- In Kanya Pooja traditionally 9 girls of non-menstruating age are worshipped
- The NGO organised New Age Kanya Pooja and included the menstruating girls
- Event saw 50 girls participating, calling for a change to break the taboo
New Delhi: On the auspicious occasion of ‘Ashtami’, people from across the nation celebrate a ritual popularly known as ‘Kanya Pooja’. Kanya Pooja is where nine young girls are revered and worshipped in Hindu households, as they are thought to be manifestations of ‘Devi’ or goddess, however, customarily only young girls who are of a non-menstruating age are included in this ritual. Delhi-based NGO Sachhi Saheli organised a unique Kanya Pooja of their own that they called ‘Navyug ka Kanya Pooja’ or New Age Kanya Pooja.
The NGO that has been working for over four years to dismantle the stigma around the natural process of menstruation, organised this unique event to especially refute the notion that only non-menstruating girls must be included in the Kanya Pooja ritual. They also aim to establish that menstruation isn’t unholy or impure.
For the event, Sachhi Saheli invited approximately 50 girls of both menstruating and non-menstruating age, who were worshipped and offered a feast, as per the ritual.
One of the young girls who participated in the ritual, Shweta told NDTV,
I am a girl who gets her periods and I am so happy to be a part of this modern kanya pooja because it is important to change these customs. If we don’t do it, today it is me who is excluded and made to feel ashamed of my periods, tomorrow it would be my daughter.
She explained that they all followed strict social distancing measures and the ritual was carried out where girls chanted slogans like ‘naari ka har roop mein samman hai, kyunki devi toh sabme virajmaan hai’ which translates to – women must be revered in every form and age as goddess resides in every women. They also chanted slogans related to menstruation and said ‘masik toh devi ko bhi aata hai, toh fir har umra ki kanya ko kyun nahi pooja jaata hai’ which means – Even goddess menstruates then why discriminate against woman and exclude her from rituals?
Dr. Surbhi Singh, President, Sachhi Saheli tells NDTV,
In order to ensure that upon menarche, a girl is not left feeling humiliated and ashamed of herself and the natural changes taking place in her body, it is essential to put an end to such exclusionary customs and practices especially those that characterise menstruation as unholy or impure and something to be maintained a distance from. How is it that we worship and seek blessings from the devi who herself is a fertile menstruating woman, but conveniently exclude menstruating girls and women outside the purview of respect and reverence? The ‘Navyug Kanya Pooja’ is one such beginning where the girl child is revered unconditionally.
Ms Rashmi Singh, Executive Director, National Mission for Empowerment of Women at Ministry of Women and Child Development, also attended the event through a video call. Ms Singh said,
This revolutionary Kanya Poojan is so important to understand that a girl must not be ostracised and must be especially celebrated for her transition into menarche.
The participating girls have been gifted Sachhi Saheli’s Period Preparedness Tool called the 5-P Pouch that has all the items that menstruating girls need to manage her periods efficiently and hygienically. These include sanitary pads, an underpant, soap, a brochure on menstruation and the pouch itself, Dr Singh explained.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.