I continued my trip and traveled to the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. My first destination in South India was Bangalore, Karnataka’s cosmopolitan and urbane capital.

Bangalore—Silicon India’s Valley—appeared to be one of the most sophisticated cities in the country, with its pub culture, large immigrant population, and IT companies. It was not without its flaws, though.

As I was being taken to Bannerghatta National Park in my host’s car, a group of people who appeared to be women attracted my attention. The blouses on their slim, toned backs were provocatively low-cut, and their tall, sinewy bodies were draped in dazzling rainbow sarees. The beings wore extravagant jewelry, were heavily made up, and had yards of flowers in their hair, which were either braided, bunted, or let loose on rare occasions. They had clearly spent a significant amount of time getting ready.

The roads were congested; there was even a rumor of a traffic jam, which caused my host’s Tata car to be forced to stop for more than 10 minutes at the Silk Board traffic junction. During this extended period, I had the opportunity to thoroughly examine these ladies. They flitted from vehicle to vehicle like bright butterflies, clapping their hands in an unusual manner, swinging their hips provocatively, and asking for alms in a sexy, enticing tone. Despite the fact that these folks were nominally women, there was something about them—a tinge of masculinity in their faces and voices—that made me doubt their sincerity. Everything about them was overdone, including their claims to femininity. A few motorists, primarily men, flirted innocently before reaching into their shirt pockets, withdrawing their wallets, and handing the women either a 10 or 20 rupee note in their outstretched palms. The rest of the drivers continued on their way as if they hadn’t seen the alms-seekers at all. Before moving on to the next vehicle, the throng of ladies screamed curses and obscenities incessantly. My interest had been piqued to the max at this moment.

“Ramesh, who are these people?” I asked the driver, although I already knew that they were Hijras.

“Never mind, Madam, they’re slime,” Ramesh answered evasively. “Not deserving of respect from respectable ladies such as yourself. It bothers me that they’ve captured your attention, especially because you’re from Japan. You must have a negative impression of Indians today.

No way!” I answered. I quickly reassured him and then dropped the subject.

On the other hand, my interest in these guys had reached a pinnacle point. They were so mysterious! Why was it so forbidden to discuss anything about them? What was it about them that was so repulsive that they had to be kept hidden from an alien like myself?

A big disturbance broke out in the street just as I was thinking along these lines. One of the women approached a male motorist and attempted to take money from his wallet, which was kept in his shirt’s right front pocket. He replied by pushing her into the street in a brutal manner. The irritated woman sprang up, hitched her saree up, and screamed expletives in a language I didn’t understand. Her body language was forceful, and her speech was obnoxious. I inquired of the driver as to what she meant. “I’ll quote her word for word,” he said after a little pause. “I’ll show you my embarrassment; I’ll display my mutilated genitals!” she exclaimed. “Please, Madam, don’t ask any more questions…,” he pleaded. Meanwhile, the gridlock had subsided a little. Ramesh started the motor, shifted the accelerator, and sped up the automobile till we were safely away from the Silk Board traffic signal. When we were approximately two kilometers away, he apologized, saying, “I am sorry, you had to witness that.” I didn’t ask any more questions after that. But I had already made up my mind for the evening: I was going to Silk Board by myself, talking to these ladies, and figuring out what all the fuss was about.

I took an autorickshaw to the Silk Board and got off. The twilight had given way to darkness. The last of the garishly dressed women was leaving the streets and heading towards what I assumed was their home. Approaching unknown individuals in a different area is challenging for a foreigner, especially if they are shrouded in secrecy. Despite this, I did not give up. I summoned the guts to approach them and say, “Excuse me, may I speak with you for a moment?” The group of 78 women spoke in hushed tones to each other in a language I didn’t understand. It was then that I discovered they didn’t speak English well. As I started to return, frustrated and wanting desperately for a translation, a gruff but kind voice asked, Yes Madam, how may I assist you?” Her English words were stuttering but understandable. I spun around to take in a late-twenties woman. “Please give me a few minutes of your time,” I said gratefully. The sweetheart was only too happy to help. I brought her to a neighboring café and placed an order for both of us for espressos.

Over coffee, I learned a lot about the young lady. Her name was Trisha, and she was a transsexual woman from Tamil Nadu. Trisha had a dusky complexion and huge expressive eyes, which she had highlighted with Kajal (a black eye pencil used by Indian girls and boys for the sake of beauty and health). Her long nails were painted a darker shade of the same color as her flat, gangling figure, which was dressed in a brilliant mustard saree. The scent of cheap perfume remained in the air around her.

I always wanted to be a female, even though I was born into a perfectly healthy male body. I was effeminate in my mannerisms, liked the company of girls over boys, and was engaged in-home tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing kitchenware, and so on,Trisha began her account. “When interacting with girls, I felt at ease, but when speaking with boys, I felt shy and self-conscious. Trisha continued, “My father didn’t like my choices and inclinations because he wanted his only son to behave like a man.”

Trisha (then Sivan) was locked up in a room and starved for two days after reprimands and thrashing failed. Trisha’s father, like other traditional Indian parents, felt that the rod would change his son’s behavior. Trisha’s gender dysphoria, on the other hand, only became worse. Trisha fled away from home, unable to take the ostracism she faced as a result of being a girl locked in a male body. She then became a chela in a Jamat or community (which I will discuss in more depth later in the book) under the guidance of a guru (teacher/disciple). Trisha and her Jamat-sisters formed their own sect, complete with their own society.

At this point, I discovered that not all transgender people in India followed the same traditions and rituals. The North Indian hijras differed greatly from those found in the east, west, south, and central India. The names by which they were referred to differ by location. For example, those from the north were referred to as hijras, while those from Tamil Nadu were referred to as “aravanis” or the more pejorative “pottai,” while those from Karnataka were referred to as “kinnaras” or the degrading “chakka,” and those from Andhra Pradesh were referred to as “kojja.” Trisha was a member of the Aravani tribe.

Trisha informed me that she was named after a prominent South Indian film star, emphasizing the significance that Tamilians place on movies and movie stars. Thanks to her, I gained a solid insight into the Arvanis’ peculiar culture.

According to what I’ve learned, the Aravanis had a vibrant and colorful culture. Their name, which is steeped in mythology, lends them a respectable air. The Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata legendary legend, were set to fight their villainous, scheming relatives, the Kauravas, in a final battle. King Arjuna of the Pandavas meditated long and hard to invoke Goddess Kali a few days before the fight. He requested the Pandavas’ victory boon once she manifested. Goddess Kali accepted, but in exchange for the victory, she wanted a human sacrifice. Arjuna’s virgin son, Prince Aravan (sometimes spelled “Ahiravan”), accepted to be sacrificed. He did have a few requirements, one of which was that he dies as a married man. In India, widowhood is seen as an unpleasant status; no lady desires to marry a man who will die the next day. To address this conundrum, Lord Krishna took on the appearance of a stunning woman, married Aravan, and had sexual relations with him. Aravan was ready to be sacrificed after a night of sexual delight.

The transgendered of Tamil Nadu is known as aravanis, or brides of aravan, since they connect with Lord Krishna in his feminine form. The majority of the Arvanis live in and around Villupuram, a four-hour trip from Chennai. The Koovagam Festival, a two-week extravaganza that draws people from all over India as well as other parts of the world, such as South and Central Asia, is the most well-known event regarding the aravanis. Koovagam, around 30 kilometers from Villupuram, is a small, boring town. Only at the Koovagam Festival does Koovagam come to life. The celebration commemorates the Aravani’s symbolic union with Prince Aravan (who is represented by a garlanded idol or effigy). The arvanis enter the Koothanandavar temple dressed in their finest silk sarees and jewelry, bringing trays of fruits, betel leaves, areca nuts, and a camphor-lit oil lamp in their hands.

A priest standing in front of Lord Aravan’s idol or effigy puts the beaded or threaded mangalasutra (the sacred marital thread) around the aravanis’ necks and applies sindhoor (vermillion) to their hair partings. The Aravanis are meant to be “married” to Lord Aravan after this procedure.

The culmination of the marriage takes place in the enticing darkness of the night. The Aravanis spend their time in the fields or coconut groves behind the temple, having intercourse with a number of men, each of whom is seen as a flesh-and-blood representative of the fabled Prince Aravan. The transgender women wake up the next morning to the symbolic death of Lord Aravan, whose idol/effigy has had its head cut off, after a night of unrepentant debauchery and bacchanalia (the ingestion of an excessive amount of alcohol). His “bereaved widows” then put on a loud, arrogant display of sadness. The bereaved ostentatiously shatter their bangles, angrily pull off their mangalasutras, massage the vermillion on their foreheads, and fiercely beat their breasts in lament to mourn the death of their so-called husband, in the manner of widows of yesteryear and in some isolated parts of contemporary India.

Because of the Koovagam Festival, the month of May is the busiest in the otherwise tranquil village of Koovagam. The aravanis attract the most customers, while hotels, lodges, and other businesses thrive.

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:

My Medium URL: https://sakurazawa.medium.com/
Join Medium here (this is an affiliate link)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *