The transgender community that continues to fight discrimination over gender identity has found acceptance at Simhastha Kumbh.
The separate Kinnar Akhara at the religious congregation has become such a draw that bouncers have been deployed to regulate flow of visitors. In contrast, some mainstream Akharas have been struggling to attract devotees.
An image of Ardhnarishwara — an amalgamation of the male-female form in Lord Shiva – forms the backdrop for the Kinnar Akhara’s main stage.
While the main functionaries sit in front and bless devotees, some transgenders take turns to dance to religious melodies.
Crowd management has, however, become a problem. “I request you, let me work. Please don’t stand here, it’s not a park,’’ says a transgender on the mic.
“Unke pas barkat ka account hai (They can bless you with prosperity). They are sadhus and they are beautiful,’’ says Kalpana Sharma, a resident of Indore, while equating the transgenders with Hindu saints. Her family believes that the sacred rice given to her by a transgender will bring them prosperity.
“Islam is the dominating religion among transgenders, though a majority of them are Hindus when they join the community. It’s a kind of homecoming because by wearing saffron robes they have embraced Hinduism,’’ said Rishi Ajay Das, patron of the Akhara formed in October last year. “Transgenders are sadhus in the real sense of the term because they are born brahmacharis and don’t believe in caste. They are the genuine torchbearers of Sanatan Dharma,’’ says Das.
“They once enjoyed religious sanction, but lost it in course of time. By taking part in important rituals of Simhastha Kumbh, their status has been re-established,’’ says a member of the Akhara that has not been granted recognition.