Recently I visited a hanuman mandir in Chennai with my grand aunt. Since I was exhausted post vacation and had been to three airports in two days I was in no mood to dress ‘traditionally’. So I wore my brick coloured pyjamas, black T-shirt and covered my ‘top’ with a colourful scarf so as to not invite any criticism.
We entered the temple and I enjoyed listening to the history of the place by my grand aunt. We finally find a priest who disapproves of my outfit, as predicted by my grand aunt before we left home. I still insisted on wearing the outfit cause it was comfortable. Turns out my comfort was ‘offensive’. The poor old priest started the sentence by saying, “I know it is personal but this is not an appropriate outfit for the temple.”
Little did he know I was hiding something even more ‘offensive’ inside me. Or rather it was flowing outside of me. Yes, I was on my period.
I have always somehow ended up visiting temples during my period. Initially it was a coincidence. The first one being on a summer camp I went to while I was in school. The campsite had a temple in it which was where the morning prayers were held.
I would be so petrified entering the temple on my period and at the same time I would love breaking the one rule I always hated. Soon I found out there were many other teenage girls like me on their periods attending all the religious activities. Thanks to natural synchronization and the fact that nature does not give a damn about where you are. It does whatever and whenever it has to.
And since then it hasn’t changed. I would have to lie to my grandmother and other family members on some occasions when a temple visit etc is unavoidable.
Maybe my granny is looking at me from up above and either frowning in anger or understanding the joy I have in doing this.
Sabarimalai, a temple run by heavily laden sexism, does not allow women during their adult age or ‘period age’ inside. The sanctum is solely reserved for ‘pure’ men. I have followed a silent resistance, by choice and at times by mere coincidence, since my summer camp incident and visited temples, attended religious ceremonies during my period.
Being an atheist the temple visit has no meaning for me. In fact the act standing in front of an idol and saying prayers seems useless. I’d rather learn sing those songs for the joy of singing and not because my plea will be heard by the God and somehow would magically grant me my wishes.
But the only time any religious event holds meaning for me is when I am on my period. As I bleed through I feel utmost happiness of breaking a small barrier silently. Creating a small shift in the system by telling my body that the flow has no negative connotation to it. Rather it is a very important characteristic provided to us as opposed to the characteristic of a priest chanting endless mantras and asking money at the end of it. So technically they should respect what we go through and not let the religious ones amongst us be shunned from religious spaces on “those days.”
I am confident that I am not the only woman who does this and there are many more like me who do the same.
So here’s to us ladies! Teaching sexism in traditions that no matter what nature will flow through us and some day you will have to respect it. But until then it will flow through me and several other women silently watching you trying to make it a taboo.
*Draws a doodle of a calm uterus on period dancing in a temple and enjoying the silent resistance.* Silent because nobody knows that I have crossed the border and entered the space while I’m on my monthly no fly zone. #liberation #IWishICouldDoodle