A BLESSING, IN DISGUISE
International discourses constantly debate about India being a country who’s progress is hindered by the bane of her religious caste based social structure. While there is substance to that claim, in the same breath I can also say that, there are an equal number of examples where the same religious structures have also promoted idea’s of co-existence and gender fluidity.
Our sense of morality and ethicality has also had a beating with the world events over the past couple hundred years.
I often wonder, what if the world social sciences were not so heavily influenced by the west. What if polytheism or paganism was the norm and subjecting societies into a monotheistic mindset would have been considered uncivilised. Would the world fight the same wars it is fighting today in the name of religion?
According to Hindu tradition all animate and inanimate rise and fall in the Supreme Truth. This concept has given rise to numerous unique traditions in Hinduism like the Ardhanareeshwara (Shiva as half man and half woman)
One such festival is the Chamaya-Vilakku (“Chamaya" is make-up, “Vilakku" is lamp) festival held at the Kottankulangara Sridevi Bhagvathy Temple in the Indian state of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Vana Durga – an incarnation of Goddess Shakti
Legend has it, that a group of cowherds used to dress up as girls and playfully offer remains of the coconut after it is grated and the milk extracted to an idol. Pleased by their devotion, the goddess, in the garb of an ordinary woman, appeared before them and blessed them.
The ritual is a unique offering done by men to the Goddess. On the day, men from all walks of life, young and old, upper castes and lower, rich and poor, all dress up as women for the festival. The offering is made for the fulfilment of desires or as a thanksgiving for a wish fulfilled.
Today, homosexuals, crossdressers and transgenders persons also actively participate in the ritual.
Families come together to support their beautifully dressed men in female clothes and with flowers on hair, lamps in hand, men wait patiently till the wee hours of dawn for the goddess to bless them. Its an utopian world for so many communities that face gender discrimination.