Worshipping while Menstruating- Why not?

WHY EVER NOT?

Its amazing to realize how, sometimes, your beliefs can rule your life. Even when those beliefs border on the lines of superstition, you still allow them to take over you. I’m not talking about person A, B or C. I’m talking about myself. I’m frustrated to think that I’m allowing my religious beliefs to clash with my superstitions because of which my decisions are being influenced.

I had a long and fierce discussion with R & my mother about the same. While I voiced my inhibitions, they were constantly urging me to shed them and go by what my belief and faith ask of me and not what some ridiculous ideologies/ superstitions want me to do.

I’ve been wanting to initiate Namnam to music for a while. And since she had been showing an inclination towards it lately, I thought I’ll introduce her to the world of music this year on Vijayadashami.

Vijayadashami is considered to be an auspicious occasion to start formal education of any kind. On Ashthami, the eighth day of Navarathri, children keep their books, musical instruments, etc. for pooja, which are taken back and used after pooja on Vijayadashami, the tenth day.

Now there is a slight glitch here, which is making me withdraw my plans, much against my wish. And that is the clashing of Vijayadashami with my menstrual cycle.

According to Hinduism, the religion I follow(sometimes blindly, I wonder), a woman is not allowed to take part in any kind of religious ceremonies for the first four days of her menstrual cycle. She cant go to temple, do poojas, eat prasadams or offerings from temples, churches, or mosques. Partake in festivals. She cant enter the kitchen. In a nutshell, she is ostracized. So much so that she is made to feel like a sinner if she goes against such beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.

This has been going on for ages, for generations. Those 4-5 days women are considered ‘impure’ or ‘polluted’. Its so disturbing to even write about it.

In some parts of our country women are confined to a shed/hut and allowed to eat dry foods, salt and rice as though they are being punished for some crime. Preposterous!

And this is where I’m frustrated. I know how ridiculous it sounds to me, and yet I’ve been following it blindly for as long as I can remember. Why? Because all my life the reasoning that my religion presented to me was that God doesnt approve of women worshipping Him during their menstrual period. And if I wanted to defy that reasoning, I couldn’t because I didnt want to invite God’s wrath.

When I hit puberty, I remember very vividly how disturbed I was , when I was told that I’ll not be taken to the temple or allowed to light a diya. I could very clearly see the agony, the pain in my mother’s eyes as she forbade me. I was so shaken up that I had cried into my pillow that night- something even my parents dont know about till today.

I remember an incident when we had gone to Kerala on one of our summer vacations. The entire family had planned a temple visit and as my luck would have it I got my period. My Ma, the rebel that she is, decided to stay mum about it and take me to the temple, come what may. Of course I was asked to keep mum about it too. But one of the aunts overheard us and word got around just when we were about to reach the temple. Oh dear, the accusing glances that my mother & I had to endure!! As though the whole town had got polluted! I could sense how helpless my mother felt at that moment. As expected I was not allowed to go the temple :(. I’ll never forget this incident as it brought forth the regressive and backward line of thinking of my society.

Thats how it is isnt it?? We steer clear of questioning any illogical reasoning for the sheer fear of being shunned by the society. So we bind ourselves to the ridiculous customs and let our lives be taken over by them.

I’ve wondered all my life why does a woman have to be ostracized for something that is one of the most natural and important functions. Ok agreed, in olden days it would have been hygienic. But today, we have sanitary pads, we have other clean ways of handling the situation. Then why this need to seclude women?

If God is the one who created us, as is preached universally, then He would surely have thought about this particular function well enough to understand it to be an important aspect of a woman’s body and NOT something to be shunned , right? If He were to disapprove of us women worshipping Him, then why would he give us this function in the first place, while creating us? If we have faith in God, then cant we believe that He will be reasonable enough to understand us?

What I’m trying to say is that such beliefs are nothing but brought about by some religious fanatics to propel their ridiculous ideologies. And sadly such beliefs are still being practiced by fools like me.

Today, I feel overwhelmed as a mother, when I think about the situation when in a few years Namnam will reach her puberty. What do I do then? What do I tell her then? Can I tell her that worshipping God can never be wrong, in whatever circumstances one is in? Can I tell her that so long as she and her God know she is ‘pure’ and her devotion is pious, no society can forbid her or decide for her when she should worship or why she should or should not worship? I hope to God I can. I hope to God I do.

After a constructive discussion with R & my Ma, I’m seriously driven to defy these very illogical beliefs and go ahead with full faith in my God and initiate Namnam to music.

Maybe I should. Maybe I will, if I want to raise my child in a prejudice-free environment.

***********

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s wishing one and all a wonderful, joyous and blessed time this festive season. Happy Dussehra to everyone!

Onam aashamsakal!

Tomorrow is Onam.A festival of great significance to Malayalis.A festival that symbolizes fervour &enthusiasm.A festival about dancing,feasting,merry-making.A festival that signifies happiness,prosperity &togetherness.A festival I look forward to celebrating every year.

Onam,like I have mentioned in my earlier post,falls in Chingam,the first month of the Malayalam calendar.More information about the festival is available here
If you have read my earlier mentioned post,you would also have read about the virtual ona sadya that many of us offered to serve you all today.

A sadya comprises of Rice, Sambhar, Erisseri, Kalan, Olan, Aviyal, Thoran, Koottukari, Pachadi, Inji-puli, Pickles, Upperi/chips & Payasam(dessert).And it is particularly lip-smacking when devoured in a banana-leaf! I’m sharing recipes of two dishes here,which I’ll surely be making tomorrow.For the rest of the recipes ,do visit my mother’s page,‘AMBROSIA’.

SAMBHAR

Ingredients:
a)Vegetables(Drumstick,Ladies Finger,Brinjals cleaned&sliced into long pieces) – 1 cup
b)Sambhar Dal(Red Gram Dal) – 1 cup
c)Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
d)Tamarind juice – 3 tablespoons
e)Coriander Powder – 1 tablespoon
f)Grated Coconut – 2 tablespoons
g)Fenugreek seeds -1 teaspoon
h)Asafoetida powder – 1 tea spoon
i)Mustard Seeds – 1/2 tea spoon
j)Whole Red chillies – 3-4 for masala and 2-3 for seasoning
k)Curry Leaves – 2-3 sprigs
l)Salt -2 teaspoons/as per taste
m)Vegetale oil – 1tablespoon for the masala and 2 teaspoon for seasoning

Sambhar made @ Deeps' on Onam(02-09-2009)
Sambhar made @ Deeps' on Onam(02-09-2009)

Method:
1. Wash the dal.
2. Pressure cook it with 3cups of water,turmeric powder & salt,till tender.
3. Boil & cook separately all the vegetables except ladies-finger

4. For masala,
* heat oil in a frying pan.
* splutter fenugreek seeds
* add red chillies&coriander powder
* when turned brown,add grated coconut and fry till the raw smell is replaced by an aroma.
* add asafoetida powder,sauté for a few seconds and turn off the heat.
* once the mix cools down,grind it to a smooth paste.

5. Add the vegetables(including ladies finger) to the dal and bring it to a boil.
6. Add the tamarind juice and stir all the mix together
7. Now add the ground paste and keep boiling for another minute.
8. Turn off the heat.

9. For seasoning
* heat oil in a pan
* splutter mustard seeds
* add red chillies & curry leaves
* saute for a second

10.Season it onto the curry.

The Sambhar is ready to be served!

ERISSERI with Pumpkin

Ingredients:
a)Ripe Pumpkin(cut into cubes) – 1cup
b)Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
c)Grated coconut – 1 cup
d)Cumin seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
e)Chilli powder – 1/2 teaspoon
f)Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
g)Whole red chillies – 3-4
h)Curry leaves – 2-3 sprigs
i)Coconut Oil – 2 tablespoons for the paste and 2teaspoons for seasoning
j)Salt – 2teaspoons/as per taste

Erisseri made @ Deeps' on Onam(02-09-2009)
Erisseri made @ Deeps' on Onam(02-09-2009)

Method:
1. Cook pumpkin after adding just about enough water(the water-level should be at par with the pumpkin),with turmeric powder & salt

2. For the paste
* Heat oil in a pan
* Splutter cumin seeds
*Add grated coconut & chilli powder
* Fry till brown.
* Once the mix cools down,grind it to a smooth paste.

3. Add the paste to the vegetable and boil and mix well.

4. For seasoning
* Heat oil in a pan
* Splutter mustard seeds
* Add red chillies & curry leaves
* Add a few coconut-scrapes
* Saute for a second

5. Season it over the Erisseri and serve!

This is how an authentic Ona-sadya** looks like
Onam Sadya in Vazhayila

Hope you enjoyed the spread(especially you,Hitchy! 🙂 )

And yes,if and when any of you post recipes on the occasion of Ona-sadya,please do let me know so that I can hop by and book a place for my share and drool!

On that note,to all my fellow Malayalis “എന്റെ ഹൃദയം നിറഞ്ഞ ഓണം ആശംസകള്‍”!
And to others,here’s wishing  a very happy & prosperous Onam 🙂

PS: **Image courtesy Google Images

EDITED TO ADD:Thank you once again for the loving wishes and making this day even more special.I’m sorry I’ve not had the time to visit many of you.I intend to make it up by resuming my blog-hopping soon 🙂
We had a wonderful Onam today.I made Erisseri and Sambhar proof of which I’ve uploaded above 😀 ! Namnam & I had the perfect company in our good friends,another mom-daughter duo,J & O to decorate a pookalam.Here are two images of our creation 🙂

Pookalam
Pookalam
Happy Onam :)
Happy Onam 🙂