Diwali. It's that time of the year again, and many women in Chennashettykoppa in Shivamogga district are cursing their period! For, menstruating women are not allowed to stay in the village during Gaama Habba, celebrated during Diwali, lest they may anger the village deity and curse may befall on them. Worse, many believe that those who violate the tradition would be stung by honey bees.

Even in this century, women who are having their periods during Diwali celebrations are considered a taboo in this village, reports Hindustan Times.

In fact, the tradition holds still true for Supriya, a commerce graduate. Supriya has been living in her uncle's residence which is 20 kilometres away from Chennashettykoppa village and will only go back to her village after she is 'purified'. While the purification period was 15 days earlier, now it has reduced to seven days.

According to HT, the village accepts the women on the night of new moon after Diwali celebrations by bursting firecrackers. The taboo is such that even the vehicle in which 'those' women travel to other villages are washed thoroughly before they are taken back to the village.

Many women with whom the HT spoke to expressed their helplessness with the dreaded tradition. The punishments were severe in those days - like women had to live in huts in the agriculture fields with no access to any facilities. However, the only solace now is that they are at least allowed to stay in their relatives' homes in other villages. While it is strongly believed that those who violate the rule are stung by bees, no one - in fact - had come to know when or who had been attacked. "But, it happens," reports HT quoting a villager.

A local panchayat member is quoted as saying, "Everbody talks of wanting a change but nobody has explained to us why bees sting people who disobey these rules only during the 15-day period."

It is strange that so far, no one has dared to question the ritual. For, if something untoward occurs in the village, only the rebel women are blamed. "For fear of being blamed, no one dares to oppose the rules," a villager said.

Although the State cabinet has approved the Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman and Evil Practices and Black Magic bill, it may take years to change the mindset of people of Channashettykoppa.