Women who cook food while on their period will be reborn as dogs, according to an Indian religious leader whose sermon has since gone viral.
The guru who made the statement, Krushnaswarup Dasji, is a member of the major Swaminarayan sect of Hindus in prime minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
As well as his comments about women, Krushnaswarup Dasji said that men who eat food prepared by menstruating women would be reborn as bullocks, adding: “I don’t care if you do not like my views, but this is written in our shastras [scriptures].”
Prejudice against women on their periods is widespread among conservative Hindus, an issue that came to the fore in 2018 when the Supreme Court ruled a temple’s ban on women “of menstruating age” was an unconstitutional affront to freedom of religion.
According to the Press Trust of India, Krushnaswarup Dasji is a swami (religious teacher) associated with the Swaminarayan Temple, an organisation that runs a girls’ college in the town of Bhuj where more than 60 pupils were ordered to remove their underwear so staff could check if they were menstruating.
The guru’s sermon appears to be defending the college over the incident, which occurred on 11 February. It has led to a public outcry, and the arrest of three senior members of staff at the Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute.
An investigation into the incident found that girls who were having their periods were being made to eat meals separately from the rest of their classmates. The checks were carried out when staff became suspicious that pupils were flouting this rule.
Krushnaswarup Dasji accused women of being “careless” about their periods, which he said was “like doing tapasya (penance)”. And as a solution for when women are menstruating, he suggested that “men should learn cooking… it will help you”.
The guru’s sermons are routinely posted online by the Swaminarayan Temple’s YouTube account, though it was unclear when and where the comments in question were made.
According to the organisation’s website, Krushnaswarup Dasji has been a swami in the order since 1995.
The Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism was founded in the 19th century and is based in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat. By 2001 it was estimated that there were some five million followers of the sect in India, a number which is expected to have grown today.