Hijras- A Taboo

Hijras are the unspoken taboo of India. They are the third gender and have always been an important part of Hindu Mythology. Yet they are considered as a low caste and have a community of their own. Let us a little about them.

Hijras and their patroness

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.

Another popular reference is rather romantic. 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 thus is again worshipped by the Hijras.


Hijras and Lord Ram

Lord Ram is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu. In some versions of the Ramayana, when Ram 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 for his exile and upon returning after 14 years, 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, Ram grants Hijras the boon to confer blessings on people during auspicious inaugural occasions like childbirth and weddings.

Urvashi’s curse on Arjuna


Arjuna refuses the advances of Urvashi, alleging that he had heard of her relationship with his ancestor Pururava, and hence she had the status of a mother, equal in respect to Kunti. Urvashi, annoyed at this, cursed him that he would become a eunuch who would have to live among women, singing and dancing. On Indra’s request, and regretting her anger, Urvashi reduced her curse to a period of one year of Arjuna’s choice.

Arjuna as Ahiravan’s wife


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, Ahiravan 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 Arjuna as Brihinala marries him. The next day on the battle field Ahiravan dies and Brihinala performs the rituals of a widow i.e. forfeiting the sindoor (vermillion) and breaking the bangles. In South India, Hijras claim Ahiravan as their progenitor and call themselves “aravanis.”

Lord Vishnu as Mohini


Lord Vishnu takes form of Mohini to slay Bhasmasura. It is believed that Mohini was so beautiful and enchanting that Lord Shiva upon seeing her was so mesmerized that he started running behind her. This made his consort Goddess Parvathi very unhappy and embarrassed. Seeing this Lord Vishnu takes back his original form.

These are a few references to the third gender in Hindu mythology. Their present day conditions will be discussed in the next part.

Till then Take care, Bye!


Disclaimer: Sources Google.com and Wikipedia.com


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