Hundreds of eunuchs gathered in Bhopal on Thursday to celebrate the annual “kajaria” festival to mark the climax of the monsoon. Playing loud music, making suggestive gestures and exchanging bawdy jokes with bystanders, they moved through all of old Bhopal to pray for mankind at the ancient Gupha mandir (cave temple).
I hadn’t heard of the Kajaria festival before, being more familiar with the festival in Koovagam, a small village in Tamil Nadu, unlike celebrating the monsoon this important festival for Hijras commemorates an event from the Mahabharata:
Also in attendance are the dangas, men who “become” women for the duration of the festival. The rest of the year, the dangas are husbands or single men. But during the Chittirai-Pournami festival, they wear saris, elaborate wigs, and bright plastic jewelry.
The origins of this festival can be traced to a Hindu tale in which Aravan, a man about to be sacrificed to the gods, asked to be married before dying. To fulfill this last wish, the god Krishna is said to have assumed the form of a beautiful woman and married Aravan.