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I vaguely remember hearing that women were cursed with menstruation or probably I read it on this site itself in some comment that I'm unable to trace now.

Were women cursed by any sage or god with menstruation?

I'm also curious to know if only earthly beings (women) were cursed or did the curse apply to women, Demigoddesses, Apsaras, demons, etc.?

What is the story of women being cursed with menstruation?

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    And why do (only some) other mammals also menstruate? – Nate Mar 17 '17 at 18:14
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    Why do women experience intolerable pain during childbirth when the majority of females in other species don't? There are good evolutionary and biological explanations to all of these these that make more sense than a literalist interpretation of scriptures – iruvar 2 days ago
  • @iruvar my quest. Is regarding scriptural reference of the story. you can post your question here biology.stackexchange.com – Vishal prabhu lawande yesterday
  • @Vishalprabhulawande, my question was by way of being rhetorical. Point noted you were seeking a scriptural reference however there exists the tendency amongst a subset of the hinduism SE patrons to take a literalist interpretation of scriptures - my words are intended for them – iruvar yesterday
15

Were women cursed by any sage or god with menstruation? What is the story of women being cursed with menstruation?

I think that is not a curse given to women by any sage or god, but women themselves accepted the menstruation cycle to make Indra free of his sin along with Prithivi, Jal, and Vruksha (earth, water and trees).

There is a story described in Shreemad Bhagvat Purana of Indra killing Vishwroopa and to get rid of the sin, he distributed his sin of killing a brahmana (Brahma-Hatya) in four parts to women, water, trees and earth. Shreemad Bhagvat Book 1, skandha 6, chapter 9:

ब्रह्महत्यामज्त्रलिना जग्राह यदपीश्वर |
संवत्सरान्ते तदघं भूतानां स विशुद्धते |
भूम्यम्बुद्रुमयोषिद्भ्यच्श्रतुर्धा वयभजद्भरि: ||६||

brahma-hatyām añjalinā jagrāha yad apīśvaraḥ
saṁvatsarānte tad aghaṁ bhūtānāṁ sa viśuddhaye
bhūmy-ambu-druma-yoṣidbhyaś caturdhā vyabhajad dhariḥ

Although Indra was so powerful that he could neutralize the sinful reactions for killing a brāhmaṇa, he repentantly accepted the burden of these reactions with folded hands. He suffered for one year, and then to purify himself he distributed the reactions for this sinful killing among the earth, water, trees and women. SB 6.9.6


This is further confirmed in another chapter, Skandha 6 chapter 13 shloka 5:

Indra said

स्त्रीभूजलद्रुमैरेनो विश्वरुपधोद्भ्वम् |
विभक्तमनुह्णद्भिर्व्रुत्रहत्यां क्व माज्म्यर्यहं ||५||

strī-bhū-druma-jalair eno viśvarūpa-vadhodbhavam
vibhaktam anugṛhṇadbhir vṛtra-hatyāṁ kva mārjmy aham

King Indra replied: When I killed Viśvarūpa, I received extensive sinful reactions, but I was favored by the women, land, trees and water, and therefore I was able to divide the sin among them. But now if I kill Vṛtrāsura, another brāhmaṇa, how shall I free myself from the sinful reactions? SB 6.13.5


And here is your answer:

शश्र्वत्कांमवरेणामहस्तुरियं जगृहु: स्त्रिय:|
रजोरुपेण तास्वमहो मासि मासि प्रदृश्यते ||९||

śaśvat-kāma-vareṇāṁhas turīyaṁ jagṛhuḥ striyaḥ 
rajo-rūpeṇa tāsv aṁho māsi māsi pradṛśyate 

In return for Lord Indra’s benediction that they would be able to enjoy lusty desires continuously, even during pregnancy for as long as sex is not injurious to the embryo, women accepted one fourth of the sinful reactions. As a result of those reactions, women manifest the signs of menstruation every month. SB 6.9.9

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    FYI, according to this BBC article, macaques, some bats, shrews also menstruate. So it's not unique to humans! – sv. Jun 5 '17 at 18:07
  • @sv. - Yes , Bats are also mamals like us ,may be that could be the reason , but the fact not known to ancient's 😊👍 – SwiftPushkar Jun 5 '17 at 18:10
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    But the big question is, what sin did bats, monkeys (macaques) etc. also commit to deserve menstruation every month? :P – sv. Jun 5 '17 at 18:16
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    @SwiftPushkar then why do you support it even after knowing it? menses is not a sin but a virtue ... without it women cannot conceive !! it is indirectly insulting the motherhood . – Rakesh Joshi Jun 5 '17 at 19:07
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    @RakeshJoshi sometimes bad curses result in goodness for everyone. It was all Lela of God to give women menses for reproduction. – Anubhav Jha Feb 9 '18 at 8:26
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Chapter 32 Preta Khanda of Garuda Purana says Brahma gave 1/4th of Indra's Brahmahatya sin to women.

ऋतुकाले च नारीणां वज्जर्यं दिनचतुष्टयम्॥
यतस्तिस्मिन् ब्रह्महत्यां पुरावृत्रसमुत्थिताम्॥ ७॥

The first four days of menstrual flow of blood shall be avoided when the sin of a Brahmin's slaughter resides in her.

ब्रह्मा शक्रात् समुक्तार्य्य चतुर्थाशेन दत्तवान्॥ ८॥

Brahma had removed this sin from Indra and apportioned a fourth in women.

  • That is a excellent find. – SwiftPushkar Mar 17 '17 at 10:21
  • @SwiftPushkar you look delighted in linking women with someone's sin. How come puberty be a result of someone's sin? Does this mean that its a fruit of sin to attain puberty? – Rakesh Joshi May 2 '17 at 11:41
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It was not actually a curse.The women took some share of Indra's sin/guilt.The story given in the Vashishta Dharma Sutras is related to Indra's killing of the demon Vritraasura & is as follows:

  1. For it has been declared in the Veda, ‘When Indra had slain (Vritra) the three-headed son of Tvashtri, he was seized by Sin, and he considered himself to be tainted with exceedingly great guilt. Al l beings cried out against him (saying to him), 7 ‘ thou slayer of a learned Brâhmana! O thou slayer of a learned Brâhmana!’ He ran to the women for protection (and said to them), ‘Take upon yourselves the third part of this my guilt (caused by) the murder of a learned Brâhmana.’ They answered, ”What shall we have (for doing thy wish)?’ He replied, ‘Choose a boon.’ They said, ‘Let us obtain offspring (if our husbands approach us) during the proper season, at pleasure let us dwell (with our husbands until (our children) are born.’ He answered, ‘ So be it.’ (Then) they took upon themselves (the t hird part of his guilt). That guilt of Brâhmana-murder appears every month as the menstrual flow. Therefore let him not eat the food of a woman in her courses; (for) such a one has put on the shape of the guilt of Brâhmana-murder.

Vashishta Dharma Sutras Chapter 5.

I am not sure though if the same story is repeated in some other Scriptures like the Puranas.

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    Thanx!!Vritrasur was a demon. why did people cry out against Indra for killing him? Of course Bhagavatam calls him a devotee but he was in guise of demon. – Vishal prabhu lawande Mar 17 '17 at 7:53
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    @Vishalprabhulawande As per the story Vritra was a Brahmin..so,Indra had the guilt of killing a Brahmin..The women shared some part of that guilt by agreeing to have courses.. – Rickross Mar 17 '17 at 8:00
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    Just like Lord Rama had the Brahmahatya dosha after killing Ravana.. – Rickross Mar 17 '17 at 8:02
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    @Rickross in which yuga did this happen ? were women not menstruating before this ? illogical stories.. – Rakesh Joshi May 1 '17 at 3:56
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    @RakeshJoshi, First list what you would accept as proof, since you label any scriptural proof that goes against your opinions as an interpolation or wrong interpretation. Second, refrain from using words like bloody, unless you're describing a battle or other evil people like Kamsa/Duryodhana. – ram May 3 '17 at 14:41
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The earliest reference to women accepting a third share of Indra's sin and as a result receiving the "boon" of menstruation can be found in the Taittirīya Saṃhitā of Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda.

The Yajur Veda (Taittiriya Sanhita)
Arthur Berriedale Keith, translator
1914

KANDA II

PRAPATHAKA V

The New and Full Moon Sacrifices

ii. 5. 1.

a Viśvarūpa, son of Tvastr, was the domestic priest of the gods, and the sister's son of the Asuras. He had three heads, one which drank Soma, one Sura, and one which ate food. He promised openly the share to the gods, secretly to the Asuras. Men promise openly the share to every one; if they promise any one secretly, his share is indeed promised. Therefore Indra was afraid (thinking), 'Such an one is diverting the sovereignty (from me).' He took his bolt and smote off his heads. (The head) which drank Soma 2 became a hazelcock; (the head) which drank Sura a sparrow; (the head) which ate food a partridge. He seized with his hand the guilt of slaying him, and bore it for a year.

Creatures called out upon him, 'Thou art a Brahman slayer.' He appealed to the earth, 'Take a third part of my guilt.' She said, 'Let me choose a boon. I deem that I shall be overcome through digging. Let me not be overcome by that.' He replied, 'Before 2 a year is out it will grow up for thee.' Therefore before the year is out the dug-out portion of earth grows up again, for that was what she chose as a boon. She took a third of his guilt. That became a natural fissure; therefore one who has piled up a fire-altar and whose deity is faith should not choose a natural fissure, for that is the colour of guilt.

He appealed to the trees, 'Take a third part of my guilt.' They said, 'Let us choose a boon. We deem that we shall be overcome through pruning [3]. Let us not be overcome by that.' He replied, 'From pruning shall more (shoots) spring up for you.' Therefore from the pruning of trees more (shoots) spring up, for that was what they chose as a boon. They took a third part of his guilt, it became sap; therefore one should not partake of sap, for it is the colour of guilt. Or rather of the sap which is red or which comes from the pruning one should not partake [4], but of other sap at will.

He appealed to a concourse of women, 'Take the third of my guilt.' They said, 'Let us choose a boon; let us obtain offspring from after the menses; let us enjoy intercourse at will up to birth.' Therefore women obtain offspring from after the menses, and enjoy intercourse at will up to birth, for that was what they chose as a boon. They took a third of his guilt, it became (a woman) with stained garments; therefore one should not converse with (a woman) with stained garments [5], one should not sit with her, nor eat her food, for she keeps emitting the colour of guilt. Or rather they say, 'Woman's food is unguent, and there fore one should not accept (from her) unguent, but anything else (can be accepted) at will.'

The son born of intercourse with (a woman) with stained garments is accursed; ...

2

Women were never cursed with menstruation according to Samhitas and Brahmana, which are the only authentic portion of the Vedas.

Even in the most quoted verses from the Taittirya Samhita, the women were not cursed. The plain meaning of the text-only leads to the fact that the women accept the sins of Indra. This is not equivalent to getting cursed!

काम॑म॒न्यस्य॒ स स्त्री॑षसा॒दमुपा॑सीदद॒स्यै ब्र॑ह्मह॒त्यायै॒ तृती॑य॒म्प्रति॑ गृह्णी॒तेति॒ ता अ॑ब्रुव॒न्वरं॑ वृणामहा॒ ऋत्वि॑यात्प्र॒जां वि॑न्दामहै॒ >काम॒मा विज॑नितोः॒ सम्भ॑वा॒मेति॒ तस्मा॒दृत्वि॑या॒थ्स्त्रियः॑ प्र॒जां वि॑न्दन्ते॒ काम॒मा विज॑नितोः॒ सम्भ॑वन्ति॒ वारे॑वृत॒ ह्या॑सा॒न्तृती॑यम्ब्रह्मह॒त्यायै॒ >प्रत्य॑गृह्ण॒न्थ्सा मल॑वद्वासा अभव॒त्तस्मा॒न्मल॑वद्वाससा॒ न सं व॑देत न स॒हासी॑त॒ नास्या॒ अन्न॑मद्याद्ब्रह्मह॒त्यायै॒ ह्ये॑षा वर्ण॑म्प्रति॒मुच्यास्तेऽथो॒ खल्वा॑हुर॒भ्यञ्ज॑नं॒ वाव स्त्रि॒या अन्न॑म॒भ्यञ्ज॑नमे॒व न प्र॑ति॒गृह्यं॒ >काम॑म॒न्यदिति॒ याम्मल॑वद्वासस स॒म्भव॑न्ति॒ यस्ततो॒ जाय॑ते॒ सो॑ऽभिश॒स्तो यामर॑ण्ये॒ तस्यैस्ते॒नो याम्परा॑चीं॒ तस्य ह्रीतमु॒ख्य॑पग॒ल्भो या >स्नाति॒ तस्या॑ अ॒प्सु मारु॑को॒ या

The Vedas have accorded a respectable position to the women.

Menstruation was not considered as a taboo.

This practises of considering women as impure has no basis in the Saṃhitā and Brāhmaṇa. It is an element of Śramaṇa that the Brahmins ingrained in their lifestyles to establish superiority over Buddhism.

Unfortunately, such practices lead to stigmatization of the women and have hindered the progress of the society (see here).

The Vedic rituals comprise of domestic (Gṛhya) and solemn rituals (Śrauta) which invites the Gods to receive the offerings. The presence of the wife is indispensable in these rituals because God did not accept the oblations offered by an unmarried man. The energy of the women was essential to the rituals and cannot be dispensed with even by the Vedic ritualists (see Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 1.9.2.5).

अथ पत्नीः संयाजयन्ति । यज्ञाद्वै प्रजाः प्रजायन्ते यज्ञात्प्रजायमाना मिथुनात्प्रजायन्ते मिथुनात्प्रजायमाना अन्ततो यज्ञस्य प्रजायन्ते

तदेना एतदन्ततो यज्ञस्य मिथुनात्प्रजननात्प्रजनयति तस्मान्मिथुनात्प्रजननादन्ततो यज्ञस्येमाः प्रजाः प्रजायन्ते तस्मात्पत्नीः संयाजयन्ति - १.९.२.[५]

Aitareya Brāhmaṇa even goes to the extent of saying that the man cannot become a spiritual entity without a wife. Taittrīya Brāhmaṇa has considered an unmarried person as irreverent (2.2.2.6)!

अयज्ञो वा एषः । योऽपत्नीकः

The hymns of Samāveda were sung by the women who were trained in the music (see Pāṇinīya Śikṣa 5.52).

मन्त्रो हीनः स्वरतो वर्णतो वा मिथ्याप्रयुक्तो न तमर्थमाह।

स वाग्वज्रो यजमानं हिनस्ति यथेन्द्रशत्रुः स्वरतोऽपराधात्।।52।।

In the absence of men, the Vedic scriptures allow the wife to assume the ritual role and she was considered on par with God (see Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 3.5.3.1 – 4).

पुरुषो वै यज्ञः । पुरुषस्तेन यज्ञो यदेनं पुरुषस्तनुत एष वै तायमानो यावानेव पुरुषस्तावान्विधीयते तस्मात्पुरुषो यज्ञः शिर

एवास्य हविर्धानम् । वैष्णवं देवतयाथ यदस्मिन्त्सोमो भवति हविर्वै देवानां सोमस्तस्माद्धविर्धानं नाम मुखमेवास्याहवनीयः । स

यदाहवनीये जुहोति यथा मुखऽआसिञ्चेदेवं तत् स्तुप एवास्य यूपः । बाहू एवास्याग्नीध्रीयश्च मार्जालीयश्च

It is true that during the period of menstruation the woman cannot serve alone as a medium to transport the powers from the deities see Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 5.2.1.8).

अथ नेष्टा पत्नीमुदानेष्यन् । कौशं वासः परिधापयति कौशं वा चण्डातकमन्तरं दीक्षितवसनाज्जघनार्धो वा एष यज्ञस्य यत्पत्नी

तामेतत्प्राचीं यज्ञं प्रसादयिष्यन्भवत्यस्ति वै पत्न्या अमेध्यं यदवाचीनं नाभेर्मेध्या वै दर्भास्तद्यदेवास्या अमेध्यं तदेवास्या

एतद्दर्भैर्मेध्यं कृत्वाथैनां प्राचीं यज्ञं प्रसादयति तस्मान्नेष्टा पत्नीमुदानेस्यन्कौशं वासः परिधापयति कौशं वा चण्डातकमन्तरं

दीक्षितवसनात् - ५.२.१.[८]

However, there is no stigma attached to entering the kitchen or the cooking area.

Even the performers of the yajñá did not exclude the wife during the period of menstruation from the rituals that were to be performed at the time of the new moon and full moon. The waist of the wife was circumferentially tied with the rope explicitly identified as the noose of Varuṇa (see Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 5.2.1.8 and 1.3.1.20) and she took part in the rituals even during menstruation.

अथाज्यमादाय प्राङुदाहरति । तदाहवनीयेऽधिश्रयति यस्याहवनीये हवींषि श्रपयन्ति सर्वो मे यज्ञ आहवनीये शृतोऽसदित्यथ

यदमुत्राग्रेऽधिश्रयति पत्नीं ह्यवकाशयिष्यन्भवति न हि तदवकल्पते यत्सामि प्रत्यग्घरेत्पत्नीमवकाशयिष्यामीत्यथ यत्पत्नीं

नावकाशयेदन्तरियाद्ध यज्ञात्पत्नीं तथो ह यज्ञात्पत्नीं नान्तरेति तस्मादु सार्धमेव विलाप्य प्रागुदाहरत्यवकाश्य पत्नीं यस्यो पत्नी न

भवत्यग्र एव तस्याहवनीयेऽधिश्रयति तत्तत आदत्ते तदन्तर्वेद्यासादयति

It is due to these elements of the Vedic religion and probably to stop the high jacking of Śramaṇism on the Vedic way of life, the authors of the Smṛtis of were forced to pronounce that women are always pure (Yājñavalkya Smṛti 1.71, Vaśiṣṭha Smṛti 28.6).

सोमः शौचं ददावासां गन्धर्वश्च शुभां गिरम् ।

पावकः सर्वमेध्यत्वं मेध्या वै योषितो ह्यतः । । १.७१ । ।

Women, Child and old are never impure (Āpastamba Smṛti 2.1 –3). Vaśiṣṭha eulogizing the women even went to compare the acts of women to that of an innocent child and therefore, always pure (see Vaśiṣṭha Smṛti 3.66).

Shankha in his Smṛti has gone proclaimed that as menstruation clears all the sins of the women and she is again purified. (see Sankha Smriti 16-17). Even the most popular Smṛti of Manava (Manu) has said that the mouth of the women and of a bird are pure (see M. Sm. 5.130).

नित्यं आस्यं शुचि स्त्रीणां शकुनिः फलपातने ।

प्रस्रवे च शुचिर्वत्सः श्वा मृगग्रहणे शुचिः ।

Parāśara asks us to do undoable when he exhorts that women are always pure whether they speak pleasantly or unpleasantly. Somā, Gandharva and Agni have purified the women (see Parāśara Smṛti 6.61-63).

कुर्याद्वाक्यं द्विजानां तु अन्यथा भ्रूणहा भवेत् । ब्राह्मणा जङ्गमं तीर्थं तीर्थभूता हि साधवः ।। ६.६१ ।।

तेदां वाक्योदकेनैव शुध्यन्ति मलिना जनाः ।ब्राह्मणा यानि भाषन्ते मन्यन्ते तानि देवताः ।। ६.६२ ।।

सर्वदेवमयो विप्रो न तद्वचनं अन्यथा ।उपवासो व्रतं चैव स्नानं तीर्थं जपस्तपः ।। ६.६३ ।।

Atrī in his Smṛti has even dealt the theme of rape of women and has said without mincing any words that if a woman is raped then such a woman should not be considered fallen and she should not be abandoned.

In conclusion, a woman has been accorded a highly respectable position in the Vedic religion of Samhitā and Brāhmaṇa. It is the moral duty of any sane minded believer in Vedas to emancipate from the mythology of Purāṇa and metamorphize to put claim to the true religion of the Vedas.

There is no permission from the Vedas for nonsensical acts of sending one’s own wife to a forest (because of unfounded suspicion) or stealing the cloths of maidens (for fun or alibis like to fulfil their desires from previous lives).

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