These men almost changed their gender for love of Krishna

When former IPS officer and then Inspector General of Police D K Panda turned up at the family court in Lucknow to attend a hearing in a divorce case filed by his wife, people laughed at him.

Clad in a saree, with bangles on his arms, Panda had declared that he saw himself as “doosri Radha” (another Radha, the companion of Lord Krishna) and had turned into an object of ridicule.

Panda was later advised to see a psychologist. But scores of “Pandas” can be seen at the ongoing Mahakumbh here and for the millions of devotees thronging the fair, they are the “lovers” of Lord Krishna. For these “men-turned-women” chanting bhajans and singing songs to “please” Krishna, Panda was one of them - a Sakhi (friend).

Dressed in colourful sarees and lehengas with bangles on their arms, rings in their nose, these men have almost changed their gender. “ Jine bhesa mera thakur rijhe, soi bhes dharungi” (we shall wear the dress that is liked by our beloved god) is what they say as they make their way to the holy `sangam’ (the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Sarswati rivers) for a dip.

These “women” are sadhus and live the life of nomads. “They are members of the Sakhi sect… only men can join the sect… these sadhus appear in public like women”, says Mahant Deenbandhu of Radhaballabhi sect, which controls the Sakhi sect.

“These people do not stay at one place for long… they keep moving from one place to another, staying at temples of Lord Krishna and singing bhajans to please him”, the Mahant said.

The process of becoming a Sakhi is not simple. “They are made sadhus first. They undergo some rituals under the guidance of a guru. After a few years some may become a Sakhi… the guru gives him women’s dress and other things’’, he says.

The mahant said that Sakhi sect is for those who did not want anything from the materialistic world.  The Sakhis do not care. Unmindful of the public glare and attention, they simply go about their work. They just want to be with their beloved—Lord Krishna.

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