither be patriarchic nor matriarchic society. Everyone will respect each other’s decision. There will be equal moral standard and independence. Both men and women will be honored for their duties; no matter if it is to nurture a child or to cut the stones.

My ideal world would allow each individual to take his/her personal decision. If a man can marry four wives then the women can also marry four husbands. If a wife jumps on fire after her husband’s death, then a husband also has to jump after the demise of his wife. Also, not only father can chant the rhymes on church but also nuns will have the same ability. Similarly, a woman could be a monk, priest or fakirs. There will be no set of rules to choose those holy people, but just the high level of their knowledge.

My ideal world would be a world where homosexuals will live a life without embarrass or dissatisfaction. The people would have free rights to divorce and marry a widowed. There will a common place to worship and show the devotion towards our almighty. Children and adults will not be assigned as high caste or low caste. Neither will there be enslavement nor boss classification; people will maintain their vocation with their interest and financial condition. Nevertheless, they would have a place where all these professionals and menial workers would come and share their ways of working to understand each other’s hard work.

At last but not the least my ideal world would be a world with no violence. Only peace will be found in each nook and corner of the earth. There would be a smile on each individual face wherever they go or whatever they do. Besides, it would be a world where animals and plants are equated as human beings and their living is valued.

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?