Hijras are communities of transvestites, eunuchs and asexuals or meta-sexuals with a traditional (marginal) role in Hindu society.
Hijras belong to a special caste. They are usually devotees of the mother goddess Bahuchara Mata, Lord Shiva or both. Hijra culture draws upon the traditions of several religions.
Hijras and Bahuchara Mata
Bahuchara Mata is a Hindu goddess with two unrelated stories both associated with transgender behavior. One story is that she appeared in the avatar of a princess who castrated her husband because he would run in the woods and act like a woman rather than have sex with her. Another story is that a man tried to rape her so she cursed him with impotence. When the man begged her forgiveness to have the curse removed, she relented only after he agreed to run in the woods and act like a woman. The primary temple to this goddess is Gujarat and it is a place of pilgrimage for hijras, who see Bahucahara Mata as a patroness.
Hijras in the Mahabharata
In the Mahabharata, before the Kurukshetra War, Ahiravan offers his lifeblood to goddess Kali to ensure the victory of the Pandavas, and Kali agrees to grant him power. On the night before the battle, Aravan expresses a desire to get married before he dies. No woman was willing to marry a man doomed to die in a few hours, so Krishna assumes the form of a beautiful woman called Mohini and marries him. In South India, hijras claim Aravan as their progenitor and call themselves “aravanis.”
In Tamil Nadu each year in April and May, hijras celebrate an eighteen-day religious festival. The Aravani temple is located in the village Koovagam in the Ulundurpet taluk in Villupuram district, and is devoted to the deity Koothandavar, who is identified with Aravan. During the festival, the aravanis reenact a story of the wedding of Lord Krishna and Lord Aravan, followed by Aravan’s subsequent sacrifice. They then mourn Aravan’s death through ritualistic dances and by breaking their bangles. An annual beauty pageant is also held, as well as various health and HIV or AIDS seminars. Hijras from all over the country travel to this festival. A personal experience of the hijras in this festival is shown in the documentary India’s Ladyboys, by BBC Three and also on the television series Taboo on the National Geographic Channel.
Hijras and Lord Shiva
One of the forms of Lord Shiva is a merging with Parvati where together they are Ardhanari, a god that is half Shiva and Half Parvati. Ardhanari is especially worshipped in North India and has special significance as a patron of hijras, who identify with the gender ambiguity.
Hijras in Ramayana
In some versions of the Ramayana, when Rama leaves Ayodhya for his 14-year exile, a crowd of his subjects follow him into the forest because of their devotion to him. Soon Rama notices this, and gathers them to tell them not to mourn, and that all the “men and women” of his kingdom should return to their places in Ayodhya. Rama then leaves and has adventures for 14 years. When he returns to Ayodhya, he finds that the hijras, being neither men nor women, have not moved from the place where he gave his speech. Impressed with their devotion, Rama grants hijras the boon to confer blessings on people during auspicious inaugural occasions like childbirth and weddings. This boon is the origin of badhai in which hijras sing, dance, and give blessings.
The first reality show for and about the transgendered will be launched by a Bangladesh TV channel according to http://malikatv.blogspot.com
The ATN Bangla show — called “Amra Tomadery” — translated as “We are for you“, started accepting applications for contestants in December of last year. Contestants will be dancing and acting in front of voting audiences.
“The aim is to end the taboos that are associated with hijras,” said the show’s producer.