Menstruating Goddess: How British Resident Col Munro became Thirupoothu festival sponsor

There is a misconception that Hindu Dharma treats mensuration as impure. This is not correct. In many parts of India, especially South India, the local communities celebrate when a girl attains menstrual age. The girl is given gold and other gifts.

There are two temples in India where the Goddess menstruates – Kamakhya temple in Assam and Bhagavathy temple in Chengannur, Kerala. Although these temples are situated in two separate geographical locations separated by more than 5000 km, there are many similarities in the ritualistic practices. The deity in the Chengannur temple is said to be very powerful. People have great belief in the deity.  People tell stories about wishes being granted by the Goddess.

One of the stories is about Col Munro who was Resident and Diwan of Travancore princely state during the British Raj. Munro, a staunch Christian, gave a great push to conversion activities in the state. His policies were aimed at Christianising the Hindu kingdom. He believed in Christian superiority and had no regard for Hindu customs and traditions.

When he was told about the unique system in this temple he laughed at it and stopped all grants to the temple. According to the temple authorities, after this his wife started bleeding profusely without stop. He consulted many doctors but his wife’s period did not stop. One version says that somebody in the Royal family of Travancore suggested it could be due to the hostile steps he took against the temple. The person also suggested he should seek forgiveness and restart the grants to observe the traditions in the temple. Munro heeded the advice.  He said if his wife is cured he would set up a trust whose interest would be sufficient to observe the Thirupoothu utsavam (periods festival). Munro also presented two golden bangles to the temple. Even now, Munro’s family continues to sponsor the first period of the deity.

Women suffering from menstrual and fertility issues visit this temple in large numbers.

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