By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Ancient Ayurvedic texts have explained in detail about the mode of living, rules, regulations and restrictions a woman should follow during menstruation.
This also points towards the ancient knowledge of menstrual hygiene. It is very important that the woman takes care of herself during the menstrual bleeding i.e. the 3 days of menstruation since there will be a lot of changes taking place in her body and mind.
Restrictions to be followed during menstrual bleeding
Below mentioned are some of the rules and regulations related to diet and life style which needs to be followed by the woman during menstruation period –
Brahmacharini – should observe chastity
Adhah shaayini, darbha samstara shaayini – should sleep on the ground / floor, she should sleep on bed mat of darbha i.e. specific sacred leafy grass spread over the ground in the form of bed, for three days (nights)
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She should eat food kept in unbroken vessels / utensils with her own hands
She should eat meal made up of ghee, shali rice and milk or meal made up of barley and milk, keeping the same directly in her palm or in a clay utensil or leaves.
In order to get her body slightly emaciated and to get her digestive system purified, she should take less quantity of the above mentioned food (havishya, yavaka etc)
She should avoid pungent, hot and salty food substances
She should not undergo treatments like nasya i.e. inhalations, sudation and cleansing treatments like vomiting etc
Kalyana dhyayini – She should think good for three days and maintain pleasantness of mind
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From the day of onset of menstruation itself, the woman should avoid the below mentioned activities –
Divaswapna – sleeping during daytime
Anjana – application of collyrium
Abhyanga – taking massage
Lepana – anointment of pastes
Nakha chedana – paring of nails
Pradhavana – running
Listening to many sorts of sounds
Avalekhana – combing
Exposure to too much breeze
Indulging in too much physical exercises
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On the fourth day –
She should apply cream made of saffron, aloevera, sandalwood, almond.
After applying cream, she should take bath along with head wash
After bath, she should wear white or new garments along with garland of flowers and ornaments etc
After adorning herself with clean dress and ornaments she should enchant pious and religious hymns
Following this she should first of all see her husband clad in white garments
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After getting cleansed and taking bath –
Charaka tells that the couple wearing white clean dress and having worn garlands of flowers, having purity of mind and feel of love and admiration to each other will be fit to have physical union.
Sushruta following the same opinion as that of Charaka tells that after getting cleansed by taking bath and after wearing clean clothes, garland and ornaments the woman should see or meet her husband. Dalhana, commentator of Sushruta further tells that a woman, who has lost old blood and has regained new blood is said to be cleansed i.e. shuddha.
Kashyapa advises that the lady should cover herself inside the bathroom itself. After bath, and after getting neatly dressed, she should enter the place of God with pious feelings and without looking around while going towards the temple. She should then worship the oblation fire with rice and ghee. After looking at Brahmanas, Gods, Vishnu and Skanda etc, she should perform obeisance to them. She should also worship the Sun and Moon. She should not salute evil spirits like preta, pishacha or rakshasas. Following this she should see her husband.
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Why these restrictions?
We cannot give a scientific explanation to all these restrictions mentioned in various Ayurvedic authors. These restrictions probably reflect the social customs of that period and also intent to rest the woman physically and mentally during the menstruation.
Since physical union is advised after menstruation, the restrictions may reflect towards keeping the woman anticipating to conceive during fertile period, physically and mentally healthy and fit.
Consequences due to non-avoidance of restricted acts
It is advised that the woman should have physical union with her husband following menstruation, i.e. after getting purified and having followed all the mentioned restrictions and rituals following menstruation. These restrictions make sense in terms of preparedness for conceiving. These restrictions should be followed otherwise too.
If the woman does not avoid the described acts due to ignorance, negligence, greed or fortune, the doshas get vitiated. These vitiated doshas reach the fetus post-conception and produce the below mentioned abnormalities.
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Following are the restricted acts during menstruation and abnormalities in the child caused due to non avoidance of restricted acts –
Sleeping at day time during menstruation cause to conceive over sleepy child.
Use of collyrium – cause blindness in child
Weeping during menses – cause abnormality of vision in child
Bathing and anointing – child always remains sad
Oil massage during menstruation – cause leprosy and other skin disorder
Paring of nails – Deformity of nails
Fast running – Wanton or fickle
Laughing – Black color of teeth, lips and tongue
Over talking – Garrulous, over talkative
Over hearing – Deafness
Too much combing of hairs – Baldness
Exposure to droughts and exertion – Insane
Scrapping, digging the earth – Falls during walking
Use of nasya – nasal drops nose – Menstrual abnormalities
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Effect of mental status of woman on the fourth day of menstruation on the child
It is said that the woman should take bath, dress well and see her husband on the 4th day of menstruation. It is said that the child develops similar physical and mental virtues of that person whom the woman sees or remembers first, after taking her bath on the fourth day of menstruation. Therefore she is advised not to see anything or anywhere until she sees her husband so that the child to be born after conception develops the features of her father.
Kashyapa tells that the woman should see her husband, son, kith and kin, God, cow, Brahmin, teacher or old persons after taking bath, on the fourth day of menstruation.
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Abstinence during periods:
In the above explanation, the woman is advised to live separately from her husband and other family members during periods. She is advised to take rest and maintain hygiene. After three days, she is advised to take bath, wear garland, perfumes and get back to her normal life with her fellow family members.
If these restrictions are not followed, then her menstrual health and hormonal balance and personal hygiene will be hampered. This may later cause ill health in her and also to the fetus, whenever she conceives.
Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype