BENGALURU: The transgender community is one of the most misinterpreted community in our country. Most transgenders are usually stereotyped as sex workers, beggars or criminals.
In India, transgender people include Hijras (Eunuchs), shiv-saktis, jogappas, Sakhi, jogtas, Aradhis etc. In fact, there are many who do not belong to any of the groups but are transgender.
Hijras from Bapuji Nagar PHOTO – BHARATH
Hijra community is the only one willing to openly express itself; it becomes the most visible form of transgender identity in India. And a lot of stereotyping begins here.In India, due to lack of awareness, people often call an effeminate man Hijra. Even gay people have been often called Hijra in our country. It is not wrong to be Hijra, it’s just very wrong to stereotype all transgender people as Hijra.
Being openly transgender is a very brave thing to do in our society, because it’s not easy. Hence, most transgenders choose to keep their gender status private and live in binaries as constructed by the society.
“I’ve studied MA in English. But I don’t have any job, because no one is ready to give me one. So I do begging. I come here (Nanjappa Circle) every morning and afternoon I’ll go to Vijay Nagar. It’s hard to live now. No one is giving money. You, college students have money to take out your girlfriend but don’t have 10 rupees to give me. I’ve attended few job interviews but no one took me, in cinemas we’ll find the good guy who helps everyone. But I haven’t seen one in real life”, said Sound Saroja, a transgender from Babuji Nagar.
Very few transgenders have been able to overcome the difficulties they face by the society and excelled in various spheres of life like Shilok Mukkati, a renowned poet, and a Radio Jockey in Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz
Being a media student, Shilok approached Radio Active, a community radio where she was asked to do a program on menstruation. Priyanka Divaakar, country’s first transgender RJ was doing a program called “Yarivaru” and she took a break. Shilok stepped in to do the second season of “Yarivaru” in which she expanded the scope of the program by including the community and the responses of people. Now Shilok has got her own slot called “Colourful Kamanabillu”.
“Doing this program has helped me to a great extent, both in terms of stabilizing me and understanding the LGBT community.”said Shilok. Shilok’s life has been a spectrum of all kinds of experience. She started writing in Kannada and began her journey as a poet at the Open Sky, a platform where budding artists showcase their talent in every performative field. Writing is extremely emotive as a mode of communication for Shilok. Shilok confesses to have an abiding love for literature, which she credits for clarifying her thoughts on the concepts of sex and sexuality. One of her favourite authors is Chandani, a transgender poet who is currently working on her autobiography.
“We are recognised legally in this country but only for the sake of law. We’re still not recognized as a human being. No respect is given. There are many people who would help us, take care of us. But the rest, look at us like we are from another planet,” said Shilok.
While conversing with few Hijras from Nanjappa Circle, Sound Saroja, a hijra who resides in Bangalore talked about the Eunuch festival in Koovagam, Tamil Nadu.“I haven’t been to the Eunuch festival, but I’ve heard stories from our community. Some people in my community have been to the festival. Transgenders from different parts of the country come together for this festival 16 days prior to it. Many talent shows and beauty contest happens in the festival. My friends talk about this festival; it’s something all of us look forward to. I hope I can make it to the festival next year”.
On the full moon day of the Chithra (April/May) month of the Hindu lunar calendar every year, transgender and transvestites from all over India gather at the Koothandavar temple for the Eunuch festival at Koovagam village. Every year they participate in the re-enactment of the tale of Indian epic Mahabharata, in which they play the bride of warrior God Aravan.
Aravan is a small character in Hindu mythology that played an important role in the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. ‘Mahabharata’ is a story of two branches of brothers known as Pandavas and Kuaravas, born to different queens of King Pandu. In their struggle to win the throne, the brothers’ group was involved in a historic war called the ‘Kurukshetra’.
On the 17th day, the priest at the Koothandavar temple performs a special pooja by reciting spiritual mantras and decorating the Aravan’s idol with flowers and brings upon the power of Aravan on himself, and ties yellow threads called “Thaali” around the neck of all the Eunuchs as a marriage ritual symbolizing their marriage Aravan. The Eunuchs spend the night merrymaking by dancing and singing. They also involve in sexual relationship with men visiting the temple. “The next morning after the ritual, the Eunuchs rip away the yellow threads and cry out loud beating their chests and mourn Aravan’s death,” added Saroja.