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Food Avoidances at Puberty and Menstruation in Tamilnad

An Anthropological Study
WithG. Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi

One thousand and two hundred women of 54 castes and 55 tribal women in Tamilnad (South India) were interviewed during a period of six months on food avoidances during puberty and subsequent menstruation.

Avoidances referred to different types of food, but the most significant were those of animal origin. This practice could be explained by the concept of purity and pollution. Even non-vegetarians held animal foods to be impure and, as women during menstruation are considered impure also, they should abstain from consuming them to prevent the pollution increasing.

Eggs, though coming under the impure category, were nevertheless eaten at puberty, because of their reputed “strengthening” effect on the girl’s body for future pregnancies.

Avoidances during ordinary menstruation were much rarer than at puberty indicating a decreased concern with habituation.