Sunday, 31 January 2016

Hindu temple that celebrates '' menstruation" - Chengannur Mahadeva temple, Kerala

 Thriputharattu festival & the menstruation of goddess. blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

India, for centuries has been home  to many strange customs and traditions. The Hindus follow a myriad of  religious customs  many of which are  deep rooted and are being followed even today. In the realm of temple rituals, family functions, prayer, etc.,strict adherence of certain  customs is a must;  the strictest one being not allowing woman to perform prayer either at home or in the temple when she experiences 'period.'

Biologically speaking the mensuration, also commonly known as period, is a periodic regular discharge blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the  uterus through the reproductive organ. Depending on the diet, environment, country and other factors, the very first period starts between the age of 12 and 15 and this phase of time is called Menarche. The purpose of this mensuration cycle is production  of an egg and consequent thickening of the inner lining of the uterus. If pregnancy does not occur, the thickened lining gets segregated and  is released as discharge called mensuration.

chengannur mahadeva temple. Kerala www.youtube.com

In a greater preponderance of Hindu families, during period, women  are not allowed to participate in any of the auspicious functions in the family. Nor are they free to enter the pooja room in the home or enter into temple. his may sound absurd. The main reason offered is during this time, woman is not pure bodily and, as such, going near the objects veneration is a taboo.  The moot question  is: Is it right to allow woman to go near the images of God?  Rationalists and scientists argue, that not allowing woman to perform prayer in a temple is nothing but breach of women's freedom and their  fundamental rights. This is the outcome of male chauvinistic  attitude of the society.  The discharge coming from the inner lining of the uterus is not impure and does not produce smell on its own. Once outside the body, it gives out foul smell and is not impure. It is nature's way of cleaning the uterus among the mammals, including Homosapeans to get the uterus ready for reproduction. This is an integral part of ovulation, utmost essential for child bearing. 

That during this time women are impure and not clean is a myth, this is  what many doctors say. General consensus has been that, in the early history, using period as an excuse, Indian women were allowed to take complete  rest during this phase as they had to work pretty hard for hours in the kitchen or  elsewhere in the house. I talked to some of the learned pundits here about and its implications. Setting aside the centuries old Sastra Sampradayams, etc they said,  " one has to use common sense. It would be well and good, if women voluntarily avoid going near objects  of veneration during this time, thus making this issue  not a complicated one. ''Discretion is better part of valor.''
Common sense overrides rationality.

While in many parts of India people view woman's  monthly period a secret private matter and ought to be separated from auspicious celebration, here in the state of Kerala, where the literacy rate is the highest one, there is a small village, where people view this biological event  in a diagonally opposite way. Without any inhibition both men women speak about it openly. To them it is a sacred event, fundamental to the growth of next generation of people. Hence, the celebration is associated with the Goddess of the local temple - Chengannur Mahadeva and Bhagawathy Temple (often called Bhagawathy temple) is in the District of Alappuzha, Kerala. 

The temple, believed to have been built by the famous Uliyannoor Perumthachan over 1,500 years ago, is one of the the most popular Bhagavathy temples of Kerala. This temple  has a rare and strange  festival that is not observed in other temples in any part of India that I know of. The unusual festival has close connection with fertility of  a woman. The famous temple celebrates with great fanfare  a rare 'menstruation' festival for Bhagavathy, called Thripputhu. The temple is closed for three full days during the supposedly irregular menstruation of Goddess Parvathi (Bhagavathy). Unlike Shiva and Vishnu temples, where Vedic worship is being followed, the Sakthi or Kali temples fundamentally follow  Tantric worship and here this is done by Thazhaman. 

According to temple legend, Goddess Bhagavathi (alias Parvathi), who is believed to be protector of Kerala and the people living there, visited this place  soon after her wedding with Lord Shiva. It was here she had  got her menstrual period for 28 days. Bhagavathy  considered a reincarnation  Sati, consort of  Shiva where her Kamakya fell in the North.

The yearly festival related to deity's mensuration is celebrated during the  the month of December - January,  lasting for  28 days. Once the stain is noticed in the  white vasthra (Enapudava/Udayada) of the Goddess, Melsanthi - the chief Nambuthri priest removes it every morning. The appearance of stain in the white garment is an aspect of devotion. If there are symptoms of Thriputhu (Period), and if further confirmed by the temple authorities - Devasom officials, and later by the Thazhaman,  Vanghipuzha Mutt (the traditional residence of the temple Tantri) and  by the senior women, Devi's shrine will be closed for three days. Soon Devi will be shifted from her sanctum sanctorum - Srikovil to Thriputhu room in the corner of the Nalambalam, thus  marking the beginning of the four-day long Thriputharattu festival. The prayers/puja will be offered to  another idol of the goddess (apparently Urchavaar). On the fourth day  Devi's idol will be  taken to the near-by river  for a ceremonial holy bath called  Arrattu. Later the idol is taken back to the temple on the caparisoned elephant where the goddess is  joined by the idol of Lord Shiva. They are taken around the temple three times in a procession with devotion and then the Lord enters the shrine through eastern side and the goddess enters through western side. Lots of people from all over Kerala come here to participate in the festival.

Apart from the Thriputharattu, the other festivals celebrated in the temple are Varshikotsavam (Twenty eight day long annual festival ( December-Januaray) Thulasamkrama Neyyattu (October-November) - Ghee offering for Lord Shiva.

This temple can be reached by bus and train. The Chengannur Railway Station is on the Ernakulam – Kottayam - Kollam railway line,

Ref:

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tracking-indian-communities/when-the-goddess-bleeds/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chengannur_Mahadeva_Temple