INSTANCES OF TRANS-GENDERISM IN THE INDIAN EPIC, MAHABHARATHA
Arjuna is one of the major characters in the ancient Indian epic, Mahabharata. A celestial“ dancer, Urvashi, falls in love with him, but he rejects her overtures. “May you become a eunuch so that you’ll understand what it is to feel like a woman”, she curses. She relents after a while and modifies her curse to “May you become a eunuch for a year.” She also lets him choose the time when the curse was to become operational. Later in the epic story, Arjuna becomes a eunuch for a year and teaches dance and music to a young princess who goes on to marry his son.
In another instance in the same epic, a princess called Amba is re-born, after her death, as a male, Shikandi. But the unfulfilled love of Amba results in Shikandi being born “with a woman’s heart trapped in a man’s body.”
Also in this epic is the poignant tale of Aravanan, a son of Arjuna. Aravanan volunteers to sacrifice his life before a Goddess for the success in a war of the army led by his father. But the code of sacrifice had stipulated that only married men could be offered as sacrifice to the Goddess. Aravanan was unmarried, and no one could be persuaded to marry a person knowing she would become a widow in a day or less. Ultimately, Krishna, a God who had incarnated on earth as Arjuna’s friend and well-wisher, assumes the form of a woman, called Mohini, and marries Aravanan. Aravanan is then sacrificed to the Goddess.
Interestingly, this legend is re-enacted to this day in a south Indian town that has a temple of Aravanan. Those at the helm of the celebrations and all participants in the festival are people of alternate sexuality and sexual orientation. Thousands of them attend the festival every year and all of them assume the name of Mohini for a day and marry the presiding deity of the place, Aravanan. It is all gaiety and fun as a wedding should be. The next day, all of them spend in mourning as Aravanan is sacrificed and all of them have become widows.
The festival extends over 18 days in April-May, and culminates on the full moon day. Known as the Koothandavar Festival, it takes place in a remote town in Tamil Nadu called Koovagam in the Villupuram district.
To read more of the June issue, click on: https://kshama.wordpress.com/2008/06/01/deep-the-e-magazine-for-ordinary-people-june-2008-issue/