Hijra (South Asia)
Hijra is a term used in South Asia – in particular, in India – to refer to an individual who is transsexual or transgender. In certain areas of India, transgender people are also known as Aravani, Aruvani or Jagappa.
In Pakistan, the hijras identify themselves as either female, male or third gender. The term more commonly advocated by social workers and transgender community members themselves is khwaaja sira and can identify the individual as a transsexual person, transgender person (khusras), cross-dresser (zenanas) or eunuch (narnbans).
Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent, from antiquity, as suggested by the Kama Sutra period, onwards. This history features a number of well-known roles within sub continental cultures, part gender-liminal, part spiritual and part survival.
In South Asia, many hijras live in well-defined and organized all-hijra communities, led by a guru. These communities have sustained themselves over generations by "adopting" young boys who are rejected by, or flee their family of origin. Many work as sex workers for survival.
The word "hijra" is a Urdu-Hindustani word derived from the Semitic Arabic root hjr in its sense of "leaving one's tribe," and has been borrowed into Hindi. The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite," where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition." However, in general hijras are born with typically male physiology, only a few having been born with male intersex variations. Some Hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirwaan, which refers to the removal of penis, testicles and scrotum.
Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and Western non-government organizations (NGOs) have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender," as neither man nor woman. Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education. In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognized hijra and transgender people as a 'third gender' in law.
The Indian transgender hijras or Aravanis ritually marry the Hindu god Aravan and then mourn his ritual death (seen) in an 18-day festival in Koovagam, India.
Many practice a form of syncretism that draws on multiple religions; seeing themselves to be neither men nor women, hijras practice rituals for both men and women.
Hijras belong to a special caste. They are usually devotees of the mother goddess Bahuchara Mata, Lord Shiva, or both.
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 located in Gujarat and it is a place of pilgrimage for hijras, who see Bahucahara Mata as a patroness.
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 the 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.
Hijras in the Mahabharata
Mahabharata includes an episode in which Arjun, a hero of the epic, is sent into an exile. There he assumes an identity of a eunuch-transvestite and performs rituals during weddings and childbirths that are now performed by hijras.
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 Krishna assumes the form of a beautiful woman called Mohini and marries him. In South India, hijras claim Ahiravan as their progenitor and call themselves "aravanis."
"Sangam literature use ’ word ‘Pedi’ to refer to people born with Intersex condition, it also refers to antharlinga hijras and various Hijra, The Aravan cult in Koovagam village of Tamil Nadu is a folk tradition of the transwomen, where the members enact the legend during an annual three-day festival. "This is completely different from the sakibeki cult of West Bengal, where transwomen don’t have to undergo sex change surgery or shave off their facial hair. They dress as women still retaining their masculine features and sing in praise of Lord Krishna,". "Whereas, since the Tamil society is more conservative and hetero-normative, transwomen completely change themselves as women. In the ancient times, even religion has its own way of accepting these fringe communities." The Bachura Devi worship in Gujarat and Jogappa cult of Karanataka are the other examples.the kinds of dialects and languages spoken by these community in different parts of the country and the socio-cultural impact on the lingo. 'Hijra Farsi' is the transgender dialect, a mix of Urdu, Hindi and Persian spoken in the northern belt of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and 'Kothi Baashai' is spoken by the transgender community in Karnataka, Andhra, Orissa and parts of Tamil Nadu. "They even have sign languages and typical mannerisms to communicate. The peculiar clap is one such"
Each year in Tamil Nadu, during 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 BBC Three documentary India's Ladyboys and also in the National Geographic Channel television series Taboo.
Article Credit : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijra_%28South_Asia%29#Hijras_and_Bahuchara_Mata