Transgenders experience 'marriage' at this festival

Transgenders experience 'marriage' at this festival

Transgenders experience 'marriage' at this festival

Koovagam village in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu is mostly known for its farming activities, until this time of the year when thousands of transgenders start thronging it to participate in a unique festival dedicated to Koothandavar (Aravan).

The 18-day festival, which begins on Tuesday, traces the battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas from the Mahabharatha. And not only does this colourful fete attract transgenders from across the country, but even places like Singapore and Malaysia. The participants will be setting up camps over the next few weeks.

According to legend, celebrants become the bride as well as the widow to honour Aravan, who played a crucial role for the Pandavas in the Mahabaratha. The Pandavas, led by Lord Krishna, had to sacrifice one warrior to win the battle against the Kauravas.

 It was decided that Arjuna’s son Aravan would make the ultimate sacrifice to secure victory. Aravan, who agreed to the request made by the Pandavas, expressed that his last desire was to get married. When no woman came forward to marry Aravan after knowing that he would perish the next day, Lord Krishna transformed into a beautiful lady to marry him for one night. The next day, the Pandavas sacrificed Aravan.

Members of the transgender community, who regard Aravan as their husband, make their way to the Koothandavar temple to participate in the festival that proclaims the sacrifice of their Lord.

On the penultimate day, they take part in the custom wedding ceremony, with the temple priest tying a “mangalsutra” or “thali” around their necks. After this, they celebrate their marriage through different cultural programmes. Attendees also take part in the Miss Koovagam beauty pageant, a popular contest that allows them to show off their flashiest dresses and jewellery during the catwalk.

Speaking about the preparations for the mega event, a senior official from Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department said, “We have arranged special buses to the temple from various districts. More than 5,000 transgenders from various districts, states and even from other countries are expected to participate in this festival.” He added that lodging and medical facilities were also made available to the participants.