Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Menstruation: Ashadh, Shravan and the flowering tree

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For all the women who have been shunned during those five days of the month, during menstruation… Rain is a pledge of fertility as the blossom is a promise of fruition.

Menstruation taboos across the globe are a means of othering the already othered woman. Othering is a process through which social exclusion of a particular group takes place. Menstrual othering is so deeply embedded that even beautiful menstrual rituals like Rojo or Ambubachi are followed to the T, but when it comes to paying heed to the message that these rituals shout out loud in our ears, we become as deaf as a lamp post.

These rituals celebrate menstruation rather than othering it. Both these menstrual rituals are celebrated in the rainy season. The rains celebrate fertility, and so do these menstrual celebrations. The question then arises is as to why we engage so fiercely in othering a menstruating woman.

The two months of Asadh and Sravan together make the Varsha Ritu. If you ask me I would say that Ashadh is feminine because the other name of Ashadh is Aadi maas; therefore, she symbolises Prakriti whereas Shravan is masculine therefore being Purusha. I would like to believe so because it is during the month of Ashadh that nature menstruates and the various menstruation festivals are celebrated across the length and breadth of India, which celebrate the menstruation of mother earth or shakti or whatever name we may designate to her. While Shravan is a month when nature gets impregnated, and one can see greenery all around. Shravan in many texts has been called the planter of embryos.

Tagore knew when he wrote:

“Greed for the fruit misses the flower.”

Menstruation has often been equated to flowering, and in some African cultures, menses are referred to as the monthly flower. We had learned in our childhood that a tree that flowers become fruit laden in time. But what is sad is that everyone wants the fruit and in this greed for the fruit one wants to miss the flower

I bring to you two tales of flowering that Asadh and Shravan showered upon me.

Purush (Sravan speaks)

They say that all there was, in the beginning, was a tree of love, on which blossomed innumerable reddest of red flowers every last five days of the waxing moon. The flowers smelled of life, the flowers smelled like joy. This was a time when love came to fruition, and life blossomed on every branch of the tree. It was this tree of love that gave the world its beauty; during those five days, the tree made this world fragrant with the smell of love and the aroma of joy.

In this beautiful world came Man, who started living under the shade of the tree of love. Every month his life got filled with the fragrance of life during those five days of love. But as months became years, Man became melancholy as he knew not with whom he should share all this love that the tree showered on him every month. In his despair, he carved on the bark of the tree of love the image of the companion that he desired. It is with this companion whom he dreamt of did he wish to share his life.

The plight of Man was not unknown to the god of love. Seeing Man crave for a companion, the god of love caused the image on the bark of the tree of love to come to life. The image was that of whom we call a woman.

Ever since then like the tree, the woman has been filling the life of a man with love and life, even more on those five days when she bears and showers the reddest of red flowers of love that smell of life.

Menstruation

Prakriti (Asadh or Aadi tells):

They say that all there was, in the beginning, was a tree of love, on which blossomed innumerable reddest of red flowers every last five days of the waxing moon. The flowers smelled of life, the flowers smelled like joy. This was a time when love came to fruition, and life blossomed on every branch of the tree. It was this tree of love that gave the world its beauty; during those five days, the tree made this world fragrant with the smell of love and the aroma of joy.

In this beautiful world came women, dark and beautiful, who started living under the shade of the tree of love. Her life got filled with the scent of life every month on the last five days of the waxing moon. So enamoured was she during those five days with the beauty of the reddest of red flowers that, in the heart of her heart she started waiting for those five days of love and life every month when the tree would shower the reddest of red flowers of life on her.

Secretly her heart started fostering the idea of being able to bear and shower the reddest of red flowers. The tree of love granted her wish one day and she too like the tree began to bear and shower the flowers of love and life every month on the last five days of the waxing moon; in the course of time, from these flowers the God of Love created man. Ages have passed, and ever since then women bear flowers of life every month…but the man seems to have forgotten that he was born out of these flowers of life and love.

“Earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And I would urge all to laugh along with her.

Also Read: In hope of meeting Saraswati

(Nilambara Banerjee is a former professor of St. Xaviers College Ranchi.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)

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