Brahmin women are considered ‘maila’ or impure during their monthly periods. They are typically encouraged not to cook or to perform puja. Some people believe that Brahmin women must not chant vedas during periods and others believe that they should never chant vedas at all because they get periods once in four weeks. (Can women learn the Veda?)
There is no restriction on Lingayat women who follow the teachings of Basaveshwara, perform pujas and chant vedas even during their periods. There is no restriction on mleccha or foreign women who chant vedas whenever they believe it is right.
Therefore this discussion mainly concerns brahmin women who and wish to perform puja and chant vedas everyday. If brahmins are 5% of India’s population then brahmin women are only 2.5% of India’s population. May be the brahmin women who and wish to perform puja and chant vedas everyday form only 1% of India’s population or even less!!
Let us now get into the discussion proper. Each person has 3 layers. and see which layer gets maila during periods and what one needs to do about it.
- The jiva/atma/self or chitta layer : Please see Tat Tvam Asi. As per this the Jiva is Brahman (as per Sankaracharya). No one can think of maila for Brahman. The Brahman is Tat, God.
- The manas and buddhi : It is recommended that these are always turned to Brahmachintana (Thinking about God). The manas can get maila by impure and unkind thoughts. Brahmacintana is the one thing that can keep your mind clean and pure.
- The body/deha or annamayakosha layer : This is the layer that is considered as maila during periods. So let us look carefully at this layer.
- In the olden days cleanliness and discomfort was a major issue. Due to modern technology this is not an issue today.
- Fatigue, Pain and distress are real issues then and now. But women are no longer excused from house work, office work, studies, commuting, serving others and so on during this period.
- Emotional Tensions occur prior to periods and not during them, so they are not a part of this discussion.
- So, we can conclude that in the olden days women were excluded from the physical acts of working, cooking, puja etc on grounds of rest and cleanliness.
The vedas are embodiments of the devas. When I can see Surya Deva and His rays can touch my face, why can I not chant a mantram in which he is embodied?
When Vayu Deva, enters and exits my lungs freely as prAna and apAna, why cannot I chant a mantram which embodies Vayu using my lungs and voice box?
When Varuna resides in me as 70% of my body weight and when I can drink water and sweat it out, why cannot I chant a mantra that embodies Varuna?
When Agni resides in my stomach as Vaiswanara, Jatara Agni and digests all the food I eat, why cannot I chant a mantram that embodies Agni?
When the puruSa Himself is embodied in this body, where does the question of impurity come?
Conclusion : It is my view that as long as a brahmin woman stays clean and takes adequate rest, and as long as she is not distressing herself emotionally and physically, as long as she can focus her mind on brahman and not on other people’s minds, she should be fine, performing puja visiting temples and chanting vedas. No Sin will Accrue to Her.
Out of respect for the feelings of elders at home, if you choose to stay out that is fine… because then you are practicing ahimsa. If you yourself feel unclean, and would like to stay at home away from temples, that is also fine. But be gentle with yourself. If the situation requires that you participate on some religious function and so forth, remember that no sin will accrue to you.
You are as pure as a Veda Mantram because both you and the Veda Mantram embody the The Devas of the Veda!
You are Veda!
Update (April 23rd) :
Perhaps, all the danger to women during vedic chanting comes during pregnancy and periods due to the pressure on the abdomen. For eg take a a da with a dha vattu, put a dirGha on it, make it an anudAtta on it and have it preceded by a mahAprAna svarita. This sort of thing is extremely tough to pronounce correctly even during mid cycle. May be that pressure would lead to miscarriages, heavy bleeding etc. Also vedic chanting generates a lot of heat in the body, which may not be good for the residents of the womb. Satvik AhAram is recommended for vedic students and that may/may not have sufficient nutrition for the unborn baby.
The answer to this question may come from ayurveda and not from paapa-punya.
In the olden days, it was normal that women delivered babies every year, whereas today they may have just one or 2 children at most. Also many organisations that teach Vedas to women and general public today, may in fact, be eliminating all the heavy duty swaras. Listen to the Veda-Swara-Rahita Vedic Chanting on the radio! I am also advised that the RSikas of the Vedas, were kanyAs.
BTW, I personally avoid temples, puja and veda classes during ‘those days’ out of respect for the feelings of others, especially my elders and gurus.
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