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Shreeya Shakya


Silent Tihar

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.