Transgenders from all over India come together once in a year to perform their own unique rituals at a temple near villupuram in Tamil Nadu. The much exploited Transgenders take part in this fascinating festival involving some emotional ceremonies. Even after many years of struggle, in many parts of the country the transgenders are still outcasts. If we go through our mythologies we can find how transgenders were revered in them.
According to myths it is from Aravan’s lineage that the transgenders are said to have been born. That is why the transgenders or hijras are also known as Aravanis. Aravan was the son of the great Mahabharata warrior, Arjuna and he participated in the Kurukshetra war with his father and the other Pandavas. He fought bravely and gave himself up for a huge sacrifice so that the Pandavs won the war. Aravan volunteered to sacrifice himself in the ritual called ‘Kalappali’. He wished to get married before being sacrificed but no woman was willing to marry him. Krishna came to the rescue by transforming himself into female form, Mohini, and married Aravan. After Aravan’s sacrifice the next day Krishna mourned as a widow and then returned to his original masculine form.
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During the 18 day long day festival in the Tamil month of Chittirai (April –May) transgenders re-enact the marriage of Aravan and Mohini, her widowhood and mourning after Aravan’s sacrifice. The rituals are performed in the Koothandavar temple in Koovagam village. It is believed that all the Aravanis are married to Aravan and hence, when the sacrifice is re-enacted, the Aravanis become widows of Aravan and mourn his death.
The temple priest takes the place of Aravan and ties the knot to transgenders. The transgenders rejoice in their marriage to Aravan with dance and wild celebrations. The next day, following the death of Aravan, they become widows and their ‘mangalsutras’ are snapped. It is a heart wrenching scene as hundreds of transgenders wail in agony. It is not just a part of a ritualistic performance but venting out of suppressed ire at fate which had destined them to be the third sex.
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Apart from the rituals this festival provides the transgenders an opportunity to come together and discuss various things related to their lives and future. There is a beauty pageant under the title ‘Miss Koovagam’ on the sidelines of the festival in which transgenders participate rather enthusiastically. Interestingly, in the recent years transgenders from foreign countries also take part in the festival.
Read Also: Making Transgender Rights A Reality
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