Sikh Vaginas and Menstruation ਮਾਹਵਾਰੀ

Sikhism is one of the religions where scriptures and the entire faith are based on gender equality.  Born in the Punjab area of modern-day India and Pakistan, the first Sikhs were frustrated with the patriarchal interpretations of religion that were causing a lot of war at the time (Note that there are lots rad folx who are sharing and practicing feminist interpretations of the Vedas, Quran, and more!).

The first Gurus (leaders in the Sikh faith) really emphasized the power and beauty of menstruation or mahvari ਮਾਹਵਾਰੀ, childbirth, and more processes of the female-assigned pelvis. Much of my learning about this comes from Guninder Kaur who writes, “the Khalsa is not created from individual parts of the body…but through the natural, [metaphorically] maternal process, with all its emotions, complexities, and hormonal effects,”

Photographer: Gagan Kholi

Photographer: Gagan Kholi

Excitingly, there is also no condemnation of queerness, homosexuality, and more diverse sexualities by the original Sikhs. Although, like the Abrahamic texts, modern day Sikhism practiced in Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) is quite patriarchal (are you seeing the pattern?) For example, in some major cities of India, women and menstruators are discouraged from entering the temple when they are on their periods.  Moreover,  in North America and beyond, Sikh sex education is pretty much non-existent or focused only on hetero sex after marriage.  The emphasis that our ancestors put on vaginal wellbeing has diminished over the years.

And yet now we are envisioning and practicing feminist Sikh principles around the world. I say we, because it’s going to take the collective to spread them further and wider into body-mind-spirit. Gurdwaras are introducing free period products in bathrooms, offering sex-education, and maybe even one day all the Gayanis will be matriarchs and non-binary folks who start the Ardaas by acknowledging the life force of periods and cycles.

I wonder, can we create a resurgence together?

Menstrual health promo: Take 10-15 minutes to reflect on the following questions. What kinds of statements and stories are told about the vagina and it’s powers in the Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures? What were the Gurus, sisters, wives, non-binary mentors, and followers original intentions with Sikhism? How are modern teachings different? How do we talk about and learn about menstruation in our Sikh households? What are you taking from these teachings, and what’s ready to be let go?

Photographer: Nikhilesh Badhwar

Photographer: Nikhilesh Badhwar