Andhra Pradesh

Andhra tribe’s ‘evil house’ — an epitome of menstrual taboo

A woman with her newborn outside a ‘Keedu Paaka’ at Tekuloddi village in East Godavari Agency.  

Along the Andhra Pradesh-Telangana border in the Eastern Ghats of East Godavari district lies Tekuloddi village, inhabited by the Konda Reddy tribe. Every house in this village has an adjoining ‘menstrual house’ — a thatched hut where women confine themselves for the duration of their periods.

The practice stems from a deep-seated taboo surrounding menstruation and has been prevalent for many generations.

The hut is called ‘Keedu Paaka’ (house of evil) and menstruating women have to stay there, shunning themselves of any physical contact with their family members, for the duration of their period.

The habitation in Kunavaram mandal consists of 44 households with 139 villagers.

The menstrual rooms are mostly built by the women themselves with bamboo and teak leaves that are used for covering the roof. The room is the smallest in the house, smaller than its kitchen or bathroom.

The floor is laid with mud and cleaned with dung. Women sleep on the floor. Of late, some families are now placing a bamboo cot in the room.

An elderly woman, Kadala Kannamma, narrates the practice: “The menstrual house has been around for generations in our tribe. A menstruating woman is untouchable until her period is over. It is our firm belief that allowing the woman on the period to stay with the family is unacceptable as it invites evil.”

Other family members bring food for the woman, who should come out of the house only after cleaning it with dung and water in order to ‘purify’ it, so that it can be used again during her next period, says Ms. Kannamma, adding that the utensils and clothes used by the woman during her period are not touched by anyone. Every house in the village has a Keedu Paaka, she said.

The men of the village, however, feel that they have come a long way from the earlier days, when the Keedu Paakas used to be built outside the village.

‘Post-natal home’

The Konda Reddy tribe has also adopted the same practice in the case of puberty and post-natal period.

“The mother and the newborn baby need to stay in the menstrual house for 45 days from the date of delivery. In the case of non-institutional delivery, the delivery is conducted in this house itself. In the case of a girl attaining puberty, she is also kept in the menstrual house for nine days,” said Karam Chandramma, a teacher at the local Anganwadi.

Kadala Poojitha gave birth to a baby boy on November 12, and stayed at the menstrual house in her in-laws’ house. “I have been staying along with my baby in the menstrual house since the day I have been discharged from hospital. My mother-in-law attends to my needs,” Ms. Poojitha told The Hindu.

“An initiative for construction of a community home is being taken with support from the Integrated Tribal Development Agency-Chintoor on a pilot basis. The home aims at providing better facilities and hygiene conditions for the women on the period in the Tekuloddi village, persuading them to realise the consequences of the unsafe practices,” Asha NGO founder Syed Subhani said.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 7:06:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/andhra-tribes-evil-house-an-epitome-of-menstrual-taboo/article33406017.ece

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