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4 Period Rituals Around The World That Celebrate Menstruation

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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.

India is a post-colonial haystack of contending and contrasting discourses and the discourse of menstruation does fall under its influence. Here, period rituals are often associated with isolation, alienation and impurity. In many parts of India, menstruators cannot enter a temple or offer worship while menstruating, because of an ill-founded notion that period blood is dirty or impure.

But at the same time, the Indian festival of Ambubachi, observed mainly at the Kamakhya temple in Assam, is a celebration of Mother Earth, menstruating herself.

Celebrating menstruation at the Kamakhya Temple in Assam

For 3 days devotees throng the temple and immerse in a celebration of mother earth in her menses. The main shrine is closed to devotees and Mother Earth is said to be bathed daily and given red silk clothes as a signifier of her menstruation.

Many devotees also plead to receive the Rakta Bastra, on which the Goddess sits for three days during her menstruation. This glorification and celebration of menstruation are in stark contrast with other rituals that we discussed at the beginning.

Having given these two examples, I believe this dichotomy exists all over the world and while the rhetoric of impurity and the policing of women’s bodies is widespread all across and is also a very modern take on body politics, there are many rituals, especially among (but not constricted to) indigenous and tribal communities that problematize this exact notion. Not only do they celebrate woman-hood with pomp, but also suspend normative social norms and expectations for the time period that a woman is menstruating.  

Here is a list of traditions around the world that celebrate menstruation:

1. Apache Sunrise Ceremony

Coming of Age ceremony amongst Apache women.

The Apache Sunrise Ceremony is one of the most beautiful coming-of-age, menstrual ceremonies of the world. It is a ceremony in honour of the recurring religious figure called the ‘Changing Woman’, of the native Apache community who now reside in parts of Arizona and Mexico.

The four-day celebration marks the journey of young girls, into womanhood, right after their menarche. It is celebrated with a four day gala of dancing, eating, observing rituals like drinking from a straw, refraining from laughing and a symbolic healing ritual.

Here, the girl, clad in traditional attire “blesses the sick” because she is believed to channel the power of ‘Changing Woman’ through her followed by the running ritual where, upon sunrise the girl runs a formidable distance, chasing the sun rising in the east (The direction from where ‘Changing Woman’ emerged) and all cardinal directions, along with running in specified circles, marking the stages of life she will go through and a sunrise dance. This running ritual brings it to a close as the girl now follows the Goddess into woman-hood.

2. Ojibwe Moon-Lodge Ceremony

The woman of the Ojibwe community hailing from American Midwest generally sequesters themselves from the community in a temporary abode, the Moon Lodge. It has nothing to do with impurity or isolation. Rather, the woman uses these four days to cleanse and reboot their energies, by reclaiming time, purely for themselves where they can be away from husbands, children and house chores.

Other women of the community visit and even prepare meals for the menstruating woman, which in turn strengthens bonds between women and the community in general. The Ojibwe community believes that the period blood is in fact the monthly sloughing of the accumulated stress and burdens of being a “woman”.

It is a perfect example of challenging the discourse of period isolation as a result of impurity, through a more meditative, community-building approach.

3. Ulithi Women’s  Hut Ritual

When a woman in the Ulithi tribe of South Pacific gets her period, she shifts to a hut made for the purpose of staying there while menstruating. During her four days stay, the pregnant and breastfeeding women come and stay with her, along with their children. Feasts and songs and dances ensue, celebrating womanhood.

While the menstruating woman does isolate herself from the male population, she invites women into her hut, thus implying that the shared and lived experiences of women, in a community, and celebrating them, gives them enough reason to not feel isolated or impure or a subject of taboo.

4. Hupa Women’s Flower Dance

Hupa tribes are scattered across Northwestern California. The Hupa women observe a festival every time a young woman, goes through her menarche. They believe that the first period is extremely powerful and is essential to maintaining balance in the world. They celebrate it with Flower Dance, which lasts for several days.

The young menstruator is to wear a traditional face-covering made of blue-jay feathers while the women dance and sing around her. The end of the ritual is marked by a feast and a plethora of gifts for the young woman. While men elaborately take part in the celebration, it is the women who organize and plan it, almost as a representation of female strength in the community. 


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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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

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