I Love Our Culture But I Will Not Follow Traditions That Make Absolutely No Sense To Me

Anonymous Anonymous in Bakkar. Chai. Sutta on 9 September, 2018

Diwali is the last festival that is celebrated in our house each year. We celebrate all Hindu festivals with great pomp and show. I have a creative bent of mind. I love taking care of all the decorations whenever we have a puja at home. I also love cooking prasadam and all the other sweets and savouries whenever we have a festival.

I am a firm believer in traditions and culture. Only because my parents taught me the importance of different traditions do I value them so much today. I believe that our future generations will learn the value of our traditions and culture only if we nurture them. But I do not blindly follow all these traditions and cultural norms either.

I believe that many of these norms have a scientific reasoning behind them. But there are other norms that I just cannot understand. I refuse to accept such norms because I think they are baseless. I, therefore, find it difficult to follow them.  

One norm that I am totally against is that a menstruating female should not enter a temple. She is not allowed to participate in any kind of puja too.

Several articles have been written about this issue recently. There are several women who believe in this myth and others who do not believe in it at all. We do know that in the olden days all such pujas were extremely time-consuming activities. Maybe the actual reason behind creating this norm was to ensure that the women got adequate rest whenever they got their periods. So maybe it made sense at that time.

But I have been brought up differently by my family. My father is away from home for the better part of the month because he has to travel extensively for his work. But my mom would always take my sister and me to the temple even when we were menstruating.

It never even occurred to us that we were doing something wrong. In fact, I would often question people who believed in this myth.

The creator of this universe has designed our body in a particular way. In what way do we contaminate his place of worship during those days of the month? There are several people who understand the rational reasoning behind this concept but they are still hesitant to defy it. Yet others prefer blaming it on blind faith and superstition.

I would not have worried too much about this much-debated topic if it was not personally affecting me.

I got married into a family that believed in this myth. They also followed other norms like not cutting their nails at night, not sweeping the house at night etc.

I did not mind following these norms because I did not want to hurt their sentiments by going against their beliefs. I knew I should not be too egoistic about such things.

But once I got my periods during Diwali. The festival of lights has always been my favourite festival of the year. I was eager to make all the different sweets and wanted to do all the decorations for the puja. So I just did not let anyone know that I had got my periods. In fact, I felt happy that I could take part in all the preparations and prayers during Diwali.

And nothing ‘bad' happened to me either. That should be enough to challenge this age-old belief. But I had to keep my secret to myself because I knew that I would be demeaned by my family if they ever came to know about what I had done.

This incident too looks trivial to what I experienced post-delivery. After I delivered my child, I was not allowed to pray or even go near our temple. I could not touch any sacred thing for forty-five days. I wondered about this norm very seriously at this time.

I had just given birth to a baby and children are considered to be a form of God. So how could I even contaminate anything?

Actually, my baby was due post-Diwali. But I guess she had other plans. She arrived four weeks before her due date. So she got to celebrate her first Dussehra, Ahoi and Diwali too. I was a ‘new’ mother. My baby and I were still following an erratic sleep-wake schedule. Despite this, I really wanted to do all those special things because these were the first festivities that my child was experiencing. I wanted to help with the decorations. I wanted to make the delicacies for the bhog. But I was not allowed to do any of this. Not because my family members were concerned about me and wanted me to get enough rest but because they believed in that age-old belief.

I was still bleeding post my delivery so I was not allowed to do any puja related work.

All those hormonal changes were already playing havoc on my body. I was going through all the challenges of motherhood. And to top it all I was not allowed to be a part of the festive preparations.

Even today, I feel this was a major factor that added to my postpartum depression.

I was treated like an outcast in my own home by my own family members. I felt left out. I started getting negative thoughts and felt as if I had done something wrong by giving birth to a baby. I was not even allowed to touch the utensil containing the prasad. Even during the aarti, all I could do was to hold my husband’s hand. I could not touch the aarti plate directly.

I felt miserable. I tried to talk to my family and requested them to allow me to do at least the trivial puja related work. It would have helped divert my mind. It would have refreshed me because I loved doing such things. But in vain.

Despite being highly educated, my family members did not have the courage to go against the tradition that they had been blindly following for years. They understood my reasoning but preferred following the traditions. That was the day I decided that I will never do the same thing to my daughter or my son's wife (in case I give birth to a son in the future).

Author's Note:

I don't mind following traditions that have a rational reason behind it. But I don't believe in following things blindly. God doesn't discriminate against his children. Then why do we create such rules? That is the only question that I am seeking an answer to.

Editor's Note:

God itself is an intangible force. We cannot rationalize him/her/it. Traditions/rituals are just one way of connecting with him/her/it. There are several ways of connecting to God. Instead of expending our energy trying to rationalize an irrational intangible force, maybe we can try exploring other beautiful ways of seeking his grace. Do share this story because sometimes in life, some of our questions will always remain unanswered. Let’s learn to be fine with this too. Maybe that is what faith is all about.