The Ambubachi Mela Begins: Here’s To Celebrating (?) Menstruation

Posted: June 23, 2017

Each year, in what is called the Ambubachi Mela of Kamakhya Devi Temple, a menstruating vagina is worshipped and a period blood stained cloth is offered as the Prasad. Shocked? Read on to find more about this unique affair.

Mythology says that Lord Shiva dropped 52 parts of his wife Sati’s body, after her death all over India and surrounding countries. The places where these body parts dropped are now called ‘Shakti Peeth’. One of these Shakti Peeths is the Kamakhya Devi temple, situated in Guwahati, Assam, India. These days, millions of people- men, women, religious individuals, tantriks and aghoris- all alike can be found visiting this temple worshipping a woman’s (well, a Goddess’) menstrual period.

Shocked? We Indians, who treat all talk related to periods, vaginas and fertility as a secret affair; our men, many of whom don’t even know why or how periods happen and our women who themselves are always a little more than sneaky when it comes to periods – how can a people with this mentality worship the number one open secret of India, that too, traveling miles and miles for it? Well, faith and religion can do wonders!

It is a belief that Devi Kamakhya’s uterus was dropped at this place. In fact, the pilgrims who come here do not worship any idol, they worship a rock that is in the shape of a vagina. A spring of water constantly keeps flowing from the rock, with apparently no known source.

It is believed that each year, during the monsoon season, the Goddess’s annual menstrual cycle begins and she (the vagina shaped rock) bleeds for four days. Her menstruation is celebrated as the Ambubachi Mela. Worshipers, a majority consisting of tantriks and men/women praying for fertility, visit the temple to get the Goddess’s blessings. Prasad can be in the form of water coming from the spring or a red coloured cloth- symbolic for a cloth stained with period blood. And the otherwise stereotypical mentality happily accepts the fruit of an otherwise tabooed phenomenon.

But here’s the catch. Before we (those of us who stopped giving two hoots about such taboos long ago) start feeling proud of this ancient Indian tradition, we must not forget that behind all the Pooja and celebration also lurks somewhere the thought – that a woman becomes ‘impure’ during menstruation. Yes, all the praying, chanting even the farming activities nearby are stopped because Mother Earth becomes ‘unclean’ for these three days. On the fourth day, her cleansing is celebrated and the pilgrims are allowed inside the temple.

So what does that mean? Celebrating fertility is fine. Worshipping the ‘Yoni’ – the source and giver of life is pious. But actually believing that periods is a natural and NORMAL physiological process for every woman is not right?

Millions of women and young girls in our country face constant discrimination from their own communities and families during the days they are bleeding. Women are told to not mention their periods to outsiders and especially men – with no real, fathomable reason behind such ‘prohibition’. Any prior knowledge about puberty or sex education to our children is a big no-no.

After everything, the Ambubachi Mela will, sadly, be no more than one of those ancient rituals that promise to show that women are stronger than men, yet does not actively contribute to the purification of our minds. After all, that’s why we pray, right? To purify our souls of our sins and wrongdoings?

This year, the Ambubachi Mela will be observed from 22nd June, 2017 to 25th June, 2017.

 

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