The festival of transgender
You cannot escape from noticing the transgender moving in large numbers, who converge at towns like Villupuram and Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu during the months of April and May.It is a festival season for transgender at villages like Kuwagam, around 30 Km away from Villupuram and at Kothattai, some 30 Km away from Cuddalore.
Though remain dormant throughout the year, during this festival season, the transgender became busy collecting funds from the people through their group dancing; they are also clad in new sarees or wear modern attires like salwar kummies, chudidar and in rare occasions even wear jeans; they are also busy with the cultural activities specially organized by the State Government in this season. They participate in the beauty contests, singing and oratory competitions. The District Collector presides over such functions and even select and distribute prizes for the beauty queen among the transgender with the title ‘Miss.Kuwagam’.You may wonder to hear that during this festival season the transgender are coming from various parts of India traveling thousands of kilometers to enjoy their festival.They usually do not come from far off places just for fun or enjoyment.They are committed to their way of living and life style and are also under the pious obligation of getting married at the Kuwagam festival and becoming a widow the very next day.
The transgender are in fact brimming with joy during this festival season and they almost behave like new brides whose marriage is shortly fixed.The transgender festival that takes place in Kuwagam is unique in many ways.The festival is celebrated on the basis of a traditional story of Mahabaratha. The story of Mahabaratha runs like this:The 18 days Mahabaratha battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas was about to begin.However, there arose a hitch in commencing the battle. According to Hindu sasthras, before the beginning of any battle, it was usual and customary to sacrifice a human life at the battle front known as ‘Kalappali’.
Nobody was willing to sacrifice and lose his life at the battlefront. Finally, Aravan, an unmarried son of Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) offered himself to sacrifice his life at the battlefront before the commencement of the battle. However, he offered to sacrifice his life on one pre-condition that he should get married before his sacrifice or death in the battlefront.Who would come forward to marry a person who was going to die the next day ?The news reached Lord Krishna. He tried his best by persuading many chieftains to give away their daughters for the proposed marriage with Prince Aravan.It was no avail. Nobody was willing for the proposed marriage for fear of seeing their daughters as a widow, the very next day of their marriage.
Finally, it was Lord Krishna who came to rescue the Pandavas from this embarrassing situation. At any cost Justice should be rendered to the Pandavas. The Right should be established and the Wrong should be dethroned and go, for which the battle of Mahabaratha should begin. Therefore, once again Lord Krishna took his Mohini Avatar and she was willing for the marriage with Prince Aravan.
This Mohini avatar was symbolised by the transgender. They willingly get married at the front of Prince Aravan statue.Somebody tie the nuptial knot or the mangal sutra on their neck.They clad in new colourful sarees with a large kungum tilak on their forehead besides sporting jasmine flowers on their heads.Another interesting feature is that Prince Aravan statue is very huge and mammoth and it is built with three or four different parts that are brought up by transgender from Mumbai and Kolkatta.
The next day morning.It was the appointed day for the ‘kalappali’ or the sacrifice of Prince Aravan at the battle front of Mahabaratha.The statue of Prince Aravan is dismembered that symbolizes his sacrifice at the battlefront of Mahabaratha.The newly married transgender cut down their mangal sutra as a mark of respect for the death or sacrifice made by Prince Aravan.They also wail over the death of their beloved husband Prince Aravan in the traditional style called ‘Oppari’.Immeditely after the death of their husband, the transgender are clad in white sarees.
Thus, the festival of transgender is being celebrated with traditional fervor and enthusiasm that is unheard of elsewhere in the world.