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Social Dimension of Chhaupadi System

A Study from Achham District, Far West Nepal

Bimala Amgain
Project Owner
MMRA, 2011

Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF)
SNV Nepal

This learning would not have been possible if I would not get the Matthias
Moyersoen Research Apprentices (MMRAs) award 2011, from Social Inclusion
Research Fund (SIRF) on behalf of SNV. I sincerely thank from the bottom of my
heart to its lead advisor Dr Manju Thapa Tuladhar, Program Officer Sita Rana
Magar and the whole family members of the Social Inclusion Research Fund
(SIRF). This report would not come into this shape if my research mentor would
not contribute, so I would like to express my deep gratitude to my mentor Mr
Madhusudhan Subedi, the Lecturer of Central Department of Sociology and
Anthropology Tribhuvan University Kirtipur. His meticulous correction and
inspiration helped me a lot to bring my research in this stage. I equally express
my gratitude to all the professors, lecturers involved in the course of various
research trainings that I have received. I would also like to thank all the
research organizations and administrative staffs involved in the research
trainings I participated. My research report is an outcome of all these efforts.
I sincerely thank to Dilli Subedi who helped me in computer skills essential to
write this report. I sincerely thank to all the people from my field area who have
shared their pain and sorrow with me during my field work. Among them I would
like to thank Mrs Laxmi Bayek, Gauri Budha, and Chhatra Bayek who assisted
me during the field work period. Last but not the least, I express my deep
gratitude to my husband Prem Bahadur Chalaune who inspired me to work in
this topic and helped to bring this research in to this shape. Similarly, I express
to my father Yeb Nath Amgain and mother Indra Kumari Amgain. Without their
sacrifice, hardships, rearing and caring I would not be in this stage. Thus, all
these above mentioned people are strength of my report. Errors and mistakes
are all mine.
Bimala Amgain
MMRAs 2011

Executive Summary
This report explores the interrelationship among institutions such as Shamanism
(Dhami/Deota Pratha), Jaisi system (a kind of traditional healing system), local
belief system, caste system, regional social system, family elders, power
structure, and economic deprivation and Chhaupadi system. The report seeks
the link between how Chhaupadi system is produced and how it is sustained by
various local agencies and structure. Chhaupadi system, a traditional practice
prevalent in far west and some parts of mid west region in Nepal, in which
women and girls are considered as impure and polluted during their period of
menstruation and forbidden to live inside the home and kept out of touch and
face various social restrictions. As like lower caste Dalits who are treated as
Untouchable (nachhunemanchey), women are treated in similar way in each
period of their menstruation and delivery. The only difference is that Dalits are
treated as nachhunemanchey permanently and women temporarily. The same
principle of pollution and purity that divides the caste divides the gender.
Women have to face impurity avoidance during their period of menstruation and
delivery as Dalit face mainly in public places like temple, water source, food, and
social intercourse. Their contact with perceived pure things is considered as
impure and disastrous. The stereotype is that if they touch the pure things and
the persons who are following ascetic life such as Dhami/Phulpate, Jaisi, and
other community leaders, then it brings some disaster in the community. Society
does not treat menstruation as natural phenomena. Local agencies and sociopolitical system manipulate and defend the existing Chhau system through the
means of various myth and superstition. Local agencies such as family seniors,
Dhami/Deveta, Jasis, priests, and community leaders pass the mythical stories
of snake bite, disease, and premature death, cattle harm associating with the
menstruation and delivery period. Women are considered as polluted during the
period of menstruation and delivery and face various restrictions. One the one
hand Chhaupadi system is associated with various local agencies, on the other it
is also connected with inadequate human development and economic deprivation
in the region. In terms of capability to be educated, well nourished, healthy and
longer life, access to health facilities, and capability to be free the region lies in
the bottom rank in comparison with eastern and western part of Nepal. So, the

superstitious practice Chhaupadi is also connected with abovementioned dark

situation. It is also associated with economic deprivation and overall power
structure. The food denial during their menstrual cycle is a part of the overall
food deficiency situation in the region. Chhaupadi is also linked with power
structure as well. Previous politicians were the strong followers of Chhau as of
other traditions, as a result Chhaupadi system continued since generation to

1.1. Background
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Researcher's Quests and Objectives
1.3.1. Researcher's Quests
1.3.4. Research Objectives
1.4.1. Institutional Theories and Socialization
1.4.2. Liberal Feminism
1.4.3. Radical Feminism
1.4.4. Socialistic Feminism
3.1. Research Design
3.2. Study Area
3.3. Nature and Sources of Data
3.4. Data Collection Techniques
3.4.1. Informal Interview
3.4.2. Semi Structured Interview
3.4.3. Life History/ Case Study
3.4.4. Chhau Location Assessment
3.4.5. Limitations of the Study
4.1. The Place and the People
4.2. Field Entry/ Rapport Building
4.3 Social Cultural Layout
4.4. Chhau Scenario

5.1. The Ideology of Pollution and Purity

5.2. Dharma and Paap
6.3. Social-Political History and Local Institutions
5.3.1. Shamanism (Dhami/Deota and Fulpate)
5.3.2. Traditional Healer (Jaisi) practice

5.3.3. Regional Social System

5.3.4. Poverty and Incapability
5.3.5. Village Politicians and the State
5.3.6. Local Belief System Deep Seated Beliefs into Practice:
5.3.7. The Agencies of Socialization
5.3.8. Embedded Myths
5.3.9. SOME CASE STUDIES FINDINGS The Cost of Crossing the Boundary The Plight of Anti-Chhau Activists
6.1. Summary
6.2. Conclusion
Appendix One
Check List
Appendix Two
Chhau Location Assesment

1.1. Background
Chhaupadi system is traditional practice in which during menstruation women and
girls are forbidden to touch anything and have to live in cowshed. It is a widespread practice
prevalent in far west and some parts of mid west region of Nepal. In far west it is prevalent
mainly in Achham, Bajura, Bajang, Doti, Baitadi, Dadheldhura, Darchula, Kanchanpur, and
Kailali and in mid west it is prevalent in Kalikot, Jumla, Humla, Mugu, Dailekh Jajarkot, and
Surkhet Districts. In these areas, family and society do not treat menstruation as natural
phenomena. In Chhaupadi system girls and women are isolated from family and home during
several days in their menstrual cycle. Menstrual women are not allowed to touch men, children,
cattle, living plants, and fruit bearing trees. If they touch all aforesaid things it is believed that the
things become polluted and it made god angry (Bennet1983). Cowshed or buffalo shed which are
located under the upstairs of home are the living habitat of chhaupadi women. In addition to it
separate structures of hut (chhaupadi shed) are also made 20-25 meter far from residual home.
Such separate chhaupadi sheds lack doors, and are narrow, tight and very congested (Kafle 2011).
When they need social support, nutritious food, and warm home especially during the period of
delivery, after child birth, menstruation, women of far western have to live in either cowshed or
buffalo shed or in Chhaupadi shed and eat less dietary food. At a period of transition, pain they
have to follow varieties of restrictions. They are denied to eat ghee, milk, curd, etc and are
forbidden to touch public tap, temple, home, and food either(Upreti 2010). They are treated as
untouchable during 5-7 days. Many die during child birth and even during menstruation due to
cold, hot, rain, and unsafe delivery in cowsheds. One study reveals that fifty out of two hundred
cases suffer by pro-lapse (Aang khasne) in far western while hardly one case found in Mustang
(Upreti 2011). Nutrition, care in pregnancy and delivery play vital role behind it. The women of
far western feel easy to go in cowshed rather than in Health post, because the situation is that
there neither doctor nor medicine (Upreti 2010). Even if in doctors rare presence they are not
treated in good way. If cholera or diarrhoea spread out, if snake bite then menstruated women
have high chance of death because social taboo hinder their fast treatment keeping out them from
touch. Family members delay them in hospital. Some women have to go in cowshed and follow
Chhau restrictions (menstrual taboos) for dozen times for a single son because sons are idealized
and daughters are devalued. During menstruation and child birth women of Achham are treated
non- humanly. Many things have been changed after ten years Maoist movement and popular
movement 062/63 BS, state transformed into democratic republic, the constitution of 2047 BS
and 2063 BS ensured the equal rights for all citizens, but a large seize of population is still in this
condition. In the name of women, 197 nearly 33% female reached in biggest constituent
assembly, but none of the women are nominated as a member from Achham, Bajang, Bajura, and
Kanchanpur(four districts). In my field area Achham, none of the women has been elected as a
village chairman never ever. Despite being equal citizens and having equal rights they do not
have right to property. Maternal and child mortality is high and education enrolment is low. The
meaningless, powerless, and voiceless condition of the women of Achham is reflected in
chhaupadi system (Menstrual taboos). Therefore the issue of chhaupadi is needed to study to look
the situation of women from the vantage point of Chhaupadi. Thus the whole social, economic,
and political dimension of chhaupadi system are relevant to study. This study will be helpful to
formulate policy to transform the condition of sidelined women of far west Nepal.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
Within Chhaupadi system(called as Chhau pratha in far west), women and girls are kept in
cowshed or Chhaupadished (Chhuikatero), which is a little bit far from residual home. Isolated
Chhaupadisheds, cowsheds where women are resided during their menstruation are open and
door less. Women and girls have to stay in such huts and cowsheds five to seven days in each

month amidst their menstruation. Sometime within these cowshed and Chhaupadished women
and girls have to be the victim of snake bite, some poisonous insects and even by tiger as well
(Upreti 2010). Yearly more than dozen women and girls reached into the mouth of death by such
incidents but are rarely exposed in public. It is reported that open and door less hut and cowshed
are becoming the easy sphere for rape and sexual abuse. Such door less cowshed and hut are safe
place for raper and sexual abuser. Most of the rape cases do not revealed in front of village
fearing for the future of unmarried girls. Most of the rape cases are kept hidden. For overall
women, chhau bring different kinds of miseries. They are kept untouched from food, water,
cattle, men, temple, etc. Deep seated patriarchal Hindu values perceive menstruated women as
impure or polluted (Bennet 1983). At a time when they need some nutritious food they are denied
to eat milk, curd, ghee etc. The menstruated women and girl should not touch food, water, cattle,
home, and temple either. Within deeply entrenched patriarchal tradition women are treated as
polluted for aforementioned things while for rape and sexual abuse they are not considered as
polluted, or profane. Chhaupadi women are prohibited to touch public tap and spring. They have
to take bath and wash clothes from separate tap which are generally located in the downside of
public taps. Above mentioned taboos and restrictions are also implied in the case of pregnant
women at their natal period. In local dialect, the women who are pregnant are called as Goatha
jane which literally give sense being prepared to go for cowshed. During natal period (child birth)
and after the birth of the child they have to live in such cowshed 10-12 days and have to follow
same restrictions what menstruated women follow. They are denied to eat milk product and kept
untouched. If they touch water, home, temple, spring it is believed that it made god angry brings
some disaster (Upreti 2011). It is believed that it brings cholera, Diarrhoea, heavy rain, sand
stones, hurricanes, landslide and drought. Restrictions, and untouchability imposed for women
are justified in this way by orthodox Patriline Hindu values. In violation of above prohibitions it
is believed that local deity (such as Dhami jhakri) become angry and bring natural and social
disaster. Local deity (Dhami) does not walk the way through which menstruated women has
walked. In the case of school going girl Chhau pratha led them dropout from school (Koirala,
Bajracharya, and Khadka, 2010). Due to lack of sanitary pad for chhau girl, absence of safety
toilets for change during Chhau, harassment of classmates on Chhau issue, irregularity of the girl
children in school because of Chhau, difficulty in coping the class work and assignments,
teachers verbal and corporal punishment led their eventual dropout from the school.
1.3. The Researcher's Quests and Objectives
1.3.1. Researcher's Quests
The larger set of problem can be pin down as follows: Despite so many changes in
culture, politics, gender, level of awareness, education how and why Chhau practice remained as
it is except very nominal changes? How Chhau system is transmitted from one generation to
another? How new generation become socialized within chhau? How Chhau practice is defended
by different social actors such as by religious leaders, and family seniors? What kinds of myth,
stories, produce the common sense of Chhau? How Chhau commonsense are constructed and
reinforced across time and history. Why and how Chhau restrictions are connected with economic
condition and political power?
1.3.2. Objectives
The overall objective of the research was to explore social, economic, and political
dimensions of Chhaupadi women. Underlying on general specific objective of the research were
as follows 1) To assess the institutions that produces and sustains the commonsense of chhau,
2) To describe the process through which Chhau system is justified and defended,


1.4.1. Institutional Theories and Socialization
Contemporary feminist theorists seek gender difference, inequality, oppression,
suppression of women through the landscape of institutions and socialization (Ritzer 2000). For
them gender division of labour, the doctrine of private public sphere in which women are
restricted to work as a house worker, mother, care giver result the womens less privileged
position, subordination, and domination. The division of labour that confine women in private
world (within the chores of household) and men in public world creates the different situation for
them. Institutional theories believe on the fact that institutions produce different social space, and
experience for men and women. In addition to it, in the case of chhaupadi system I will seek the
role of other micro and macro institutions. Among micro I will seek how the chhaupadi system is
enacted and reinforced by family, local Dhami, priest, community, and school. Among macro I
will seek the role of state how it is keeping its mom silent on this non human practice still
existing in 21st century. I will seek how Chhaupadi (womens untouchability) is passing or
transmit from one generation to another generation in process of socialization. On the role of
socialization I will see how the cultural typifications of Chhaupadi are enacted and reinforced
through storytelling, myth, superstitions and penetrate and cemented into the minds of
1.4.2. Liberal Feminism
Through the lens of liberal feminism gender inequality, oppression, and suppression
as a by product of the interplay of four factors i.e. patriarchal and sexist patterning of division of
labour, social construction of gender, doctrine of private and public sphere and patriarchal
ideology. According to liberal feminist gender equality can be achieved only after transforming
division of labour and re-patterning key institutions such as family, law, work, education, and
mass media. For them existing institutions and division of labour restrict the womens freedom.
Male biased institutions and their assigned roles create hurdles for women to be independent. For
instance marriage gives more freedom to male while hinders womens freedom. It reduce tension,
insomnia, and heart disease for men while increase these things for women after marriage.
Because it makes women dependent and compliant to the men and confine them within the house
hold periphery. So for liberal feminists transforming division of labour and re-patterning key
institutions is prerequisite for the emancipation of women. I will seek chhaupadi system of
Achham in association with deep seated patriarchal ideology, division of labor, the doctrine of
private public sphere and social construction of gender. I will seek how chhaupdi system is a part
of a patriarchal domination.
1.4.3. Radical Feminism
Patriarchy creates guilt, oppression, sadism, masochism and manipulation. Sadist
culture is a by-product of patriarchy. The main motto behind oppression, sadism, masochism and
manipulation is to control the women body. Overt and covert violence are also rooted on
patriarchy. Overt violence refers to direct physical cruelty and covert refer to indirect hurt. Covert
violence occur through the complex practices of exploitation of women such as through fashion
and beauty tyrannical ideal of motherhood, myth of chastity, unpaid household drudgery and
under paid work, etc while overt violence occur through direct practice of witch burning, rape,
sexual abuse, etc. so for a radical feminist women are oppressed everywhere through overt and
covert violence. The main purpose behind the practice of overt and covert violence is to serve the
mens interest, to make women as a compliant tool, dominants instrument, second class citizen,
etc. Ultimately, it is to control the women body. In this way through the oppression, sadism,
masochism and manipulation it makes women subservient to the men, it subordinate to women.
Chhau system of far western in which women and girls are treated as non human seems like a
part of sadism and masochism. In sadist culture one party (individual or collectivity) take

pleasure looking other partys (individual or collectivity) miseries, hurt, etc. Chhau a part of
sadist culture is practiced to keep women always in weak and compliant position and men in
dominant and powerful position to continue patriarchy. Ultimately it is to control women body, to
subordinate them, to make them always powerless through which male could be placed always in
superior and powerful position. Chhau system is practiced to compliant women to the men, to
fulfil the interest of men. In far western Nepal chhau system is practiced to prepare women to
work like a bullock within household work. It is to prepare women for unpaid household
drudgery, for male needed reproduction etc.
1.4.4. Socialistic Feminism
Socialistic feminism talks about patriarchy but capitalistic patriarchy. Capitalist
patriarchy caused Gender oppression. The use, abuse, subjugation, and subordination of women
is cultivated and promoted ultimately by capitalistic structural arrangements. To fulfill the interest
of profit, capital accumulation for some groups, multifaceted inequalities and domination are
promoted structurally. So, capitalistic social arrangements promote domination and subordination
through the institution of patriarchy. It is done to exploit surplus value from labor. Intertwining
relationship between capitalism and patriarchy led gender oppression in which some group of
people own the resources and many become deprived from it in larger context while in family
male own the property and female become deprived from it. Patriarchy was emerged later after
the origin of private property. For Marx and Engels it was the private property that led the world
historic defeat of women. After the shift of hunting, gathering into herding and farming the
concept of private property came into existence. In process of change society from hunting,
gathering to herding and farming it cut down the independent economic base of women as
gatherers, crafters, storers, and distributors of essential materials. Then the institution of family
becomes emerged to preserve that property. The first family was originated from master and his
slave servants, wife servants, and children servants. Before that kin based society was in practice
in which particular individual could not control the womens sexuality. After the invention of
family, women body started to be controlled. After its invention, private property gone under the
ownership of men then men became master and women became slave. Since then patriarchy and
the family are becoming the complex institutions for womens exploitation and subordination.
Capitalism is extracting resources and human labor through family and patriarchy. It has
instutionalized multifaceted form of inequality within the sphere of family and community. These
institutions are becoming the practice ground of exploitation and oppression for the interests of
capital accumulation, surplus value for some groups of people. Each family produce male for a
factory owner in a free and subsidized rate. Women turned into the child producing machine and
house worker. They manage house hold and produce child for the benefit of factory. They are
compensated from nowhere for this task. Instead to compensate them, capitalists exploited the
surplus value from their supposed bread winner i.e. from males.

In the case of India women are considered as mens property. Women dont have
right to their own body. Their body is not seems autonomous or independent (Mathur 2008).
They dont have right to express sexual desire, have no mobility right as per their own will, and
have no decisive rights with related to their body. They are not free from fear. Women are
subjected to physical and emotional violence within house hold by their partners and outside of it
by state alliance. They are spatially immobile, and have no decision right with regards to when to
marry, with whom to marry, and when to get child. In terms of spatial mobility they dont have
right to decide where to go, who they go with, when to go at day or night etc. They are not
independent since birth to death. At child they are subjected to their father, at youth to husband,
and after the death of their husband they are subjected to their sons. Hundreds of evidences show
the low status of women. May you be the mother of hundred sons is the common blessing of
Hindu wedding. Sons are idealized and daughters are devalued. The author had analyzed various
cases of discrimination and violence faced by women at work and home only because of being
women. Mathur have analyzed the cases of rape, dowry burning, sati, and other forms of violence
from the vantage point of patriarchy. The rape of a minor tribal girl in Mathura was occurred by
the so called protector of law and order. The police were involved on that rape case. The suicide
of Sangeeta Sharma an advocate of Andhra Pradesh High Court was also the result of the sexual
harassment of her fellow and senior judges at high court. Her suicide notes revealed such facts
later. The burning of women in Hyderbaad in the case of inadequate dowry and the forced
situation of young widow in Rajasthan who immolate her in her husbands funeral pyre shows the
common plight of women in India (Mathur 2008).
The discrimination towards women starts since before birth to till death. Women are expected to
eat last leaving best food for men and neglect illness for the sake of home and family. The food
distribution within home led malnutrition and ill health of women. Ill health transmitted from
inadequately nourished mother to the child. Inadequately nourished mother are likely to produce
underweight babies in comparison with adequately nourished mothers. Underweight babies have
high chance of death and slow growth. They have less capacity to fight with disease and death in
comparison with the child of adequately nourished mother. So the illness and poverty transmitted
one generation to another by lower status of women at home. Food and household resources are
distributed according to gender hierarchy and patriarchal values. The unequal labor sharing
during pregnancy and after child birth, rearing, and caring of children overburden women. They
cant decide how to dress, what to wear, how to sit, how to speak in front of men. They have to be
obedient, sacrificial, and disciplined. Without prior permission they cant go outside the home.
Women are expected to negate their self. They are subservient to their male counterparts. Food
distribution with in home is the result of female biased gender hierarchy, property inheritance
system. In addition that occurs within household resource constraints. In this way Indian women
are denied not only by society but by themselves.
Mathur seek the status, discrimination, and violence faced by Indian women from the standpoint
of patriarchy. She found all these things as an outcome of female biased gender norms, household
hierarchy, and resource constraints. But what inadequate in her study is that how resource
constraints, household gender hierarchy is produced and reproduced by larger structure. How
margin and center (female and male) is an outcome of history of peripheralization which
produces uneven industrialization and locate the centre of production in far distant areas where it
concentrate the production activities and creates jobs. On the contrary it dislocates the productive
activities and makes people jobless and option less. So, Mathur did not seek the connections
between resource constraints and uneven Industrialization which is ultimately created by world
capitalism, the relationship between metropolis satellites. Like entire world, in India women body
is as a contested Terrain where power is played out. Women do not have intrinsic right over own

body. They do not have control and autonomy upon own body. Women are considered as mens
property. They do not have right to be free from fear. They are not free from subjected to physical
and emotional violence.
Lynn Bennett (Bennett 1983) had conducted anthropological study on the status of High caste
Brahimin-Chhetri women in a village named as Narikot which is proximate to Kathmandu. Using
field work method such as life history, participant observation, and genealogical analysis, Bennet
has tried to explore status of high caste women in different social setting such as in husband and
their natal homes connecting it with Hindu Patrilineal ideology. For Bennet, position between
men and women cannot be understood in isolation from Hindu culture. Her study shows that
women have different social status in affinal and consanguinal relationship. Due to patrilineal
Hindu values, high caste Brahamin-Chhetri women have low social status, they are underneath of
their husband, and treated as impure or polluted in their husbands home while in their natal home
they are treated as pure or sacred or the mythic form of Goddess. In their affinal relationship
women have to be obedient, and dutiful to their in laws and family elders. They are bounded by
so many responsibilities and observance of practices. They have to be observance of strict fast of
Tij, menstrual taboos, and strict kitchen purity. Different behaviours and practices in different
homes have root on the myth that celibacy as pure and procreation as impure. In addition to it
they do have concern to control womens sexuality. For Bennet, observance of strict ritual
practices such as Tij fast and menstrual taboos as substitute of control and oppression.
For Bennett, behind the low status of women, it has root on patriline Hindu culture. The swoshani
varta katha, other traditional Hindu texts, and deep seated patriline Hindu values result hierarchy,
status, and power differentials of women. Bennet has looked status of women from the stand
point of patriline Hindu ideology. She has followed the line of Domount. She has not connected
the lower status of women with economy and power. She did not analyze the issue associating it
with property inheritance system. Women do not have right to property even up to now. And they
do not have access to power. These may be the other causes that led that lower status of women.
So Bennet has very less concerns with the dynamics of economy and political power (Bennett
Sama Cakewa, (Davis 2005) a twelve days long festival, celebrated among Maithil Bramin
women in Janakpur, is as a practice of hierarchical brother- sister relationship in which brother
are worshiped and prayed for the security of women in their conjugal homes. The brothers
dominant position manifested in different forms of story-telling and way of celebration in whole
festive occasion. In whole ritual occasion sister sing the songs; take part on storytelling, and
figurine play to prey for the longevity of brother. Married women also come to their natal homes
to celebrate it. The main purpose of Sama Cakewa is to ensure Brothers longevity. Another
mythical purpose related with Sama Cakewa is to control the womens sexuality in which
Krishna punished her own daughter Sama in charge of free roaming in jungle. Sama and Her
husband Cakewa became the bird as a result of krishnas punishment and later hardly came in the
form of human after 12 years of Samba(the brother of Sama)s sacrifice and meditation. This
study also thinks Hindu religion and myth as responsible factor behind inequality, and less
privileged position of women. It cut and hides the less privileged position of women from the fact
that they have no right to own parental property. It de emphasis on the fact that first, women
excluded from parental property, and then from other things.
Fertility, Birth, (Ginsburg and Rapp 1991) childcare activities are only for the sake of constitution
of labor. Biological processes are always mediated by social, economic, political context and
cultural understandings. For Ginsburg and Rayana Rapp reproduction is a source of
subordination. Poor fertile women are recruited as surrogate mothers and ova sellers to
international reproductive brothels. In many parts of the world women are held responsible for
infertility and bad outcomes of pregnancy. The author has analyzed many cases of different parts
of the world. In the case of menstruation, In Ivory Coast, among the Oglala Sioux menstruated
women are perceived as creative spirituality. By contrast, in rural Turkey Muslim tradition
dictates the subordination of menstruated women.

Nepalese women are subordinated because they do not have right to property. Cultural, religious
orthodoxy, juridical ideological make up of Nepalese society is masculine which block women
from property (Luitel 2001). Other forms of miseries start first from depriving resources Men are
recognized as a procreator and protector of female and femininity and female as Satisfiers of male
in terms of food, pleasure, and sex. Myth such as men have to produce and women have to cook
hinders them to be the owner of property and to command over it. Despite guarantee of equal
rights to property ensured by 1990s constitution, none of the women have got right to property in
Nepal. They are still guiding by the norms of conservative civil code, called the Muluki Ain 2020
(1963AD) which does not allow a daughter to have a full property inheritance rights. A married
woman is not recognized as independent citizen but as a co-partner to her husband, she therefore
cannot claim a share over the property in his lifetime. Denial of property rights, entitlements lead
other so many forms of exclusion.

3.1. Research Design
I have followed the making research sociological (Mishra 2009) in which Prof.
Mishra suggests to seek individual problems, hopes, and fears linking with history and social
structure. History and biography, self and world are intricately connected and shape to each other.
Each institution, custom, tradition, is the construction of history and social structure. For Prof.
Mishra, History, and structure shape to individual and individual shape to structure. Following
the footsteps of Mishra, I have associated how institutions and social structure create and sustain
Chhau system and how it is changing across time and history. I have seen here how history and
social structure is shaping Chhau pratha and anti Chhau campaigners and how anti Chhau
campaigners are again reshaping history and social structure. I have observed how Chhau
predicament and change undergoing in this mal practice is a construction of institutions, and
historical whole. The descriptive and narrative design has chosen to dig out the connections
between orthodox patriline Hindu values and Chhau culture (Bennet 1983), property rights, and
powerlessness and chhau restrictions (Luitel 2001).
3.2. Study Area and Rationale for Selection
Turmakhand VDC is situated 20 kilometer far from Jumla highway and nearby
with Bhairabsthan VDC from where one Dalit women had died in cowshed last year. I had
selected co-researcher from this VDC. The other adjoining VDCs nearby with Turmakhand are
Narayanpur(Nada), Dhungachalna, and Toshi.
3.3. Nature and Sources of Data
Both primary and secondary data has been employed for this research work.
However, the study is almost based on the primary data. The primary data has been collected
from field visit. Major sources of primary data were the people from Turmakhand VDC, where as
the secondary data and information has been obtained from various sources such as such as
published Books, journals, previous study reports, and daily newspapers etc. The data were
qualitative in nature.
3.4. Data Collection Technique
The following techniques have been used in data collection.
Primary Data Collection
3.4.1. Informal interview
In earlier days of my field visit I used this technique. The main purpose of this
interview was to build rapport and to find out the issues of unstructured interviews. I had
conducted 10 unstructured interviews. I conducted informal interview without any structure and
control. I went through pleasing chitchat and ended accordingly. All interviews were recorded
and transcribed later.
3.4.2. Semi-Structured Interview:
Semi structured interview (Bernard 1995) have been conducted with key informants
through the means of open ended questions. I conducted 20 unstructured interviews from various
agencies such as from Dhamis, Fulpates, Jaisis, motherinlaws, politicians, educated girls and
women, educated men, members of women's group, health workers, and the anti Chhau
campaigners. I adopted general guideline, check list and noted the Probe and silent probe
thoroughly during interactions to read the non verbal expression and to check the validity and

3.4.3. Life History/Case Studies

Life history (Bernard 1998) has been conducted with Dhamis, Jaisis, elderly women,
and anti chhau activists. I have conducted also life histories with abovementioned categories. To
know the Chhau supported myth, stories, and incidents elderly people have been consulted and to
know the ill consequences of chhau anti chhau activists have been asked.
3.4.4. Chhau Location Assessment
I have cited Chhau location as living place of Chhaupadi women and girl. The main
purpose of Chhau location assessment was to find out the overall scenario of Chhau particularly
about where most of the women and girls live during their menstrual period. Whether they live at
home, or Cow and Buffalo Shed or separate Chhuikatero. A survey has been conducted at the end
of the field work from six different wards of the village to know where women live during
menstrual cycle. I did not try to gather the information about landholding size, income and
expenditure. The simple set of questionnaire is used at the end of the field work to know where
most of the women live either in cowsheds or in separate Chhuikatero or at home. I found only
six families living at home from whole VDC while rest of the families are living either in separate
Chhuikateros or in cow and buffalo sheds except Bazar area. Among them the more than two
third portions are living in separate Chhuikateros. Separate Chhuikateors make women more out
of contract from home rather than the cowsheds and buffalo sheds. So I had designed the question
format only targeting this information. My assistants did not go house to house to gather the
information about where they live. They obtained the data of living status from six wards using
the simple survey format going in one or two cluster of each ward. In the case of rest of the three
wards, I did not use the survey form knowing the fact that all living in separate Chhukateros. The
families from ward number 7, 8, 9 of Juya and Jaisur almost live in separate Chhuikateros except
two families living at home not abiding by the tradition. I obtained this information during
informal interview so, I did not feel to use survey format. So in this case, I had obtained data of
living status of whole VDC thus i did not used any sampling procedure. I got the information of
whole VDC, thus did not follow any sampling procedure gathering data of whole population.
4.4.5. Limitations the Study
This study is about a village and people living in eastern part of Achham District.
The rigidity of Chhau practice might be more and less even in other villages in the district
according to the level of education, provision of health facilities, the practice of shamanism, level
of poverty, caste rigidity. Many of the social factors and conditions influence the practice one
among which is the practice of Shamanism. The people from the family of shamans follow the
Chhau restrictions up to seven days while some people from other families follow the practice up
to five to six days within the village of my field area. This varies from village to village and
district to district in far west region. So the complexities and the perpetuation of Chhau is not the
same even all parts of far west region. So the findings only apply only eastern part of Achham.
There are many cases of resistance which hold vary significant to document and I could not
concentrate on it because my primary focus was on how and what perpetuates the Chhaupadi
system. The Chhau reality, food taboo and other restrictions might be entirely different beyond
the far west region.

4.1. The Place and People
It takes seven to eight hours walk to reach at Turmakhand VDC from Tunibagar, the
nearby market which is located in the corridor of Jumla highway and connect Dailekh and
Achham Districts. Turmakhand VDC is situated in between the other neighbouring VDCs such as
Narayanpur(Nada), Dhungachalna, Bhairabsthan, and Toshi. From district headquarter, it takes
one and half days walk to reach at the field village. Turmakhand is Village where most of the
government offices are established targeting to provide service its neighbouring six VDCs. So it
consist government offices like forest, agricultural, veterinary, health post, police post, and
cooperatives including small Bazar. One higher secondary school is located in Turmakhand
Bazar. Geographically it is diverse, and scattered. Somewhere it takes nearly one days walk to
reach from one ward to another. Some wards and clusters are very near too. Especially Juya and
Jaisur which consists ward no 7, 8, and 9 are far from rest of the wards and clusters. Rest of the
six Ward are resided in Chisi, Godhe, and Turmakhand Bazar and among which Chisi and Bazar
are not much scattered. During my field stay I observed these two parts separately focusing on
Juya and Jaisur and the rest of the cluster and wards.
4.2. Field Entry/Rapport Building:
As I reached at Turmakhand Bazar, I met with my research assistant and searched the
house for my field stay. I made a plan to stay some days at Bazaar to build the rapport with entire
VDC, because it was the meeting point of all the villagers. I stayed there for three days to meet
various kinds of respondents that were needed to me and made a research plan for the villages. So
I stayed at Turmakhand Bazaar to break the ice and build the rapport with entire village.
Although I was very familiar for most of the villagers, but at that time I was there for different
purpose which i had to tell them. As i told them that I was there to talk and take interview with
people about Chhaupadi system, some of my friends started to tell that I don't have need to go to
the village for that purpose because they can tell what I need. They told that why i need to bother
to go with the villagers and what they will tell, they know nothing. One of my friends suggested
better to listen him rather than to bear a nuisance to go with the villagers, But I had to go to the
villages to interact with the family elders, the mother in laws, the shamans(Dhamis), Fulpates(the
worshipers Dhami), traditional healers(jaisis), village politicians, and anti Chhau campaigners
etc. To know the myth, stories that justify the practice, i had to go with different actors like
Dhami, Jaisi, family elders, and community leaders in the villages.
4.3. Social Cultural Layout
There are the mixed settlements in which Khsas Chhetris such as Bayek, Budha, and
Saud and Dalits live in the village. Thakuri families who were the local rajas despite being very
population have ruled over many VDCs in eastern Achham due to their connection with the king
and Rana rulers during Rana and Panchayat regime have now been migrated. They were the
rulers in many VDCs in this region. They used to claim them as the successors of princely local
king. Though the ordinary Khas Chhetris such as Bayek and Budhas were great in numbers,they
were considered as the subjects of one or two Thakuri family in this village. The scenario was not
unlike in the case of other villages. Though majority population was of Chhetris and Brahamans,
they used to be governed by one or two Thakuris or Shah Families. Shahas or Thakuris were the
bearers of most of the tradition that was created considering their economic and political interests.
Now Shah ruling families have not been in the village but some of the Thakuris or Shahis have
been living at Bazar area of Turmakhand from neighbouring VDC. But Thakuris or shahis have
some large populations in other surrounding VDCs. In terms of caste they rank the top level in
local hierarchy. They have been and still being treated as rajas. They don't marry with ordinary
Khas Chhetris and Brahamans. Brahamans are considered as priest of Thakuris and ordinary

Chhetris. There is a different kind of hierarchy between various castes and Dalit lies in the bottom
of that echelon. In far west region there is also hierarchy between Chhetris and between Dalits.
So the far west region is a segregated type of society and the Turmakhand is also not different
from that.
The village follows the Hindu tradition and worship so many god and goddesses in local level. In
each VDC they have their own deities which are also named as shamans (Dhami/Deota in local
vernacular). In addition to believe on local deity or shamans (Dhami), the village also believe on
traditional healers (Jaisis). Local deity and traditional healer system is deeply entrenched in the
village. Many superstitions, myth are associated with this local deity or faith healers and
traditional healing system which are linked also with the Chhaupadi system. So the local social
cultural system is constructed with these multiple institutions, actors and agencies such as caste
system, local myth, superstition, values-norms, local deity, and traditional healing system. In
house hold level family hold and bear this system and tradition. The village social and cultural
system constructed by multiple institutions does not treat Chhaupadi as natural phenomenon. It
associates some unlucky happenings with the violations of Chhau rules during the period of
4.4. Chhau Scenario
During interaction I came to know that Turmakhand VDC was one of the Chhaupadi
free Villages along with other19 VDCs of Achham where the Women Developmnt Office
(WDO) and Save the Children have been working in collaboration to eliminate the practice. Both
the WDO and Save the Children had declared this VDC as the Chhaupadi free VDC in their
document, but in practice the reality was different. Although at Bazaar side, there is growing
number of women and girls who have been started to live at home leaving the Chhaupadi sheds
and are not much abided by Chhauapdi restrictions. In the case of Turmakhand Bazaar the
followers and non-followers of Chhau system is fifty-fifty during my field work period. But in
the case of villages, if anyone goes ten minute far from Bazaar towards the village, then the
practice is prevalent in each village, and settlement. On entire nine wards except small Bazaar, I
found only six houses that were not abiding by the norms of Chhau system. In terms of caste, the
practice is more rigid among lower caste Dalits, and upper caste Thakuris. Though, Thakuris who
were very few numbers and currently have migrated at Terai were the strict followers of the
tradition. Thakuris were the rulers, who used to claim themselves as local king, live in other many
neighbouring VDCs strongly follow fdthe tradition. Thakuris live in large numbers in its
neighbouring villages such as in Narayanpur and many other VDCs. It is reported that the
Thakuris from Narayanpur as of other VDCs are more rigid in bearing old customs and tradition.
Most of the women from Thakuris families go home only after seven days menstrual cycle. This
also applies in the case of local deity or shaman, traditional healers ( Jaisi), and Brahmins, and the
worshipers of local deity from other various castes. The living status of Chhaupadi women is
more worsening and quite complex among Dalit community. However relatively educated and
well off families from abovementioned castes are resisting the practice. They treat Chhaupadi
system as the tradition of shame which is lowering their status. So at first during my initial field
work days with whom I encountered, they became very fearful assuming me as a reporter. They
annoyed for the coverage of Chhaupadi news in national news paper and radio. They thought that
they might be insulted by the news coverage of Chhaupadi system. On my initial encounter, and
even entire field work period, they thought me as an opponent of Chhauapdi system. Very few
local activists became happy perceiving me as the opponent of tradition, while at the same time
strict followers of the tradition became unhappy perceiving me as the eliminator of the tradition.
The proponents of the system were being fearful for the suspicion of news coverage in national
and international media about the system. They do not want to be coverage and matter of
discussion due to this odd practice. They perceived me as reporter from any established national
media. They took Chhaupadi as prestige issue, and at my first informal conversation, they seemed
very reluctant to share the fact that they are abiding by the practice. I tried to make clear to many

of them before informal and unstructured interview, telling that, neither have I belonged with any
NGO/INGO nor with other change activists, nor with the agencies who want status-quo of the
system, I have come here only to know the tradition from the perspective of different actors. I
clarified my side to all the pros and cons agencies of Chhaupadi system before to conduct
interview. I had to tell that neither I am a reporter, nor a staff of any NGO, neither I am here to
change the practice, nor to keep the practice as it is, I am here to know what different people say
about the practice. After three days ice break, and rapport I made a plan to go to the village to
observe the practice and to interact with the people. I applied informal interview, and
unstructured interview, except life histories and case studies. So basically I used qualitative
techniques to generate the data. At the end of the field I used a Chhau Location Assessment
format to know the exact figure living in cowsheds, or buffalo sheds or in separate small
Chhaupadi sheds or at home. The main motto behind this Chhau Location Assessment is to know
the living status of women during menstruation period. I have taken the interviews with the
members of womens group, the old mother in laws, daughter in laws, Dhamis(considered as
local deity), Fulpate(the worshipers of Dhamis), Jaisis, Brahamans, local health workers,
educated girls and anti Chhau campaigners.

5.1. The ideology of pollution and purity
The ideas of pollution, purity, auspiciousness and inauspiciousness are central
concerns of caste and gender. The concepts of Purity (suddha, Chokho), and impurity (asuddha,
Jutho) are found in Hindu culture. The ideology of purity-pollution is related with states of
peoples, objects, and actions. Caste and gender interactions in far west region are governed by the
concepts of pollution and purity (Cameron 1998). The prevalent ideology of purity and pollution
treat certain states of people, objects, and actions as impure and particular things as pure.
Particular events such as birth, death, and miscarriage are treated as impure and contacts between
people during these periods are prohibited from impure to pure. Bodily substances such as saliva,
phlegm, seamen, and blood are considered as impure. Women are treated as bodily polluted
during the period of menstruation. Lower caste people are also considered as bodily impure and
which is directly associated with their occupational impurity. They are treated as impure because
they handle the leather work, eat beef, and remove the dead animals. So the bodily impurity of
lower caste Dalits is coterminous with occupational impurity. Most of the social transactions
between people in everyday practice in the region are dictated by this ideology of purity and
pollution. Agricultural work such as digging, ploughing, and fertilizer bringing and the household
work such as washing, cleaning, and child caring activities are considered as impure. In most
cases, women are involved in household, child caring, and agricultural related impure work. Most
of the daily interactions and behaviors are directed by the rules of impurity avoidance. The
supposed pure such as shaman (Dhami), the regular worshiper (Pujari, and Fulpate), the priest
(Brahaman), and Jaisi have to be strictly abided by the norms of impurity avoidance. The persons
who have ascetic life have to follow the rules of impurity avoidance. Guiding and governing by
the ideology of purity-impurity and auspicious-inauspicious in everyday life society discourage
contact with bodily impure people permanently to Dalits and temporally to women during their
period of menstruation. Considering as polluted women tend to be secluded or excluded from
normal life from five to seven days during menstruation period and ten to twelve days during
child birth. Menstruation is considered as absolutely impure while child birth as both impure and
pure. During child birth women have to cook and have to handle the things themselves during 1012 days. Before ten years most of the births had been taken place in cowsheds, buffalo sheds, or
in Chhuikateros, but nowadays these have been started to take place at home.
Caste and gender interactions go unique ways in far west region. The ideology of purity-pollution
that divides the caste divides the gender. Dalits are called as lower caste ( Tallo jat), and Thakuri,
Brahaman, and Chhetris as upper caste(Mathilo jat). Upper castes are considered as pure and
lower caste as impure. There is also hierarchy among Thakuri, Brahamn, Chhetri, and Dalit.
Initially Chhetris and Brahaman used to lie in the same categories of Khas, but later periods
Brahamans stopped to call them as khas. Thakuris call them as Thakuri, and Bahun to Brahaman,
and Khasiya to Chhetris. Brahamans themselves call them as Bahun rather than Khas. Thakuris
and Brahamans both call Chhetris as khasyia and Dalits as Dom. SChhetris call Brahaman as
Bahun, Thakuris as Thakuris, and themselves as Chhetris. They also call Dalits as Dom. In this
caste hierarchy Brahamans and Thakuris are considered as more pure and Dalits as impure and
this bodily purity-impurity pass from one generation to another (Cameron 1998). In terms of
gender men are called as logne ko jat and women are called as aimai ko jat. Men are considered
as more pure and women are considered as impure because they handles the task such as
agricultural work particularly fertilizer bringing, digging, planting, household cleaning, giving
birth to the child, involve on child caring, and menstruation in which blood comes from their
bodies. As lower caste people are considered as bodily impure as a result the work they tend to
handle, women are also considered as bodily impure. So, in the case of far west region caste and

gender have intertwining relationship. Caste and gender are erected and practiced in the same
principle of pollution and purity.
5.2. Dharma and Paap
I once asked with a senior member of a Chhetri family, what would happen if menstrual
women entered into their home. They told that it is sinful (paap lagchha), cows and buffalo will
get sick (Gai, Bhaisi birami parchha), and shaman started to shaking (Dhami Chaldachha). So,
impurity avoidance during menstruation and childbirth is also associated with the concept of
Dharma and sin. Most of the girls and women bear the Chhaupadi tradition in the name of
Dharma. If they do not abided by the existing Chhaupadi rules, then it is considered as sinful act
(paap). It is believed that, violation of Chhaupadi laws might harm to their bodies, families, and
the community as a whole. If any girl or women entered into a temple of local deity, then it is
believed that personally she might lose her eye, or go mad or may die and in community level it
might brings sandstones, and cholera in the region. Something that is abiding with the Chhaupadi
norms is considered as Dharma and not following the tradition as sinful act (paap). If milk, curd,
and ghee are given to a girl and women in the menstruation period, if they come in contact with
home, fruit bearing trees, then it is considered as sin (paap). Violating the Chhaupadi rules most
of the women and girls do not want to be sinful and other family members do not want to take the
risk. The concept of Dharma and Paap embedded in local social structure also is a driving force to
operate the Chhaupadi practice in the region.
5.3. Social-Political History and Local Institutions
It is reported that Khas people who includes Chhetris and Brahamans had entered into
the region from western and southern Himalayan frontier in ninth century. There was a strong
Khas kingdom ruling from the head quarter of Jumla. The Rajput clan from Chituarigadh
Rajasthan came into the region in twelfth century together with their artisan labourers to be safe
from the attack of Muslims. Artisan labourers were the lower caste Dalits who were the service
providers for Rajput Thakuri clan and called at that time as Dom. The Rajput Thakuri families
displaced the Khas kingdom in fourteenth century and became the ruler in the region (Cameron
1998). They started to rule over far west region from the head quarter of Jumala. Rajput Thakuri
families had borrowed the hierarchical caste system and jajamani system from India. Initially the
patron-client relationship(jajamani system) which institutionalized as the riti-bhagya system in
the context of far west region was limited up to Rajput Thakuri families, later as agriculture
production and the rice plantation had been intensified, it expanded up to Chhetris and
Brahamans as a consequence of increasing demand of labourers from the artisan families. Since
the Thakuri principalities to the unification of shah king, and later Shah, Rana, and Panchayat
regimes, many institutions have been formed and evolved including caste hierarchy, riti-bhagya
system, chieftain system, local shamanism(Dhami/Deota system), Fulpate(the worshiper of
Dhami/Deota), traditional healers(Jaisis), the regional social system, local socio-political system
and state, and local belief system. Within all aforesaid ideology, institutions, and process of
socialization Chhaupadi practice endorsed, reinforced, and continued over a long period.
5.3.1. Shamanism (Dhami/Deota and Fulpate)
Once i asked with younger girls, and other senior members of families what would
happen if they do not follow the tradition, then they told that god will be angry, Buffalo will not
give the milk, and other unlucky things might happen at their home. They follow the tradition
because of the fear of local deity (Dhami/Deota). Many lives are depending up on the power of
local deity if cholera and other social and natural disaster broke out in the region. Most of the
people believe that they will be saved from many unlucky happenings because of the power of
their local deity. The practice is that if anybody becomes ill, if any unlucky things happen in
some body's family then they go with Dhami/Deota. If cow or buffalo did not give the milk, if
somebody died suddenly in any family, if somebody's health is not good and frequently fall sick,

then they go first with their Dhami to ask what happened to them and for the treatment. In
Achham and in far west there are many forms of local God and Goddesses. Dhamis are the form
of their God. They are known as Masto and Bandali in the Turmakhand region. The people in the
region overly believe on Masto and Bandali deity. Masto and Bandali is the hope of the hopeless
and power of the powerless. The person whom some supernatural power made shacking becomes
the Dhami through the means of some public function and gatherings. The person, who exercise
the power of deity and shack if some unlucky things happen are called as Dhami, the bearer of
Masto and Bandali. There are many myths about the unbelievable power and Charisma of Masto
and Bandali. The person who prepare Hukka, and who prepare the things needed to Dhami at
temple, and who take part in worshiping together with Dhami is considerd as Fulpate in local
dialect. The Fulpate and Dhami have to live ascetic life and have to follow strict discipline. They
are considered as pure people and have to remain far from the contact of bodily impure people
such as Dalits and women. The supposed pure people Dhamis and Phulpates are not allowed to
eat the meal made by others. They cannot go to India for a job. They are not allowed to plough,
fertilizer bringing. They are not allowed to eat food made from Buckwheat and soybeans. They
have to be abided by many rules.
In the case of Chhau and delivery, they even do not walk the way from where the women during
the period of menstruation and delivery have walked. I once asked with a Dhami of Masto, what
would happen if any girl or woman touch him during the period of menstruation, he told that the
god become angry (Deota risauchha), Dhami might fall sick, and Dhami's neck bent in the
opposite side and sometimes he might be faint. It promotes the belief that menstrual women
should not come in contact with the supposed holy things once set by in processes of evolution of
different socio-political system. If somebody is suffering by any illness, if somebody's buffalo did
not give the milk and then he or she go with Dhami to ask that what happened to them, then
Dhami shack and associate it with the transmission of Chhaupadi and delivery women. In other
cases some time Dhami suggest that it is because of witchcraft. So Dhamis, the symbol of local
deity who exercises the power of deity, associate some miss-happening with the not abiding with
Chhaupadi norms, and the cause of witchcraft. So many people in the village have believed with
local deity, which also work as a centre of myth and superstition. So, the Chhaupadi system is
being continued along with this Dhami/Deota system.
5.3.2. Traditional Healer (Jaisi) Practice
Another component of local socio-political system is Jaisi. The people who are one
step down from Brahamin families are categorized as Jaisis. It happens when a Brahamin did next
marry and he marries out of his supposed pure Brahamin caste. So Jaisis are one step bottom rank
than Brahamin caste. But in the case of Traditional healer (Jasi), all the Jasiss do not possess the
quality to be so. One should know some magic and mantra to be a Jasi which is perceived as
traditional healer. People go with Jaisis in the same bad happenings as they go with Dhamis. As
ill people asked with the Jaisi, he also associate that illness with not following impurity avoidance
by women in the period of menstruation, delivery and some time he associate that illness with the
witchcraft. To not to be ill, to be saved from premature death, and other misfortune jaisi suggest
to be far from Chhaupadi women. Jasis and Dhamis hold the tradition very strongly. In their
home women cannot live even in the cow and buffalo shed. They have to live either in
Chhuikatero which is far from home or the buffalo shed of next to others home.
5.3.3. Regional social system
from mid west to far west Nepal particularly in Jajarkot, Dailekh, Kalikot to
Achham, Bazura, Bajang, Doti, where Chhau practice is widespread are the region where
feudalism was very strong during Shah, Rana, and Panchayat period. The caste based hierarchy
and untoucability was and is in extreme form. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and disease are high in
this region in comparison with eastern and central region. Caste based inequalities and
superstitious beliefs are wide spread in this region. Dalits seems in the bottom rank of the

hierarchy and are far behind than other castes in terms of life expectancy, education, and health
condition. It is the region where extreme form of untouchability is practiced in public sphere. In
this region Dalits are not allowed to enter into the home of upper caste. At tea shop they were
forbidden to drink milk tea and had to wash own glass some years before. Now there are many
changes in this practice. Till now somewhere Dalits have to wash own tea glass and have to turn
the glass just opposite to make it dry through which it could be made touchable for upper caste
people. Other forms of caste based inequalities also prevail in this region. The continued rule of
Thakuri raja since 14 the century and their continued access with the political power during Shah,
Rana, and Panchayat regime and the practice of chieftain system (Jimmawal, Mukhiya) indicates
that there was the strong presence of feudalism. After movement for the restoration of
democracy, peoples war, and popular movement of 062-63 it is displaced by formal political
institutions. Disparity between caste, class, and gender is high in this region. In terms of gender
relations women are considered as mens property. Sons are idealized and daughters are
devalued. In terms of class rich and relatively well off families have high dignity that poor do not
have. Poor, powerless, and voiceless have to face humiliation in this region. There is wider
inequality between district headquarters, towns and villages. More importantly Chhau practice
has the root on caste system, relationship between Dalits and non Dalits. It seems that it is the
manifestation of caste based inequality, differentiation, chieftain system, Dhami, and the priest.
Far west is ahead in high mortality, birth rate, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, food deficiency, and
caste based inequalities etc but is far behind in access to education, medical facilities, income,
employment etc. In terms of life expectancy, livelihood, income, access to education it is far
behind than eastern, western, and central development region of Nepal.
5.3.4. Poverty and Incapability
The denial of nutritious food during Chhau is also a product of resource constraints,
production system. The scarcity, poverty, food deficit is faced by the members of most of all the
families and communities in the region, but women have to suffer most among them. Most of the
families have no more choice and options. They do not have access with bundle of commodities
and bundle of capabilities. So, the people living in this area have no more choice. Most of the
male members have to go to India to meet their twelve months food need, and clothes. As
Amartya Sen, suggest to measure the development through the lens of his capability approach,
which includes capability to be well nourished, to be survive, to be educated, to live healthy and
longer life, to have access with health facilities, and to be free from social servitude and political
oppression. In terms of all these measuring rods the far west region lies far behind than eastern,
western, and central development regions. Illiteracy, disease, and poverty are blocking the
progress of overall men and women and the food restrictions and superstitions associated with
Chhaupadi systems are part of that overall deprivation and incapability. Inability to provide clean
and separate room within house for menstrual women is very much associated with household
structure and poverty. It is because of poverty that families live at upstairs and cattle are kept in
downstairs. Because of having no home with good rooms, they cannot provide separate room to
women during menstrual period which is linked with poverty. Within house hold economy men
are the masters and women are the slaves. Men own the resources that women do not have
ownership to the resources. Men are the organizers, and distributers of household resources. Men
inherit the parental property and women do not have the property rights till now which is
reflected in the Chhaupadi practice.
5.3.5. Village Politicians and the State
Previous politicians who ruled very long period of time in the region, particularly since
14th century onwards, Shah, Rana, and Panchayat period were the strict abiders of caste system
and Chhaupadi system. They were more guided by religious dogmas and traditions set by their
predecessors. The whole region remained very isolated from the central government and became
deprived from hospitals and schools during Shah, Rana, and Panchayat regime. The local and

state politicians used to work within the rules of hierarchically framed caste system. Caste
mobility at that time used to go sometime towards downward level, in a particular love
relationship between upper caste Thakuri, Brahaman, and Chhetris, and lower caste Dalits. If one
from the upper caste has love affairs with the lower caste, Dalit then he or she also used to be
regarded also as untouchable. He has to pay heavy fine (Panipatti) to local Thakuris rulers, and
they used to pay that fine to Ranas to Dailekh. So, at previous time local as well as state level's
politicians were the strong bearer existing caste and gender hierarchy. Even up to nowadays
senior members of communities and families are guided by same old set of rules despite living in
the cross road of change. But in the case of now day's politicians, they are not in favour of old
forms of caste and gender hierarchy and the tradition, though they have not given it up
completely. They want to break the tradition but due to the fear of local deity they are not being
able to break the practice. Very few have started to break the practice keeping women at home
during menstrual cycle. But the superstition, taboo is still deeply embedded in the mind of most
of the politicians. Though the Supreme Court (SC) stated Chhaupadi as malpractice,
discriminatory towards women and the violation of women's rights only in 2004, it has not come
into practice yet in local level.
5.3.6. Local Belief System
If women touch forbidden things during their menstruation period then it is believed that it
brings disaster. It brings cholera, diarrhoea, sandstones, landslides, heavy rain etc. Not abiding
with Chhaupadi norms some time it is believed that it cause premature death and sudden accident.
Local belief system associates health, illness, and death with the abiding and not abiding the
Chhaupadi tradition. There are many stories of snake bite, death of buffalos, premature death of
girls and other harm due to the cause of not abiding Chhaupadi rules. Deep Seated Beliefs into Practice
In Dhaku, one of the neighboring villages, the higher secondary school Jalpadevi is located
nearby the temple of local deity named as Bamnithan. Before ten years, none of the girls used to
come at school during the period of menstruation because of this Bamnithan. Dalit also never go
nearby this temple. The area is strictly prohibited for lower caste Dalits and women. If they go
nearby area or entered into the temple, it is believed that then they can be mad, and even can be
reached into the mouth of death. Some time they can be faint if they go there. But nowadays,
even during the period of their menstruation, girls go school. They do not stop their school
because of their menstrual cycle. The belief system is changing since the period of 10 years.
Despite that some girls still drop their school during the period of menstruation. The principal of
Jalpa Devi Higher secondary school found two or three girls of class 10 dropping out the school
during their period of menstruation. He found all such girls from Dalit community. As he found
such cases, he went their home to persuade them to come at school. He told them that they can
come at school without going nearby the Bamnithan. He told them that Come and dont go
towards the Bamnithan, if you do so then nothing will happen. Persuading in this way he made
Dalit girls to come at school, who were being absent during the period of their menstruation. Still
there are some girls in many villages in the far west region who are dropping their school during
the period of menstruation. If they go there, it is believed that, they can be faint on the spot, their
eyes can be broken, they can go mad; and even they can be reached into the mouth of death. In
Jalpadevi higher secondary school often in the summer season sometimes girls become faint
during praying national anthem and many people associate it with the violation of Chhau
restrictions. But nowadays during such incidents, the principal treat to such girls in his own way.
He brought such fainted girls at his office and gives them glucose water as much as he can offer
them. Then slowly girls become normal and take part on their classes. Though the highly
educated principal do not associate faint with the violation of Chhau laws, but he also believe on
the power of Bamnithan(a temple of a local goddesses). The taboo is more followed by Dalit
families. Dalits are also barred from the temple (Bamnithan) except menstruated girls and

women. Principal also believe on the power of Bamnithan as he reported one incident happened
in his life. Once he was charging his cell phone last year at the interval time of school. The boys
were playing cricket. His double Sims mobile suddenly become disappeared. He called to
students and requested them to give only the Sims excluding his mobile set. He told them that he
would never mind if they return his two Sims at the cost of keeping mobile set with them. But no
one became ready to do that. One of his students' Dambar Bista, suggested him to sacrifice the
goat for that, because no one became ready to return his mobile. Principal asked with Dambar
where he can get the goat for the sacrifice. Dambar told his auntie has that goat. It should be
noted that people in the Turmakhand and surrounding region believe on local deity and to reveal
the truth in the public they offer goat for the deity. If somebody offer or sacrifice the goat for any
stealing of his or her property or injustice he or she faced, it is believed that the deity decides on
that act, creating harms to the alleged persons. Principal went with Dambars auntie for the goat.
As he prepared for sacrifice for his stolen mobile at that very day the student who had taken that,
knew the information and secretly kept his mobile phone in his office room where he had kept for
charging at the day when he had lost that. The thief returned his mobile fearing from the power of
Bamni Devi, as principal was preparing for the sacrifice of goat as a tactic to find his stolen
mobile. This shows that the power and myth associated with Bamni is still very strong in the
Dhaku and surrounding villages. As I asked with principal who was that person, he told that
luckily or unluckily he was a student from Dalit community. Many girls had been fainted during
the rife period of conflict between then government and Maoist when rebellion started to make
bunker in most of the temple of local deities. In the neighboring village of Dhaku where the
temple of one of the local deity was located, the Maoist rebellion started to make the bunker
there. They mobilized local people to construct that bunker. The Maoist rebellion also mobilized
the menstrual girls for the work. But most of the local girls became faint and brought at home
some in trolleys and some carrying in shoulder and backside. Some Dalits who broke the temple
of local deity during conflict as Maoist cadres, either reached into the mouth of death or some lost
their eyes. One cadre Khintu kami lost his eyes from Muli and one another took suicide in Bayala
VDC. The local people interpret in this way the incidents of destruction of temple and violation
of Chhaupadi laws, restrictions, and myths.
5.3.7. The Agencies of Socialization
The senior family members, Mother in Laws, Dhamis, Fulpates, Jaisis, previous
politicians, and local belief system are the key agencies that pass the Chhaupadi tradition from
one generation to another. Mother pass Chhau pratha to their daughters and daughter in law and
daughter pass that to her daughter through the means of various myths, superstitious stories that
justify and defend the Chhaupadi system. My following case studies exemplify how the
proponents of Chhau defend and manipulate the tradition.
5.3.8. Embedded Myths
In addition to caste hierarchy, beliefs, regional social system, old village and state level's
politicians, remoteness and isolation of the region, and poverty and deprivation, and the structures
of the houses, the myth, superstition work to operate and continue the Chhaupadi system.
5.3.9. Some Case Studies Findings
Following case studies show the fact about that what happens if ones cross the boundary
line and set of rules that that are assigned by society. Also the case studies show the complexities
of the practice citing the example of anti Chhau campaigners. The Cost of Crossing the Boundary
Rana Bayak, whom I had met during my initial field work period, was the representative
of the defenders of the Chhaupadi system. Knowing this background, I had asked him to talk on
the matter. I went Jaisur and Juya, the different wards and the settlement located within

Turmakhand. It takes two hours to reach in Jaisur and the Pallo Ban is one hour further distant
from Jaisur. As per the schedule, I went Pallo Ban to talk with Rana Bayak. Rana Bayak, three
class, literate, the father of two sons and four daughters is a worshiper of Kalsaini and Bandali
deity. He had four brothers, and he was the eldest one among them. His two brothers had died,
one from, HIV and AIDS and another committing the suicide. He and his younger brother have
been alive yet. One of his eldest daughters, who had joined in the Maoist group during war
period, now is mentally ill, and she is now the opponent of local deity. His all kids are not upper
than four class, except one son studying plus two at Turmakhand. In spite of all these plight and
circumstances, Rana Bayak believes on old tradition, caste system, untouchability, and
superstition very much. His mind is framed in certain, myth, superstition, and deep seated
conviction that advocate, educate, and defend the existing system once constructed by society. He
takes part in such roles that maintain and reproduce the legacy of Chhauapdi system, hierarchical
caste system and the superstition. His advocacy helps to form the new individuals and defends the
system. During interaction he told that, each of us should be abided by caste system, we should
recognize the legacy of the king, we should worship to our deity and shamans, and we should
honour the legacy of Jaisi and Brahamans. He argues Chaupadi system is like that one should be
abided by certain rules that are set and prescribed by society. In defence of that he cited many
examples happened during Maoist movement. Citing the emergency he told that they brought the
milk in Maoist canteen for large numbers of cadres during emergency. But what happened to
them was that three buffalos and one cow become died after soon they brought milk for the
Maoist cadres. In Maoist canteen the girls who were in their menstrual cycle, drink milk and rice
pudding. As a result their buffalos and cow become died soon after they brought the milk for the
Maoist cadres. He traces another incident that one of the Maoist cadre from lower caste, named
Namsara Biswokarma from his village, went into the temple of Kashiraj to check the power of
deity in the village. As she went there to tease deity and test its power during her menstrual cycle,
she confronted with the Kashiraj deity with having white dress, and dreadlock hair. She fainted
on the spot and later become died due to that act. One another incident he told that, there was
another Maoist cadre from lower caste named Tule Kami, who went in the temple of local
goddesses that is forbidden for lower caste Dalits and menstrual women, Titauda Tripurasundari
one of the famous temple of east Achham. He violated the existing rules going into the famous
temple, Titauda Tripurasundari, which was strictly prohibited for the Dalits. After being back the
next year his wife gave birth to a son. He started to tell that I got two sons, after going Titauda,
nothing happened to me. He had two wives. But two years later, what happened to him was that,
his one the wife eloped with another man, and he became died soon after the next year. He cited
the happenings in Badi Malika, the temple of very famous goddesses for entire far west region.
Once, Rana Bayek had gone in Badi Malika in the last year. He saw three Matas (the incarnation
of Goddessess), weeping and bathing in to the freezing river. According to Rana Bayak, Matas
were weeping because there was something wrong. The four menstruated girls were there to visit
the temple. In addition to it, one Dalit was doing hotel business nearby the compound of the
temple and another Dalit who was in the police force, present there to visit the temple. Four
menstrual girls and two Dalits who were disallowed to the temple become died at the spot due to
Matas's harm because they entered in to forbidden place. Their presence at Malika is considered
as impure. He told many stories of committing suicide, being mentally disorder, and loosening
the eyes and other bodily organs as a result of crossing the traditional boundary. All his stories
were defending the myth of Chhaupadi system, the caste system and reproducing the myth and
superstition. Rana Bayak is merely a representative bearer of such myth, superstition,
consciousness, and the mindset. There are many Rana Bayak in the villages who inherits such
mindsets and defend and educate community and individuals through their incessant education
day and night. During their informal conversation, at public places, at feast and festivals and
other social gatherings they defends and continues the existing system arguing in the manner of
abovementioned way. Rana Bayak and like minded people are the outcome of certain socialeconomic surroundings, who got this kinds of mentality and behaviour through their father and

mother, and they want to pass same mindset, and behaviour to their sons and daughters through
which Chhaupadi system is going to be continued since generation to generation. The Plight of Anti-Chhau Activists
I interacted with a Samundra, a local woman, who is working as maternity and child
care worker in the village health post. Knowing her as the change activist, who was also involved
in the anti Chhau campaign, I had chosen her as my respondent to know the scenario of change
and the struggle of change activists. Mrs Samundra is working in the local health post since 15
years. First being grown up in Dailekh and Surkhet Mrs Samundra had gone Achham after her
marriage. She was the opponent of Chhau since very beginning. Being a health workers she know
the natural causes of Chhau (menstruation). As I asked the scenario of Chhau at the village how
many people are abiding by Chhau norms and what about the educated girls and women? My
concern was to know the fact that whether or not educated girls and women follow Chhaupadi
system? She told what to say and how to say, there are so many complexities. She told one
example. Once she asked one of the Bachlors degree holders high school teacher girls Mrs
Janavi, where you live Janavi, you are the educated girl, now you are on the verge of studying
Masters degree. Whether you live in Chhaupadished, or inside the home during your menstrual
cycle, she asked with Janavi. Mrs Janavi says what to do, and how to do? She ignored her three
menstrual periods and lived inside the home after she returned village from Surkhet after
finishing her Bachelors degree. But in each cycle her own and one of her elder mother gathered
at corridor in her home and started to say, what happened to this Janavi. Is she going to be ill?
She is going to be ill. Please bring her to the Nepalganj for the treatment, the nearby hospital
from Achham district. In each her menstrual period as her mother and her elder mother started
say like this; she obliged to return back in the buffalo shed to follow the chhaupadi norms. The
most of the educated girls and the women have the same situation like that of the Janavi. During
Maoist movement and emergency Maoist launched the campaign to stop the ill practice. Maoist
cadres destroyed the Chhaupadisheds, and gave the speech that not to follow the tradition. They
said people from Europe and America who do not follow the Chhaupadi restrictions reached the
top of the moon and other planet. We the followers of Chhaupadi system have not food to eat, no
clothes to wear, no medicine to be cure while we become ill. Even we dont have the sandal to
wear on our foot. We are reaching nowhere following the tradition. So the tradition should be
break. They have threatened that those who do not live inside the home, leaving cowsheds and
buffalo sheds will face the punishment. During their campaign many people say yeas, but did not
follow except very few cases. But as peace process began in 2006, the tradition and the practice
shift in the same state as it was in the previous period. The tradition and the practice become
restored after the beginning of the peace process. In the case of Smundra, she was not following
the practice since 13 years. As her neighbour sister knew that she is not holding the Chhau
tradition, they asked with her, is she not abiding by the system. She lied in front of them, telling
first that she is using a tablet. She bought that tablet from Rupaidiha, India which cost 10000Rs.
She used that tablet which caused stop her menstrual cycle. Later as they doubt her that she is
lying, again she started to tell that she has thrown out her womb, as a result her menstrual cycle
have been stopped. But her neighbourhood did not stop to tell her that if she is not holding the
system, then local deity might harm her, and something wrong doings might happen to her life. I
asked werent you be afraid after listening this? During this question Samundra revealed another
side of her story. She said she also become terrified, as an unlucky thing happened to her life. The
mother of already four daughters Samundra, was 10 months pregnant at that time when incident
occurred in her life. It was the baby boy that was growing in her womb, which they have already
known checking it in Luckhnow hospital, India. She was in near of her delivery date. In the
meantime she met an accident in which she fell down from the upstairs of health post to the
downstairs. She and her baby got badly hurt. Her baby got died after some minutes on the way to
her home. At night she was brought to Nepalgunj carrying on bamboo basket up to Tunibagar and
then after reserving a jeep. After reaching Nepalganj hospital she were taken in to surgery ward,

she gone in operation, her dead baby been removed, and finally she had been saved. During that
incident she became terrified whether it happened because she violated the Chhau rules or
something like that. Her neighbourhood associated that incident with the phenomenon of not
abiding with the Chhaupadi system, though, Samundra associate with it or not. Samundra shared
her experience how deep seated Chhaupadi stereotypes affect the behaviours of many women.
Even up to some four or five years ago, the menstrual women did not come inside the compound
of health post, even if they were being ill. Ill women, in their menstrual cycle, used to ask for the
medicine, very far from the compound of the health post. They used to say that they cannot come
in the inside of the health post compound because; it is nearby with the temple of local deity. But
Mrs. Samundra used to deny giving them the medicine until and unless they come to the hospital.
After many persuasions, and counselling, women started to come at the inside of the compound
of the health post during their menstruation period. So the sudden accidents are associated with
the local deity and with the following and not following the Chhaupadi tradition. Social
surrounding and the laymen interpreted the any miss-happenings and the unlucky things with the
abiding and not abiding of the existing Chhaupadi tradition and myth.

6.1. Summary
The key defenders of Chhaupadi system are the Local Dhamis, Fulpates, Jaisis, and
family elders, mother in laws, old politicians, caste system, regional social system and local belief
systems. During field work and interaction i found most of the Dhamis, Fulpates, Jaisis, and
family seniors are illiterate. It is very hard to found Dhamis, and Fulpates as literate. Most of
them have not seen even the door of the school. It is reported that Chhaupadi system emerged
along with the emergence of local Dhami/Deota system since the centuries. The key defenders of
Chhau system educate most of the illiterate masses in each and every formal and informal
gathering. The defenders protect Chhaupadi system through the myth, old stories, and
superstitious belief that prevent new generation to Challenge the Chhau rules. Such kinds of
storytelling continued days and night in their formal and informal public gatherings. Such an
advocacy and storytelling transmit the Chhau commonsense from one generation to another and
set the Chhau typifications into the minds of youngsters. Upbringing in such stories and Chhau
socialization most of the illiterate men and women cannot get rid of from the captivity of
Chhaupadi system. Even in the case of educated women and men, most of them cannot threat the
Chhau rules fearing from the local God and Goddesses. A high school teacher cannot break the
tradition, and in some high schools which are near by the temple of local God and Goddesses,
most of the female students do not go to the school during the period of their menstruation. In
such case School is also working as institutions that reproduce the Chhaupadi system. Local
Chhau defenders have many stories of snake bite, premature death, the cholera spread out, and
other disaster caused by not abiding with the Chhaupadi system. Beyond local defenders
Chhauapdi system has connection with segregated caste system and regional system. Chhaupadi
system is also associated with local belief system. Beyond that it is linked with poverty and
incapability. Most of the people in the region live in the same house where cattle are kept. Cattle
kept in downstairs and people live in upstairs. So, most of the people do not have good houses
and separate rooms to keep the girls and and women separately during the period of their
menstruation, which is a matter of poverty. In addition to it, Chhaupadi system is linked with
illiteracy, ill health, and the isolation and remoteness of the region from the central government
since the erection of Thakuri princely king and rule of local Thakuri rajas during Shah, Rana, and
Panchayat period. Though Turmakhand VDC is Chhaupadi free village in the paper of save the
children and women development committee, I found only six cases living inside the home giving
up the Chhaupadisheds. But those who gave up the tradition they are facing different struggle in
their communities.
6.2. Conclusion
Chhaupadi system limits women's capability to live a safe, healthy, and educated life
forbidding women from anything to touch during their menstruation period. Women are
considered as impure during the period of menstruation. It is a violation of women's human
rights. It restricts women's human development such as capabilities to be survived, to be well
nourished, capability to be safe, educated capabilities to get health facilities, and longer life,
capability to be free from social servitude and superstitions. In the name of tradition, the practice
is being continued since generation to generation. Local agencies such as local Devi-Deveta
system, Jaisi system, family elders, local socio-political system, regional social system, caste
system, poverty and the overall situation of human development in the region transmit the
tradition from one generation to another.

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Appendix 1.
Checklist for unstructured interviews:
1. Where do women and girls live during menstruation?
2. How many days do they live in cowshed or Chhaupadi shed?
3. Why they have to live in cowshed or separate Chhaupadi Shed (Chhuikatero)?
4. What obligations they have to follow during menstruation? What they can eat and what kinds
of work they can do?
5. What are other restrictions assigned to them by family and society?
6. What happen if they have not followed the assigned restrictions?
7. If they have touched disallowed things by mistake then what they do?
8. If women touched disallowed things intentionally then what happen to them?
9. If they have touched men, children, living plant, fruit bearing trees, cattle, home, spring, and
temple etc then what haaappen to them?
10. If they touched religious leaders such as Dhami, and Jaisi by intentionally then what happen
to them and to the whole community?
11. Why milk products are prohibited for women and up to how many days of menstrual cycle
they cannot eat?
12. If local religious leaders (such as Dhamis, Jaisis, Phulpates) walk nearby menstruated women
then what happen?
13. What are the bad happening in the families due to Chhaupadi negligence?
14. What kinds of housing pattern do they have? Either cattle are kept in same home or in
separate place?
15. What opinion do religious leaders have with regards Chhaupadi practice?
16. How they spent nights in cowshed during winter, summer, and monsoon? What they face in
winter, summer, and monsoon?
17. What local politicians, teachers, and NGO activists say about Chhau system?
Guideline for Life History:
I have conduct life histories starting from questions like where did you born. When did you born?
How many brothers and sisters do you have? Did they go school or not? What they are doing
now? When did you get marry? How many children do you have? What are you doing now?

Starting from aforementioned questions I tried to seek the entry point to jump down on my issue,
and then i tried to seek the answer of my research questions.