Once Worshipped and Now Widely Feared!
It’s been thousand years, and the stories regarding Hijras are still a matter of curiosity. We have been flown with various myths, superstitions, and anecdotes about the third gender of India.
You will be shocked to know that earlier they were worshipped in the Hindu world and also worked for Islamic rulers, but are now widely feared. Though they secretly hold the dominant position in the society, still are not accepted by all. They spend just a normal life like us.
So, here are some facts and myths about the transgenders of India that people may not be aware of.
They are from the ancient times, mentioned in Mahabharata and Islam
The origin of Kinners are from ancient times, they are mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, and in Islam, where Eunuchs (Hijras) served in the harems of the Mughal rulers. The participation ritual of Hijras has a clearly Hindu origin, but are practised by Muslims as well.
What did they use to do in old days?
All we know about them is that they crash into wedding and birthday celebrations and demand money. But in initial days, they used to earn their livelihood by serving women of the wealthy families. We all are aware of the fact that in the old days, the ‘ladies area’ was a separate part of the house. They could go out and do the chores, even do the shopping for the ladies and also be their guards. Rulers believed in them as trusted guards, and this is the reason some even became generals in the Mughal armies.
Do you know how a new Eunuch is created?
According to an article, the rebirth ceremony in which a new Eunuch is born is called Nirvana. This involves the emasculation process (the removal of the penis and the testicles, the external male sex organs). In this, the impotent male is transformed into a potent Eunuch.
For them, this process links them to Shiva and Goddess and approval them to perform at weddings and births. They also have faith in this system. According to it, if an impotent man refuses to emasculate himself, he will be born impotent for seven future births.
The ritual involves special diet
After getting the sanction from the Goddess, they perform surgery. You will be shocked to know that following the surgical operation, special diet restrictions and isolation like a lady who has just entered motherhood.
Soon after the 40-day isolation period, the new Nirvana is dressed like a bride, taken to a body of water for further proceedings of the ritual.
Their cremation doesn’t involve a lot of dutiful people
Death is a dark affair. Being a Kinner as their fate, not everyone among them set high goals in life. Their cremation is often a normal process, and the people involved in mourning for one’s demise is limited to very few. But it is believed that they carry out their death rituals at night.
Did you know that they can foretell events?
According to sources, Eunuchs Gurus are believed to be clairvoyant, i.e., they are supposed to have a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future. This power is supposed to be so strong that sometimes the followers are afraid that their gurus can know their secret plans without their disclosing them. It is also said that they can foresee their death.
When they come to know about their death, they pray for forgiveness.
When the Eunuch come to know about their death, they give up on everything and sit int he corner of the house. They don’t consume food or tea and live only on water just like birds and beasts. This is their way of welcoming a painless death. Some sit in the corner and pray for forgiveness. They ask for blessings for the dying Kinner and beg the lord for not making them Eunuch in the next birth.
Dying Eunuch is considered pious
When other Kinners hear the news of other acquaintances being on deathbed, they come from different parts of the countries to take their blessings. A dying eunuch is considered to be God-like. People who cannot visit, think about the dying Eunuch and take their blessings.
The crematorium authorities are requested not to disclose the death of a Eunuch
When a Eunuch dies, all of the Eunuch friends gather and inform others as well. Though most of the Eunuchs are poor, they then contribute to the funeral terms and the rituals are performed in a simple manner. The body is bathed and wrapped in clean white cloth. The crematorium authorities are requested not to disclose the death of a Eunuch.
For Hindu Eunuchs, the body is cremated in open grounds in the wooden funeral pyre. The body is set on fire by the male blood relative of the dead or by the most senior person.
For Muslim Eunuch, all the rituals are same like bathing the dead body, covering the dead body with a white cotton cloth. But after funeral prayer or Fatiha, the deceased is buried in a way so that the head faces towards the Kaaba.
Hijras worship Shiva’s Ardhanarishvara form
According to the sources, a popular form of Shiva, ‘Ardhanarishvara’ meaning ‘The Lord whose half is a woman’, signifies Shiva unified with his Shakti (female creative power). The Hijras often use to visit the Shiva temples for worshipping Lord Shiva which offers them a special power and respect because of this close identification.
The festival at Koovagam
Koovagam, a small village 200 miles south of Madras is the place of the annual festival of Eunuch. On the occasion of Chitrai Purnima, Kinner’s experience both ceremony of marriage and subsequent widowhood.
The story of Mohini and Aravana
As per the legends, in the battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas came to a situation when they had to sacrifice one of their warriors. The council then selected Aravana, Arjun’s son. He agreed, but he expressed a wish to marry first. Now, why would a man allow his daughter to marry someone who would die in a battle next day? At the moment Lord Krishna took the form of Mohini, a beautiful woman, and married Aravanan.
For Eunuchs, they themselves are Mohini
During the festival, Hijras treat themselves as Mohini. That is, on the festival day the priest at Aravana’s temple marries them to the God. The next day, the priest cuts their mangalsutra, and the Hijras then become widows. After this ritual, the Hijras take out time to find their new mates.
The legend of Bahuchara Mata
Bahuchara Mata is considered to be an incarnation of Mother Durga, the Goddess of power and patroness of Eunuchs. According to the tales, Bahuchara Mata was a Princess who was married to a man who would run into the woods and act like a woman. One day she got angry and cursed him to become a Eunuch. Another belief is that she was once travelling through a dense forest. Finding her alone, a man tried to rape her and she cursed him with impotence. The man begged for forgiveness and she agreed to pardon only on one situation if he acted like a woman.
They pray Bahuchara Mata for forgiveness
Hijras believe that they may have been cursed because of their sins. So, they pray Mata for forgiveness and hope that she will bless them with a clear gender in next life.
However, now the attitude of people towards Kinners is changing, and they are given proper identification in the country. Many organizations are working on advancing the rights of Eunuchs and for giving them a proper place in society.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”