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india & menstruation

February 1, 2024
a 1960's illustration of hindi temples in india

Visiting temples in India when menstruating

India is a place where periods remain a real taboo. The deeply complex issues surrounding periods mean that menstruating people constantly need to navigate between gatekeeping old belief systems that are part of the cultural fabric of India and working toward building a stigma-free society, in which menstruations are seen as a normal, healthy bodily function and are not a restriction to access religious sites and other public spaces.

Usually, people are not allowed in Hindu temples if they are menstruating. According to some Hindu beliefs, periods are meant for the body to clear up impurity, resulting in a change of body energy. Vata Dosha, responsible for the downward flow of energy, takes over during this time and creates an imbalance with the energies flowing in temples.

Some temples don’t even allow menstruating people aged between 10 to 50. This practice is increasingly challenged by activists, and we see more and more debates and controversy appearing around this topic. It is also worth noting that beliefs vary from one culture to another in India, and discussions around menstruation and spirituality are not homogenous across the country.

As a visitor and traveller, you might be banned from some temples, while others will not have any restrictions. No one will check whether you are menstruating or not, but it is your responsibility and choice, as a foreigner, to respect the local culture and beliefs.

There are a few places where menstruating will not be an issue, here are a few examples:

Kamakhya Devi Temple

In Guhwati, Assam, the Kamakhya Devi temple worships Kamakhya Devi, the goddess of power and fertility. Visitors can enter the temple while menstruating and participate in the rituals and festivals dedicated to the powers of womanhood embodied by the deity. Her feminine energy is considered the source of all creation and her menstruation is celebrated during the Ambubachi Mela in June. For the occasion the temple is closed for three days, and when reopening devotees bathe the goddess in praise for regeneration and fertility.

Linga Bhairavi Temple

This temple is located near Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu. This buzzing temple welcomes many rituals and ceremonies that are performed by women only, the Bhairangini maas. Women, dressed in red, worship Linga Bhairavi Devi, a divine form of the feminine. Entering the temple on your periods is not a problem, it is even considered as a blessing for some, who enjoy deeper states of meditations and a privileged connection with Mother Nature!

Buddhist Temples

India is home to many religions, including Buddhism. Although this may vary depending on the region, Buddhism does not emphasise on “purity” or ritual body “cleanliness” as much as Hinduism, entering Buddhist temples on your periods is therefore usually not an issue. You can find Buddhist temples across India, but most of them are located in the north, near the Nepalese border in the states of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Sikkim. 

During my travels in Sikkim, I visited the huge Ranka Monastery and the beautiful Old Rumtek Monastery where I had the chance to attend the prayer.

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An image of a white monastery door and two small dogs sleeping outside in the sun
Rumtek Monastery

Laura Sieg

Laura is a full time traveller, writing and recording exciting stories around the world - when not climbing or surfing, you will find her holding a mic capturing sounds in natural and cultural spaces.

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