Silent Tihar

Posted by: Shreeya Shakya

I had written the following article about 2 yrs back and am posting it here as the emotions still stand firm even today..

The government prohibiting crackers and deusi after six this Tihar was indeed a welcome gesture amidst the deafening chaos smiting the nation lately. Though deprived of the excitement of firing crackers and playing deusi, Tihar this year was dedicated in remembering all the ‘bhai’s lost in the battle both from ally and rival side, in peace. Though intermittent crackers were heard around the valley, this year Tihar incandescent with diyos and adorned New Road with its aura filled with enchanting incense was a silent affair. Without an exception, my Tihar was also silent. However the cause of silence was not the government prohibition but rather a biological phenomenon considered as a taboo. I was having my monthly menstrual cycle during Tihar and I was deprived of the excitement that Tihar brings to us just once a year.

It is of common occurrence for girls having crossed puberty to check the calendar whenever a puja is nearing. If they are lucky enough, they will be a part of it. But if their ‘date’ is near the vicinity of the puja, they know they will be excluded from it as though they are some impious criminals. Leave alone the involvement in the puja ceremony, custom has it that they are not even allowed sharing the same house! Isn’t this very custom impious in itself? A woman is forbidden from offering her prayers to the All Mighty with a ‘clean soul’ just because she is undergoing a normal biological phenomenon! In addition to this sinful exclusion, these women are incongruously designated as “untouchables”!

As our very own religious books enlighten us in galore about humans being a creation of God, there is a reason why He (or rather She) chose women to menstruate and the reason being continuing the species. Taking excerpts from the religious books again, God is judicious. Would He/She want His/Her own creations to be prohibited from religious ceremonies for a reason which God himself/herself bestowed on them ‘with a purpose’? The answer is definitely negative. Then is it we, the supreme creations misconstruing the All Mighty’s preaching? Isn’t this custom infiltrated with ignominy making women feel inferior and under prejudice?

However this custom of prohibition has been practiced for such a long time that it has deeply been rooted in all of us. I found out how much ground this custom has seized within my psyche in this Tihar. When the mandap in ‘Mha Puja’, was being resurrected to worship the body, I was going through a personal conflict. The God fearing aspect of me or rather the ‘society’-fearing aspect was telling me that I was paying homage to God by not attending the ceremony during my “untouchable” period. On the other, the more educated and conscientious aspect told me it was totally unscientific and I ought to have the right of celebrating the fiesta with much frolic as everybody. Been tattooed as “impure” during my monthly cycle, I had even bathed twice just to shed off the impurity (if there were any) to be a part of the ceremony but in vain. The elders had their own multifarious theories to tell.

Contemplating their theories, they did comply with those ancient times when personal hygiene was of least concern. Had the same ambience been prevailing today, then the custom would’ve been justifiable. But things have changed for better through those ancient times of ignorance to today’s world of education and conscience. Today when we have specialist even to take care of our toenail, save the over all personal hygiene is it rational to be following this unscientific, illogical and ‘unreligious’ custom?

However convincing our elders especially our grandmothers to amend this custom would be a hard deed. Not that they don’t have a reasoning capability but the custom has gripped a firm soil in our psyche and society, since it’s been practiced from time immemorial. So probably this time around next year, I would be praying that my date is nowhere near Tihar so that I am blessed with the pleasure of celebrating it with much zeal. Still even if it does, I would still be content because I know my daughters and granddaughters would not have to be a part of such prejudice.

Silent Tihar was last modified: September 12th, 2013 by Shreeya Shakya

Blog Comments

  1. shreeya

    Dear Tisa,
    I DO have changed and am glad that you have too and the sole purpose of this write up was that we all change. It is nice to know your ‘changed’ scenario and to tell you the fact, it is the same in mine as well. This writeup was meant for the broader perspective. Look around and you will STILL find plenty of such instances of exclusion.
    I am very happy that our daughters are going to have a much better life than our other contemporaries. Reread the last sentence of the article and you will know how much i have changed. Thanks for your wise words.

  2. Tisa

    Dear Shreeya,
    I have two words for you.
    “Change yourself.”
    My mom prohibited the idea of being maharani and not touching the kitchen in her generation and I touch everything and do puja in my generation.Finally,my daughter in future will never experience a mere biological cycle as a taboo.

  3. heretic

    This is a perfect example of what I refer to as “shackles” of religion that a few people invented for their own personal gain, and the rest decided to follow like sheep. As idiotic as the concept of organized religion is, there is one “preferred behavior” in Hinduism that sounds insane to the rational thinker: Do not question why; just follow the books – they’re for your own good.

    As far as society is concerned, pretty soon, our generation will be in the driving seat. It is up to us to make constructive changes so that we are not held up in following outdated idiotic rituals laid down thousands of years ago when we could be doing so much more with our lives. Thinkers, writers and philosophers will play a big role in this.

  4. saWme

    A dreaded thought indeed whenever girls are about to have their periods…thinking of the places they are not allowed to visit and touch..too much of a misconception…and still it prevails… everytime there is a puja or any relegious ceremony taking place, even i check up on calander just to make sure… it was painful to watch my fren, few days ago, when she had her period…on the day her only brother was getting married and she was barred from touching anything related to the wedding…she had cried her heart out…and i could but only watch her… why are we, the creators of life, treated as such??…imagine world without us going through menstrual cycle…it wouldn’t exist at all!! The irony is when it doesnt happen then also we are considered unholy and impure coz then we are not capable of conceiving… so where do we stand?? It sure is hard being a woman in this male society…

  5. sandyair

    consider the time 100 years ago(say). the time when education was
    reserved for the have’s and the privilleged.its was a tale tale
    for the poor let alone the women.
    that time women had to do all sorts of things fetch
    water,firewood,food for the livestock work all day at the farm
    take care of the children take care of all hte house hold stuff and
    at night serve ones husband . it was really hard work .24 -7 .365
    a was the hardest when they had their biological cycle, as
    would put it.
    so they must have wondered how nice would it be to have a break
    now and one of the clever girl thought up this plan
    she with the help of a local priest began spreading the word that
    women were unholy during their periods.the society then was very
    superstitious and with the priest backing up the story it was
    quickly accepted every where this stuff spread every where and
    soon it was practiced all over.this way the women had their break.
    well at a price yes but its was nothing considered to all the other

    i know hyopthetical very hypothetical but hey makes sense don’t it
    a quick tip, if any of your daughters get’s rebellious then its a
    story to tell ya.

  6. dovan

    Such bahanas that people lay forward to defend some lousy traditions are nonsense.

    We donot die working in our cycle days but our dignity and our integrity are murdered.

    Such ridiculous custom not only disgrace female but the magnificience and meaning of god itself.

    Have u noticed that all these religions are meant just for men.

    The way they promise of ‘parees’ and ‘apsaraas’ to entice men for good deeds.
    But where are ‘pares’ and ‘apsares’ for women?? ;)

    it seems we are never addressed..

  7. Keshav

    Good blow Shreeya keep it up!

    Name of religion and spirituality people impose all kinds of nonsense to our mind down the ages. I agree with Daulat. Awareness can help us to go beyond all kind of idiotic conditioning.

    One more thing I don’t agree with Shreeya’s friend. It’s just an excuse of the root problem. I only say be aware of all good dowers. Her friend logic is just like fundamentalist Muslim kills people to help them go haven!

  8. Daulat

    Well written, Shreeya, and courageous. You’re a Manjushree Thapa in the making.

    While what you have focused on is cultural taboos, which is going to be a long battle to fight, probably over generations, there are some immidiate changes we can make.

    All such taboos are enshrined in Manu Smriti, a book of hindu legal code supposedly written by Manu, the Adam of Hinduism. Our present law in Nepal is based on it. For one, our laws should be based on reason rather than a twisted scripture. It should be gender blind (two present inequities include citizenship laws and property rights).Two, we should scrap Nepal being a Hindu nation. If changes are made on a structural level, hopefully it will follow on a cultural level too. For that, we will also need education and awareness.

  9. Shreeya

    One of my guy frens had told me his point of view when he had read this write-up ..Quoting him ‘Since women work hard 24/7…to give them a much needed rest every month, may be we developed this custom so that at least for 7 days, women can sit back and relax’..

  10. dovan

    A girl’s silent agonies …very well written.

    Hinduism despite it’s vast ocean of spirituality has always been manipulated to suppress the women and poor ones(in the name of cast).

    I am so surprised why such ridiculous traditions are still alive.

    Nature has it’s way through evolution but from the birth of ‘chetana’ ,’human mind’ we have to move forward through revolution.

    So why are we still waiting for time to change us slowly and gradually…
    once we know right and wrong,
    rational and ridiculous,
    why can’t we just opt for good and healthy and rational.
    Why do we cling to such ridiculous ideas in the name of culture and tradition?
    Isn’t it the responsibility of young and sensible Hindus to revise their religion ?
    Isn’t it too late??

    “sansar badalnu cha suru aafaibata garnu cha”

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