This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Himashree Saikia. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Was Married To A Banana Tree For My Puberty Ceremony

More from Himashree Saikia

This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Tuloni Bia
Source: Instagram – Ajay Mahato

Social norms and practices play a vital role in restricting the childhood and denial of individuality. The girl child is vulnerable to such practices and norms in almost every society.

Interestingly, most of such practices are observed in the society in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘training of womanhood’  that creates a separate and discriminatory space for them, and training to live a submissive life. The people of Assam ‘celebrate’ the menstrual cycle of a girl through a festival known as ‘Tuloni Bia’ or a ‘Mini Marriage’.

Social norms are rules developed by a group of people that specify how people must, should, may, should not, and must not behave in various situations.” (Lesh, Larson, and Goerman)

The menstruation ‘restriction’ of the Assamese community, celebrated as a small or mini marriage, called Tuloni Bia, introduces the end of childhood of a girl.

Menarche is conveyed as a shocking or fearful event and imposes a set of regulations and restrictions. Instead of health and hygienic concerns, it is reinforcing unnecessary social values and avoidance.

Practices just like these raise serious questions around gender equality. Such social norms develop ‘submissive’ gender consciousness from the childhood period of the girls. It also perpetuates the taboo and exclusion from equal participation in society.

The socialization process of a child is very important. Childhood is the most beautiful duration of every human life. This is the time when the physical, as well as the psychological growth of a child, is growing fast and it remains lifelong.

In Assam when a girl child proceeds her first menstruation, it is believed that her childhood has ended and now she is bound in certain restrictions. Here the question arises if it is her ‘fault’ that she is a girl or our so-called social norms made gender differences from childhood. All these practices are based on the concept of pollution and purity, and children are ignored and isolated from society by offering fearful experiences of childhood.

Tuloni Bia

Tuloni Bia is a ritualistic symbolic wedding that is performed a few days after the girl has her first menstruation. It is a ritual distinct to the Hindu Tai Ahoms and many other Assamese groups who have their own theories about its significance and origins.

The mock marriage of one’s daughter to the banana tree signifies the girl attaining adulthood and the potential to bear a child. The girl isn’t allowed to eat anything but only fruits till the 4th day when she is confined to a room. Men will not be allowed in nearby and she isn’t allowed to be touched by anyone.

Generally, on the 4th day, the girl is bathed with proper wedding rituals, using maah-halodhi (turmeric). A banana tree is planted at the site where the girl is to be bathed. After the 4th day rituals, till the day which the astrologer deems suitable for the ‘wedding’, the girl has to be inside the room only and she has to follow all the restrictions/norms of this tradition. The girl can have only a one-time meal (boiled) in the evening cooked by herself in a separate stove and in the day time she is allowed to have fruits only.

The ‘wedding’ is generally celebrated on a large scale with members of the community participating in large numbers to bless the girl into a new life.

Here, on the one hand, they are celebrating the menarche and on the other hand, this celebration consumes the childhood of the girl. After the fourth day celebration of this menstrual culture (Tuloni Bia), a group of women comes to the bride’s house to make her aware of some social norms to be followed after the menstrual cycle of a girl child by singing some ‘Bia Naam’ (marriage songs).

An older woman giving a gift to a young girl at her coming of age ceremony
Ceremony of Tuloni Biya. Credits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYm0Ff-PKSU

While experiencing the practice myself, I felt like my childhood period has ended, as some of the songs meant that I couldn’t play with my male friends like before, I can’t go anywhere alone, I have to be careful while choosing my clothes, I am no more a child now, rather I will have to see myself as a woman, I have to maintain some distance from all the male members, and so on.

It is important to make children aware of the biological changes but it doesn’t mean discriminate between them. These restrictions or norms can easily create a psychological impact on a girl. Childhood is a beautiful time period, where every individual goes through the different life cycles and every cycle of our life creates impact in our overall life. There should be free space for them to explore everything, but these restrictions and norms restrict them and impose limitations.

This practice also creates gender-biased discrimination on the basis of biological growth. Only girls are taught to maintain distance from boys but the same is not taught to the boy. Childhood restrictions are applicable to girls but not boys.

As we all know menstruation is a natural process. Celebrations are welcomed to acknowledge and respect the process but not to impose restrictions on anyone due to this process. Prohibition of such norms can only help a girl child to have a healthy childhood.

Can’t we together work or raise our voice to not implement such restrictions?

Featured image is for representational purpose only! Credits: Soulful Pixels
You must be to comment.
  1. Debasmita Roy

    Hima loved your writings…quite insightful…keep going dear 👍🏼👍🏼

    1. Himashree Saikia

      Thank you dear!!!

  2. Krishan Kumar

    Although I am not a assamese, the least a woman, to be qualified to comment on the ritual itself. But my wife is an Assamese and when she talks about it she never talked about her feeling like her freedom has been snatched away. The arguments presented by the writer seems convincing on the surface but scratched a little and they are empty hollow containers creating a lot of noise.

    The way she proclaims a general statement like ” Childhood restrictions are applicable to girls but not boys” as a gospel truth shows the shallowness of her understanding regarding these rituals. Restrictions are applicable to all of us if we want to live as a society. Men are also restricted in so many ways but the writer would not talk about it as it won’t suit her propaganda. If there won’t be defined roles and responsibilities of every constituent of the society how do we propose to let this society function? But that’s exactly what the so called “feminists” like this writer don’t want to let happen.

    Yes, their ultimate goal is to keep on hammering at all the Indic cultural practices of this nation so that one day the identity of an Assamese or Indian becomes hollow and all one can aspire for is a “modern”” aka western identity. Tuloni biya is celebration of womanhood and these feminists in order to bring a false sense of equality don’t want this to happen. What they want is to destroy this society from inside so that the imagined and much exalted norms of womanhood can be imposed on the Indian women.

    1. Himashree Saikia

      Thank you so much for connecting to have a deeper discussion on the topic.
      At first, I am very happy for your wife that she was not a victim like me or others.
      And yes the celebration is always acceptable but not the restrictions. I respect or stand for equality for all. But I couldn’t find anything till now that there is any culture where when a boy experiences their first biological change which is related to their reproductive health is celebrated. From my understanding, it is a natural process of every human being, So why special care for a girl and the so-called restrictions.
      And again I agree with that being a member of the society we have to follow certain rules and regulations but I think we can’t keep quiet about things that bother us or are not good for us, right?
      To say about the culture there is a certain way to maintain it but imposing some norms which can again create a negative impact is not acceptable.
      I would say let’s celebrate it but please excuses the norms.
      Also, I do not claim myself as a feminist, but if I were I wouldn’t mind it as feminism is about gender equality and the promotion of equal rights for men and women.

    2. Himashree Saikia

      Thanks so much for getting in touch to have a deeper discussion on the subject.
      I am very happy for your wife at first that she wasn’t a victim like me or anyone else.
      And yes the celebration is always appropriate, but not the restrictions. I respect or stand for equality for all. But I couldn’t find anything till now that there is any culture where when a boy experiences their first biological change which is related to their reproductive health is celebrated. From my understanding, it is a natural process of every human being, So why special care for a girl and the so-called restrictions.
      I agree that being a member of the society we have to follow certain rules and regulations but I think we should not keep quiet about things that bother us or are not good for us, right?
      There is a way to preserve culture but it is not necessary to enforce such standards that can again generate a negative effect.
      I would say let’s celebrate it but please excuses the norms.
      Also, I do not claim myself as a feminist, but if I were, I wouldn’t mind it, as feminism is about gender equality and the promotion of equal rights for men and women.

More from Himashree Saikia

Similar Posts

By Jaishree Malik

By Vanshika Bhatt

By KASHVI CHANDOK

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below