Beggary, prostitution, performing for a badhai (or tip), being a guru and functioning as a dai ma (or midwife) appear to be traditional hijra jobs due to a lack of fair work possibilities .
1) Beggary: Based on my experience at the traffic light and what I learned after meeting Trisha at the café, beggary appears to be the most common occupation among hijras. This method of subsistence is most likely used as a result of the hijras’ marginalized status, which prevents them from receiving a proper education and finding work. However, a study of the history of hijra begging in India reveals that beggary has always been sanctioned by the government. The hijras have had a customary entitlement to collect sums of money from the agrarian households in each area since before British occupied India. Land concessions from the state were also given to them, which were passed down from an elderly guru to his pupils.
I can reasonably conclude from what I learned and saw in India that hijras use human mentality to extort money from people. They are known to be born with ambiguous genitals (albeit most of them are men suffering from gender dysphoria), and they live a secluded, clannish life away from the mainstream, shrouding their existence in mystery. The hijra’s popular traditional image as celibate wandering mendicants who are unable to create life makes people bestow them with supernatural powers like the ability to bless and curse.
To extort money from the populace, the hijras prey on the terror induced in their minds by long-standing superstitions. Also, the dread and embarrassment of seeing the hijras’ mutilated genitals cause people to immediately part with their money, even if they don’t want to.
Another incidence led me to assume that Hijra-Beggary was a planned event. When I was waiting in a Bangalore pharmacy, I saw a swarm of hijras descend on the chemist and demand their weekly “quota.” The chemist quickly pulled out a ten-rupee bill from his wallet and attempted to dismiss the transgendered individuals. The hijras, on the other hand, proved to be a stubborn bunch. They refused to budge unless they were paid an additional Rs. 20. They rebuked him, “Didn’t we have a contract, Anna (brother)?” and “You conveniently seem to have forgotten!” The unhappy, frantic chemist was forced to cough up the required sum as a result of this chastisement! The chemist told me that the hijras had made a bargain with him and all the shop owners in every town in India to come for their weekly or monthly collection from them when he finally saw the end of them.
“They’ll threaten to flash their genitals if I don’t pay up or curse me with impotence, neither of which are desirable choices. I may or may not believe in their powers, but I pay to prevent inconvenience and get rid of them,” he acknowledged, leading me to infer that the hijras’ nuisance factor played as large a role in money extortion as superstition.
2) Prostitution: As discussed in Chapter 1 in relation to the Koovagam Festival, the majority of hijras participate in prostitution. This is in stark contrast to their image as worldly roaming mendicants and Bahuchara Mata worshippers. Due to a widespread preference for hijras, even among married heterosexual males, prostitution is a significant source of income for them.
It’s possible that heterosexual men prefer hijra prostitutes to genetic females since they try harder to become women, including undergoing painful castration and gender change surgery. The hijras take enormous pride in their femininity, unlike many genetic women who take it for granted. They put a lot of effort into their looks and want to appear very feminine. They are a sought-after sexual partner even among heterosexual males because of the obvious pleasure they take in their womanhood. Furthermore, despite the fact that a hijra undergoes ceremonial castration or Nirvan, which involves the excision of the scrota and penis, they are rarely ever instated with a vagina, leaving anal intercourse as the only choice. They are popular among heterosexual males who are unable to persuade their female spouses or genetically female prostitutes to have anal intercourse due to this alternative.
Even though prostitution generates a lot of money, hijra prostitutes rarely gain from it. Their gurus (teachers) take 50% to nearly all of their earnings in exchange for boarding, lodging, and protection. If prostitution is done at hotels, the hijras may be required to pay the lodge owners a specific sum or a portion of their earnings as commission.
Despite inappropriate comparisons with their gurus, hijras rarely leave since life as a transgender person in a conservative nation is difficult. An independent existence is unimaginable for the hijras, who regard their gurus as their mothers. Being under the protection of a guru provides the hijras with some security from violent clients and rude police officers. A guru can also help a hijra get out of jail if she has been arrested for soliciting customers.
It is believed that hijra prostitutes are not treated with the same respect as those who do not engage in the flesh trade. They often live in separate red-light zones, but they are free to visit the gurus and perform with them at weddings, childbirths, and other events.
3)Hijas with a sense of rhythm and grace frequently dance at weddings, childbirth ceremonies, taverns, and nightclubs. As the hijras tease and dance with the bridegroom, weddings featuring hijra performers become the center of much festivity and raillery. Because the presence of a hijra is thought to harm a bride’s fertility, she is frequently kept separate from hijra performances. The hijras, on the other hand, bless the married couple with fertility and prosperity after the wedding ceremony.
Hijras also perform for a badhai (or tip) at childbirth, bestowing blessings of success, fertility, and prosperity on the infant. Hijras are summoned when sons are born because Indians traditionally place a higher value on male births. With changing values, it is not uncommon for hijras to pay a visit to a home where a newborn girl is born. According to a friend of mine, this tendency started in the 1980s.
On these occasions, the hijras sometimes show up uninvited. Because turning them out is considered unlucky and condemned by the curse of impotence, the hijras are rarely sent away empty-handed on these occasions. Many people send them with a tip to avoid provoking their displeasure.
The hijras dress up in their finery and dance to taped folk or film tunes, as well as the thunderous beating of drums and dholaks, during shows (an Indian percussion instrument.) During these performances, the dancing moves and gestures are frequently caricatured and exaggerated. Elderly hijras rarely dance, unless it’s to mock a pregnant woman’s awkward, ungainly gait. They are content to sit and watch their protégées perform like proud parents at most gatherings.
As India becomes more urbanized and westernized, hijras have the option of boosting their income by dancing in bars and nightclubs.
4) Gurus/Dadgurus/Pardadgurus: The hijras live in a community governed by their own set of laws. As the jamat’s guru or instructor, a clever, sensible, wise senior hijra with remarkable leadership characteristics is chosen. The teacher’s mentor is known as “dadguru,” which means “grandmother,” and her guru is known as “Paradadguru,” which means ‘great grandmother.‘
Hijra gurus provide chores to their chelas (disciples), organize their activities, and manage the jamat’s financial resources. The majority of hijra gurus are exploitative; they force their chelas to work long hours every day and pocket up to 100% of their profits. Many gurus force their chelas to undergo Nirvan (castration) so that they can start earning money for themselves, the gurus, as soon as possible. However, some gurus are fair and do not subject their chelas to emasculation. Rukmini, Trisha’s guru (who, by the way, I met the day after I met Trisha) is an example. The gurus also serve as hijra protectors, rescuing them from rowdy customers and violent cops. The gurus may also bail out chelas who have been arrested by the police on different bogus and factual charges.
Finally, a hijra guru is required to be both affectionate and disciplined, similar to a mother and father.
5) Dai ma (or a midwife) : For hijras, being a dai ma is an alternative occupation. With the assistance of an aide, they are expected to perform the Nirvan, or emasculation ceremony. The dai ma collects the initiate’s scrota and penis after Nirvan and places them in a pot to be buried under a tree.
- previous article: Bahuchara Mata: The Principal Hijra Deity
- next article: Hijras Organize into Jamat
I have been a story writer since 1998 and have published many novels/novellas in both English and Japanese. Protagonists of the following fictions are Hijras – including ordinary males who turn into Hijras over the course of the story: