The Nirvan, or ancient castration ceremonies to convert a previous male into a hijra, was the most terrifying aspect of the hijras’ lives that I learned about. Due to superstitions and financial restraints, the hijras of India rarely undergo advanced sex reassignment surgery for the removal of penises and the building of vagina and labia, as their counterparts in other nations do, as their counterparts in other nations do. The hijras are subjected to the most rudimentary, amateurish type of “surgical operation” that is performed without the use of an anesthetic.

Nirvan is defined as achieving a peaceful transcendental condition free of worldly and sexual impulses. The hijras use the term “Nirvan” to refer to castration, which is a level of enlightenment advocated by Hinduism and Buddhism.

According to jamat laws, not every girl trapped in a male body qualifies as a hijra. Bahuchara Mata, the hijra deity, requires Nirvan for the male/intersex person to be endowed with supernatural powers and become an earthly embodiment of Bahuchara Mata. Only after this is he given the authority to bless couples and newborns at weddings and nuptials.

According to acclaimed anthropologist Serena Nanda, the Nirvan has three stages:

During the preparation time, a person is expected to shed his male identity and imagine himself as a woman. The liminal (transitional) stage occurs after the procedure, when the nirvan ceases to be male but has not yet been endowed with the Mata’s abilities. Nirvan is the third stage, in which the initiate is recognized as a genuine hijra and is allowed to perform at marriages, childbirths, and other ceremonies.

The initiate is confined for a month before Nirvan. He must adhere to a number of tight guidelines. He is not allowed to look in mirrors, have sex, or do other things, for example. During his quarantine, he is exclusively fed “pure” saatvik meals, including fruits, vegetables, milk, grains, lentils, and other foods that are said to quiet and relax the mind. Spicy foods, as well as stimulants such as coffee, tea, and alcohol, are forbidden. (Note: “saatvik” foods are those that are fresh, nutritious, and taste good.) Ayurveda, an Indian alternative medicine system, states that eating satvik food improves one’s health, vigor, and focus, as well as brings one closer to spiritual enlightenment.)

The initiate (also known as “nirvan”) is awoken at the crack of dawn by the dai ma (midwife) and her aide on the day of the Nirvan. He is instructed to take a bath, during which the dai ma says prayers to Bahuchara Mata in order for her knife to become sharp and voracious and for the procedure to be successful.

To assess the nirvan’s preparation, he is shown a photograph of Bahuchara Mata and asked to judge her expression. If the nirvan reads the Mata’s smile as positive, the midwife assumes the operation will be successful and proceeds. If she appears enraged, the operation is postponed till a later date. The initiate is also required to crack a coconut for similar reasons. The dai ma will proceed with the operation if he is calm and breaks the coconut into two equal halves. The nivan is deemed tense and the procedure is postponed if the coconut splits into two unequal parts.

When the nirvan is ready, the dai ma forces him to sit on a stool. The helper gathers his hair and places it between the nirvan’s teeth, instructing him to bite down hard. To ensure a clean incision, the penis and scrota are linked together with a string. The nirvan is then instructed to fixate on a picture of Bahuchara Mata and continually recite her name. The dai ma takes the sharp knife down and slices off the nirvan’s male genitals after the nirvan is in a hypnotic trance. To keep the urethra open, a stick is placed in it.

Blood gushes from the wound. The flow isn’t slowed since it’s supposed to “drain the masculinity out.” The nirvan enters an indeterminate stage between life and death for the following hour. The “tug of war” between Bahuchara Mata, the embodiment of life, and her elder sister, Goddess Chamundeshwari, the deity of death, is described.

If the nirvan survives, he will be imprisoned for the next forty days. He is once again subjected to dietary and other restrictions. Gingili oil is administered to the wound to help it heal quickly.

The nirvan is bathed on the third day after the emasculation. On the 12th day, saffron and turmeric are applied to his face and hair, and he is cleansed. On the 20th and 30th days, the identical rite is performed.

The mehndi ceremony is held on the 40th day. The nirvan’s facial hair is plucked off with tweezers because hijras are not allowed to shave. His palms are ornamented with exquisite designs of the mehndi or henna, a plant dye. He is clothed in a crimson bridal sari, set with extravagant jewelry, and his palms are decked with intricate designs of the mehndi or henna, a plant dye. The nirvan is given milk and led to a temple tank in a procession. Three times, milk is poured over the head of the nirvan and the water, and prayers are presented to the Mata. Even though he is impotent, the nirvan is now regarded as a true, authentic hijra who is authorized to bless people with fertility and riches.

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:

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