How religious discourse attempts to normalise misogyny

If you eat food made by a menstruating woman then you are sure to be reborn as an ox: these teachings of Swami Krushnaswarup Dasji of Swaminarayan Bhuj Mandir lay bare the strongly prejudiced views against women held by the sect’s followers who run controversial Bhuj institute

|Ahemdabad Mirror

If you eat food prepared by a menstruating woman even once, then your next avatar will definitely be that of a ‘balad’ (ox). A menstruating woman who cooks food for her husband will certainly be reborn as a ‘kutri’ (bitch). These are the preachings of Swami Krushnaswarup Dasji of Swaminarayan Bhuj Mandir ((Nar Narayan Dev Gadi) that exposes the misogynistic mindset of the sect and its followers, who run the Bhuj institute where 68 hostellers were forced to strip for a menses check.

Even as the controversy surrounding the Bhuj hostel horror continues to draw a lot of heat, the video of the swami reportedly preaching at a Bhuj ratri sabha has created shockwaves.

“Ek vaar maasik dharm maan raheli stri na haathe rotla khai jaao toh beejo avatar balad no j che. Have tamne je lagvu hoy te lage, aa shashtra ni vaat che. Ane ek vaar jo stri potana pati ne maasik dharma maan rotlo khavdave toh beejo avatar kutri no j che,” the swami says in the video clip, culled from a long speech that he gave a year ago.

He tells the audience: “You can feel whatever you want but these rules have been outlined in the ‘shashtras’ (spiritual texts).”

In the same vein, he adds: “Have aa kahi toh badha ne kadak laage ane rodi pade ke, arre, amne kutri thavu pade, toh haan thavu toh padene (Now that I have said this, everyone will feel that I am strict. And they {women} will cry that we will turn into dogs. So, yes, you will have to {become dogs}).”

Expressing displeasure with the practice of followers, the swami further says, “Aa ttakor karvi ke nahi karvi em kahun. Mein 10 varas maan aa pehli vaar ttakor kari. Mane santo naa paadta ke amara dharam ni secret vaat na keh. Mare kahi nahi, toh khabar nahi padti. (I don’t know whether I should counsel you, or not. This is the first time in 10 years that I am giving this advice. The saints have asked me not to talk about our religion’s secrets. But if I do not say then {you} will never understand.” Exhorting the male followers to learn how to cook so that the rules of religion are maintained, Swami Krushnaswarup Dasji warns, “Have maasik dharma maan hoy stree toh tame naath na rotla khayi jaao. Ene bhaan nathi ke hoon aa tran divas aa dharm che, tapasya che eni…. Ek ek vaaton ketli shaashtra ni maryadit vaaton che…Maate cheto. Pennta pehla rasoi banavta seekhilo badha… (You eat the rotis even if it is made by a menstruating woman. She does not have the sense that she should spend these three days ascetically. Each of these points is defined in the shashtras. So, be warned. Before you get married, learn how to cook.”

Reacting to the video that has gone viral, industrialist Jadavji Gorasiya, who is also the trustee of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bhuj said, “I will not comment on the matter.” Devprakash Swami, the kothari swami of the temple, also said, “I do not want to talk about it.”

The followers of the sect, who run Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj have come under scanner after 68 undergraduate hostellers were paraded through the college into the restroom and forced to individually remove their undergarments to prove that they were not menstruating.

The college was set up in 2012 but moved into a new building on the premises of Shree Swaminarayan Kanya Mandir in 2014.

According to the sect’s norms, menstruating females are barred from entering the temple and kitchen.

They are even forbidden from touching other students. However, the hostel rector reportedly complained to the principal that some girls had lied about not having periods so that they could mingle with other inmates and freely move around the campus.

Revealing horrifying details of their ordeal at the hostel, a 19-year-old told Mirror, “It is mandatory for girls in their period to declare so in a register and shift to the hostel’s basement for three days. Entry to main dining hall is prohibited. Food is served in a passage.” The college authorities have allegedly tried out every possible tactic to prevent the issue from intensifying. They locked up the girls in a hostel room and threatened them against saying anything about the incident to anyone if they wished to continue studying there.