Wednesday, 22 June 2016

FB Discussions - Menstruation and Impurity and Science

In every Indian community, menstruating women keep away from temples. In my village, which is liberal in many many ways, when esoteric treatments are done, 'kavusu, teepu, antu, muttu' are proscribed. When mantrams are said and amulets are tied, the person avoids meat, avoids people who have antu (such as where a death has happenned, and the requisite ceremonies are not over), and women who have their periods.
In youth I raged against all this. Now I wonder if all these ancient customs may not have some element we do not understand. And if to bracket it all as 'patriarchal oppression' may not be unwise and supercilious.

Rajiv Ramnath Speak to an actual scientist once in a while ... and the realization will come that science is society's (only) hope.   Yes it is limited. But over time, science builds greater insights on the insights that have come before. That's how science works ... by building from the bottom up.
  Aparna Krishnan Rajiv Ramnath, could a scientist have the humility to accept that there could be truths outside of science. That mantrams 'could' work. With that scientisr, i would be willing to deal. Not the majority who live in a haze of superstition saying that what is proved in their paradigm in the only truth.
Aparna Krishnan By science if you mean logic, I am with you. That includes for me Ayurveda, Yoga Sutras and Vedanta. Yes, also Newton's Laws, though that intrests me less as for my own personal concerns of the villages it is not very relevent.
Aparna Krishnan For Eashwaramma to learn that every action has an equal and opposite reaction is unnecessary ! And the village farmers are brilliant engineers, handling their plows and motors. Far better than Nagesh who is the only one in the village with an engineering degree - a mechanical engineering degree ! And he would be the first to attest to this. Yes, he know all the Laws of Motion.
 Rajiv Ramnath Science is a process that systematically tries to validate a theory or insight through rigorous observation and experiment. This is as opposed to making an observation and simply asserting it is right.
 Rajiv Ramnath Aparna Krishnan "And the village farmers are brilliant engineers, handling their plows and motors. Far better than Nagesh who is the only one in the village with an engineering degree". Ok, so great! If you are questioning the education Nagesh (and I f...See More
 Rajiv Ramnath Incidentally, learning that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" (especially understanding that these two forces act on DIFFERENT bodies) is essential to understanding how a plow works, no?
 Rajiv Ramnath Re: "could a scientist have the humility to accept that there could be truths outside of science". Absolutely! Newton, Einstein, our friend Raman with the biggest CV of them (:-)) all would accept this. But these scientists also believed that these truths were only outside of science for the present, and science would ultimately be able to answer more and more and more of these unanswered questions over time.
Aparna Krishnan Rajiv Ramnath, I stand by that generalized definition of science. Ayurveda and also mantrams have a rigourous theory, and have been established thro' detailed observations. Mantrams might involve deeper states of the mind, I would not know. But as you say, science accepts possibility of truths beyond science, we will leave that there.
Aparna Krishnan Secondly, modern education institutionalises one method and system of learning, thereby at a stroke invalidating all other. The various sustainable traditional skills of pottery and the ironsmith (which are to a destroyed and plundered earth more important today than a science and technology which has built into its structure only more of createing ways of using an overused nature) cannot be part of this structured school, however mush we change the contant. They belong to a different life and a different way of being and learning. My other problem with modern schooling, apart from the arrogance it builds up for the above reason as seeing it as the one valid system, is that is inculcates individualism at the cost of co-operativism. Maybe that can be changed to some extent in some schools by the framework, but as the overarching tenor is that, we all fall victim to that to varying degrees. I did, badly.  
Aparna Krishnan Finally Rajiv, regarding my 'moral authority' the less sadi the better. Twenties started with clear ethical choices. Two decades have been steps after steps of compromises of various hues. I can list them, but i am sure it would be a huge narcissistic ...  
Aparna Krishnan I have dealt with child after child, and seen most defeated.
Rajiv Ramnath Aparna Krishnan Ok, so now we have something specific to discuss; which is that the educational systems that you have seen in village schools degrade the psyche of the children. YES, I agree and we should fight to change this. BTW, this happens in the ...
Rajiv Ramnath "Ayurveda and also mantrams have a rigorous theory, and have been established thro' detailed observations." I agree that Ayurveda has a rigorous theory, but I disagree that it has been established through detailed observations. I think that theory in Ayurveda has been established through detailed **introspection** - looking mostly inwards rather than outwards.  
Aparna Krishnan The rishis may have written the texts from meditative states - I would not know. Today it is a detailed body of knowlege rich is theory and proven practices. Proven over 1000s of years, and not 100s. There have been many authoritative texts right thro' the middle ages which have built up great rigour.
Rahul Banerjee There is no logic, given our current knowledge about menstruation, behind barring women having periods from doing anything whatsoever. It should be their informed choice. There is in fact a need for open discussion to rid menses of the many taboos surrounding them that affect menstrual hygiene adversely and contribute to serious and persistent gynaecological problems for a large number of women.
Aparna Krishnan Rahul Banerjee, 'given their informed choice' is the crux. If the women choose to stay away, it is not anyone's proselytising mission to convince them they are superstitious 'illiterates'. Yes, it would certianly be 'conditioning', but then what is not...
Aparna Krishnan Rajiv Ramnath regarding schooling, in the here and now we need to work to making it more vernacular based - both language and content. That will necessitate a broader intervention of reservations in public and private sector for children from vernacular
Komakkambedu Himakiran Anugula Our schooling teachers us 4 seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring whereas we live in a climactic zone with 6 seasons. 

What is this knowledge that we talk about? Our schilling merely creates labor for the people above. English educated, then white collared and working closer to the West; Indian language educated then, working for the English educated ones.
Aparna Krishnan Komakkambedu Himakiran Anugula, then Rajiv Ramnath would say 'address the content'. My understanding is that schooling is conceptually flawed as many many learnings belong only to outside that structure. I agree with the utter meaningless of English me...
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy Rahul Banerjee At least for the Sabarimala case there is a valid justification given by the temple authorities, which is to maintain purity of Pamba river where many devotees take a dip. The same might be valid for temples with theppakulams. These issu...
Aparna Krishnan And if the women decide they wish to fight for that 'right' i would stand with them maybe. As they dont, I dont. I certianly do not consider myself wiser or more grounded in any sense than the woman from the village. I think the country would benefit were we to accept in the basic sense and sensibility of the basic indian and work from there.
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy Aparna Krishnan The keyword should be 'believing women', not atheist feminists who would enter the temple just to register protest against so called "culture of patriarchy" and start screaming profanities against Hindu traditions once outside the temple.
Aparna Krishnan Devdutt Patnaik, for all his pop style, comes up with interesting perspectives sometimes. "If you want to project the temple of Ayyappa at Sabarimala in Kerala, and Hinduism as general, as an indicator of communal harmony, you can point to the dargah o...See More

Aparna Krishnan Naveen Manikandan Periasamy there is the disdain of the 'educated indian' towards the 'villager'. And his understanding, alienated from the soil of the land due to his very schooling, has defined the direction this country has taken. If control in many sense returns to the ordinary people, perspectives will become more real and grounded.
Aparna Krishnan And why should the priests even need to come up with modern explanations like Pampa river cleanliness. I think its valid to say that it is a practice, as thats what it probably is.   
Aparna Krishnan Naveen Manikandan Periasamy as I said he pops it up a bit. But basically he is on sound ground here. "Result of attempts to explain, or criticise, pre-modern practices using modern filters like caste, class, religion and gender is always problematic. It fuels outrage, but does not contribute to understanding."
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy The modern feminists lack any rationale and cultural familiarity that village women inherit to criticize the latter and the traditions that they staunchly follow. Perhaps it is this sudden alienation from their roots and the schizophrenia induced due t...
Aparna Krishnan The educated, especially english-educated, indian is alienated deeply. And he has directed the processes of this country. And that imo has been the tragedy.
Gyan Mitra Naveen Manikandan Periasamy Your good self has raised many issues. Let me address them one by one. During menstruation, toxins which are locked up get released. These loose nitrates may cause irritation and anger outbursts. The best place for 'to...
Rahul Banerjee Naveen Manikandan Periasamy the purity of the pamba river would best be maintained by disallowing people from taking a dip in it and instead asking them to bathe in bathrooms and treating the waste water properly!!!
Unlike · Reply · 2 · 19 hrs · Edited
Rahul Banerjee
Rahul Banerjee Well if thousands of people take a dip together in a short space of time it does create problems and if among them a few women having periods also take a dip they don't add significantly to the pollutant load. incidentally nationwide the contribution o...
Aparna Krishnan Back to the basics. If local women also choose not to take a dip, fine. If they feel it is a burning issue and they want to claim their right to a dip irrespective of their cycles, then also fine. In reality the choice is (1), and for me the matter ends there. There are other more immediate battles for the women, starting with liquor !
Rahul Banerjee the lack of menstrual hygiene is a serious problem for many women and therefore there is a need to discuss this openly with women. after that it is their choice how they want to address the issue of menstrual hygiene and related matters.
Aparna Krishnan Its a problem for women, and with disposables flooding markets, and now also village markets, its a concern for all. Certianly need discussing, and the village women are not at all coy about it. My problem is only when educated people try 'saving' them from their 'illiterate beliefs' about 'chooseing to not go to temples for five days a month'. When we agree that its their choice, thats all there is to it.
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy There is no logic in religion and praying to a mountain idol anyway, is there Rahul Banerjee ? Atheists, feminists should keep away from such illogical and patriarchy ridden festivals. Feminists who are hell bent on taking a dip in umstream Pampa during menstruation can feel free do so the very next day of the festivities come to a close.
Gyan Mitra Naveen Manikandan Periasamy When the river has transmutation properties, the sweat becomes medicine. This is due to invisible plants which consume them, and absorb Carbon Dioxide from the air, use light / heat and produce Resources + Nascent Oxygen. The Nascent oxygen further breaks down toxic organics. However, all this happens nicely only when the Nitrate level is less that 1 par per million.
Rahul Banerjee Yes they should as there are various other ways in which to attack patriarchy and religious beliefs!!
Rahul Banerjee The Ganges river water does indeed have many qualities but the point is that there is a limit to the rejuvenating powers of the river and the sewage load has now exceeded it. E Coli bacteria are being released into the river in huge quantities and that is why the problem is being created. The sewage, wastewater and industrial effluents must all be treated properly before they are released into the environment.
Aparna Krishnan Rahul Banerjee why would one want to 'attack religious beleifs'. That is what I fail to understand. One may choose to be atheistic, or agnostic. But if a simple community is rooted in its practices, so long as they are harmless practices, why go and attack them, or their practices ? I am talking in general, and not about Swamimaial. Why go and proselytyse a community into atheism ?  
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy I have no problem with atheists attacking religion unless there is no insidious intent to sabotage religious traditions which is the absolute right of religious people to maintain. A honest way for atheist to discredit religion is to point out what the...
Aparna Krishnan Anyway my main concern was that the white man's burden not be taken over by the educated-indian. As far as simple belief systems are concerned. Wrongs and injustices are certianlyeveryone's concern. And imo those need to be taken head on in the urban affluent community first. But taking on that elite consumerism which is destroying the earth is a daunting task, and so we will 'reform the poor' !
Aparna Krishnan My understanding of Rahul Banerjee's query was that it was a serious question. I think the very concept of all knowlege by default belonging to all is very important. And all good processes anyway need to spread. Name, fame, and all were always totally immaterial. Please share the details that you have regarding the process.
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy Apart from the e-coli in the Ganges, we have heavily metals like cadmium from tanneries which pose a much bigger challenge. The decommission of dams and ban on tanneries will itself go a long way in bringing about a modicum of success in Ganga Mantham....  
Rajiv Ramnath Well, "if all these ancient customs may not have some element we do not understand", let's discuss it then. Please hypothesize the reasons for keeping menstruating women from temples, and let's debate their rationale.
Aparna Krishnan I have no idea ! Forget temples - after the antram is tied, the person keeps away from families which have had a recent death, and from menstruating women. When I do not understand mantrams and antrams, how can I get into details of the associated norms.
Aparna Krishnan All I can say is that maybe it is arrogant to dismiss what one does not understand,
Aparna Krishnan At the same time one needs to be sensitive to correct all that is wrong. Its a knife edge sometimes. And needs deep sensitivity and humility and understanding.
Ardhendu Sekhar Chatterjee all traditional faiths , associated it with either magic/mystery or impurity and restricted movements not only in Temple,Mosque,Church etc , but in kitchen ,betel vine fields etc ,though some faiths said a menstruating woman walking naked through the field actually killed many insects modern times Sikh religion specifically mentions allowing women to enter place of worship etc during her menses ! may be because traditional society were afraid of hygienic problem or associated menses with end of a life, many taboos developed .........[many aachaars/ sanskaars /customs develop in socio economic context of an area and is associated with religion ...though it is not strictly part of it !! ]
Aparna Krishnan What is the woman does not want to. Will we tell her that she is mindless, and indoctrinated, and we are the wise beings who will guide her to light and freedom ? smile emoticon. Just as I do not like to light the lamp unbathed. Yes, thats also an indoctrination.
Aparna Krishnan These are complex issues. And need, I think, a localised nuanced approach, based on humility and mutual respect.
Shyamala Sanyal All the rules are for women only .
Aparna Krishnan Yes, the woman wears the thaali (mangalsutra). And has restrictions on menstruating days. But optherwise work is expected of both in the village. And monogamy demanded of both. And both dance the kolattam joyously. Yes, the men drink more !!  
Aparna Krishnan There would usually be reasons. Its a sensitive call always, when to question and when not to. It takes time, assimilation, and humility.
Aparna Krishnan yes, I also do not wish to hurt local sentiments. And I wonder if it as critical an issue to challenge. And no woman feels 'demeaned', as an 'outsider' may think. And i wonder if there may be esoteric factors we do not understand.  
Raj Jog Singh Still cannot appreciate this. Segregation why ? If it was the rule of nature to segregate would probably agree that there would be some hidden reason but here , I do not. Similarly in north India was the custom of veil. Fail to appreciate that too. Neither was that demeaning but again irrational. So are various superstitions related to crows, cats etc part of traditional society & customs. All defy any rational.
Aparna Krishnan smile emoticon. What is problematic I will address. Others I will leave alone as local customs, and as things I possibly dont understand.

Gyan Mitra 'HINDU' women in the North of INDIA cover their heads, look down when men enter. This increases Carbon Dioxide in their blood which assists them to get out of KAAMA and KRODHA mood states and get grounded. Then, some mischievous man cannot take advantage of her. In the South of India, Nitrate toxicity was low and hence this practice was not necessary.

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