In Hinduism, Akhara (also akhada) is an association of the different sects of Yogis, also known as Sadhus (Hindu Renunciates). Its history dates back to the eighth century when Adi Shankaracharya established seven Akharas. Some yogis revere Gorakhnath as the founder rather than Shankaracharya. The 7 ancient Akharas are Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Atal, Avahan, Agni and Anand Akhara. Today there are 3 major Akharas (Juna, Mahanirvani and Niranjani) and 3 minor Akharas (Atal affiliated with Mahanirvani, Anand affiliated with Niranjan). Traditionally during the Kumbh Mela, the Naga Sadhus, and the ‘Akharas’, lead and initiate the bathing rituals, before the general population steps in.
Since these group of Sadhus reside in different parts of India, they all have to gather together and then they follow the festival or whatever the reason could be. There is also something very important process of participating in the festival which is called Peshwani. Basically Peshwani is a procession organized to show the official arrival of a group of Sadhus in a city. The same Peshwani was organized by Juna Akhada in Varanasi during Kumbh Mela 2013. I had heard a lot of Peshwanis but had never seen one but luckily this year I got an opportunity to see it. I made a video also which Peshwani of Juna Akhada in Varanasi on 2nd of March 2013 :
Shivratri is the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and is the biggest festival of Varanasi. It was celebrated on the 30th of March this year. Actually the date is decided by the Hindu calendar therefore it changes every year as the Hindu calender is a lunar calendar. As per the Hindu calendar Mahashivaratri falls on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February/March). I had always wanted to document this festival and I got this great opportunity this year. There are several temples in Varanasi which organize a wedding parade of Lord Shiva on the Shivratri day. I went to the a very big temple named Mahamrityunjay Temple which is famous for its parade.
I tried to contact the mahant of the temple who is supposed to be the organizer of the parade or at least a very important person of the organizing committee for sure but he told me straight that he did not know anything about who was organizing it. I was surprised to hear this. Anyways, I contacted several other people at the temple but nobody seemed interested enough to just tell me who was organizing the event and whom should I contact to get the permission for filming. Very strange people. I talked with at least 20 people but same response that they did not know who was organizing the event.
Finally I gave up with this temple and went to other one called Tilbhandeshwar Temple which is also one of the biggest temples of Shiva in Varanasi. People at this temple were very helping. They provided me all the information I needed and permitted me to come on the festival day and film inside the temple. I was really happy to have the permission. I showed up on the festival day around 8 am and was really surprised to see that preparation had already started way before I arrived there. There were already hundreds of people at the temple dressing up and preparing for the parade.
Since this festival is very important to the people of Varanasi and everybody wanted to participate in it, there was a committee formed to chose the right characters for the parade. There were all kinds of characters participating in the event such as all the gods, goddesses, demons and ghosts also. There were characters playing ghosts and demons also because it is said that Shiva had all kinds of followers even ghosts and demons and they had also participated in his wedding. It was really an amazing atmosphere there. People seemed so excited for the parade.
There were four makeup people who were doing making of the characters continuously and there always people in the line waiting for their turn. My friend Lane from Seattle who came to with me just to watch the parade finally ended up playing Parshuram. The people at the organizing committee were so happy to see a foreigner and they asked him if would also like to become part the parade and as usual Lane was up for it. I interviewed a few characters and the best interview was with the person playing Shiva. He was really interesting person. He said that he had playing Shiva for the past eight years and when I asked why only he, he said said that he takes this character very seriously and calls the Lord Shiva inside his body hence people respect him and want him to play Shiva.
Lord Shiva on his horse
There was something else interesting about him that not only he but his whole family was actively involved in the parade. His real son was playing baby Shiva. After the makeup, the person playing Lord Shiva went to the temple to get blessing and this is time when he is supposed to call the God in his body. The parade started right after this. All the characters had sat on different animals horses and started the parade. The parade went to many different neighborhoods. I don’t know how but thousands of people showed up in the parade. There was loud music, people were dancing, snake charmers were showing snakes and people were firing crackers to celebrate the event.
There were free bhang stalls also. Bhang was distributed because it is offered at Shiva temples and is considered as the blessing. The parade was on road for more than four hours. The parade ended back at the Tilbhandeshwar Temple around 6 PM. After the parade arrived at the temple, the person playing Shiva did a symbolic marriage with his real wife which symbolizes marriage of Lord Shiva with Parvati. After this marriage rituals were performed and finally the event ended. It was really interesting to see how people were treating the characters like the God himself. They were touching the feet of the characters. I was able to document the event, actually I filmed it also:) So happy to have done it.
Mumbai, the place of most happening Gay events in India hosted its gay pride march on 29th of January and I went to attend it. The parade was organized by Humsafar Trust which is the biggest organization working on LGBT rights in Maharastra. They used to celebrate the pride on 16th of August every year but this year date was changed because of hot weather conditions in Mumbai in the month of August. They used to celebrate pride on the 16th because they believe that India got independence on the 15th of August 1947 but the gay community in India never got independence hence they started celebrating pride on the next day of independence day.
Celina Jaitely at the parade
I had already been to the Mumbai pride parade in 2009 so I also felt that it was good decision to change the date. Anyways, the parade started from the same place where it started last year- Azad Maidan and ended at Girgaum Chowpatty. It was like 5-6 Kms walk. At least a few hundred people had already gathered before I arrived at Azad Maidan and they had speeches going on. Only after a few minutes Celina Jaitely, a very famous Bollywood actress, arrived which brought extra energy amongst the participants. Celina has always been interested in LGBT issues and has been supporting the NGOs working on it. Once she admitted that her ex-boyfriend was a homosexual. She is one of the biggest names working on LGBT issues in India. I have seen her several interviews on TV and newspapers where she talks about equal rights for LGBT community. I had seen her in 2009 parade as well. It is nice that such celebrities participate in the pride event.
After a speech from Celina and other social activists the parade finally started. I saw something new this year that Humsafar Trust opened India’s first LGBT friendly store in Mumbai and they were advertising it in the parade. The shop is called Azaad Bazaar means independent store in Hindi. The liked the idea of having a special place for LGBT community because there is huge discrimination against them in India, they are made fun of. They do not feel comfortable just everywhere. And if there are such places like Azaad Bazaar then the LGBT community people could go shopping freely and meet up. In fact such places could bring change into the society because they are 365 days an year advertisement place. They are visible places and if straight community people see it then at least they would talk about it for sure and I always believe that communication can solve a lot of problems.
The parade started with at least 1500 people but soon it turned into a happy parade event of at least 2500-3000 people. The entire road was full of participants dancing and cheering up. There were people from many different places, even foreign countries.This year parade was also mix of tradition and modern culture. I got to see the most modern looking people in whole India and at the same time there were so many groups who had dressed very traditionally and were performing traditional dances and were singing traditional songs.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
I had once asked an officer at the Humsafar Trust about why there were so many people dressed very traditionally and he said that it is done intentionally so that Mumbai pride parade doesn’t become completely western and it is always easier to get acceptance if local culture in involved in it. And since India has the oldest gay culture in the whole world, it is always nice to mix the gay events with traditions and culture. I loved this idea. Anyways, the parade was full of joy, happiness and freedom. I saw less people wearing masks this year which clearly means that the LGBT community in Mumbai is becoming open and is fighting for their rights. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a famous Hijra social activist, also joined the parade. She is just awesome. I have already met her several times, interviewed her and I like her a lot. I think she is the most famous Hijra in the whole world.
God loves everyone
I was noticing a person for a while but did not know who he was. He was dressed like a king and I had seen him in 2009 parade also. I asked a friend and he said that he belonged to a royal family from Gujrat and was an open gay. His name was Manvendra Singh Gohil. After he revealed his homosexuality, there was some tension in the royal family and he finally started working with LGBT community in India. He started his work first with the LGBT community in Gujrat. He has in fact announced that he would adopt a child. It was nice to see big names coming out in the society and accepting their sexuality and demanding for equal rights. It was especially nice of Mr. Gohil because he comes from a royal family in India and royal families are very important for the society. If they make any changes then the society accepts it easily the same way change in the caste system along with a lot of other changes were accepted without any question.
I also noticed more family support this year. I saw a few people with writings like I am proud of my gay son or grand son. I saw a writing saying proud of my gay brother. I am sure that the people who are proud of their gay family members are not even one percent in number but I see the change, more and more people are accepting LGBT community. The parade finally ended at the Girgaum Chowpaty with a few speeches from social activists demanding for equal rights for LGBT community. India has already legalized gay sex practices and now they are demanding for legalizing gay marriages and equal rights. I am not sure if the situation is going to change soon. Doesn’t matter whether government allows gay marriages or not or whether they promise equal rights or not but society is not going to change soon. I have not personally seen any change in the ideas for LGBT community amongst the people of India.
But the good thing is that at least people have started talking about it. I see more open gay couples in the society which is a clear indication of change. But I think LGBT community is also a little bit responsible for discrimination amongst them. Sometimes they do strange things like I saw a couple of people opening their pants and showing their genitalia to the people. They were kissing each other on the main road which is not seen in India. I am not against the idea of kissing each other but I believe that if such thing is not practiced in India openly on the road then they should also not do this.
They won’t become part of the mainstream society until they start acting like mainstream. I believe that human feeling is same doesn’t matter whether they are gay or straight but there are some social rules and everyone should follow it. Anyways, it was good to attend the parade learn more about the community. I plan to attend the parade next year as well with a better camera. I could not make videos or interview people this year but next year I will definitely come up with more digital records of the event.
Happy Ending of the Parade
Please click here for more pictures of the pride parade-
Delhi celebrated its Gay pride parade this year on 28th of November and I again went to attend it. They used to organize it in the month of June until last year but this year the date was changed because Delhi gets horribly hot during the month of June. I also feel that it was a nice decision. This year was important for me as it was Delhi’s first biggest gay event after decriminalization of section 377and I wanted to see the reaction of people. This year I went to the parade with my friend Babu. Later Ravikant also joined me who was me in Delhi for some personal business.
I had already been to so many gay parades taking place in India hence nothing was surprising for me but Babu and Ravi were just shocked. They had no idea of what was going on. Anyways, the parade started from Barakhambha road and ended at Jantar Mantar which was around 2 hours of walk. When I arrived at Barakhambha, there were already a few hundred people. A lot of them were dressing up, a few people were distributing masks, pamphlets and candies. I have noticed one thing that Delhi pride has always a good number of Hijras.
The parade seemed way bigger than the last year and it was more diverse as well. There were all kinds of people- families, Hijras, LGBT community people, students, straights… The parade started with dancing, music, slogans… and very soon hundreds of more people joined in. The paraded was guarded with hundreds of police who would sometimes stop the traffic as well so that the parade could pass easily. The parade lasted for about three hours and it was just like any other gay pride parade in India which was a blender of modernity and tradition. A few groups were dressed traditionally and a few people looked very very modern. The parade had a huge support of students. There were a lot of young people in the parade.
The parade finally arrived at its destination- Jantar Mantar where they had a few speeches of social workers, organizers and participants. A huge organization called NAPM also joined the parade this year and they announced that they are also with the LGBT community in India and would fight for them. NAPM is a huge organization working of several different issues all over India and if they also support LGBT community activity then I am sure it could bring a huge change in the society. I have been working with one of the state conveyors of NAPM in UP named Nandlal Master for a long time so it was good to see that NAPM also got involved. It was a good news because I have already been planning to organize a gay pride parade in Varanasi and if NAPM supports it then it could be a big help for me.
All the speeches happened and people talked about different issues but mostly people talked about how they are discriminated in the society. A few people came on the state with masks over their face but after arriving on the stage, they took off their mask and said that they were feeling so confident after attending the parade and now did not want to hide their identity and sexuality anymore. Finally they had a candle lighting program which ended the parade for this year. I was told that there would a party after the parade and I was so excited for it. I had already attended a few post parade parties and I really loved them. Somebody told me that since the number of participants increased in the parade, they have organized parties at several different places. Some of them were paid and some were free.
I asked about it to a few people and they gave me several different addresses which means this year the parade was bigger and they needed more than one place to host the party. I went back home, got ready and left again for the party. I went to a club near to Qutubminar. But after arriving there we realized that only those people were allowed who had some kind of SMS on their mobile sent by the organizing committee. I told the security guard that I came all the way from Varanasi and I had already talked with the organizers and I was actually invited to attend the party but still they were not allowing me. The system was completely different last time when I attend the parade. Last year anyone was allowed to attend the party and there was no restriction at all.
It was very disturbing and frustrating. Finally I met one of the organizers on the street near the club and I asked him to me. He called someone who was inside the club to pick me up. This guy showed up at the entrance and brought me in. The club was fantastic and they had a party on the rooftop with music, drinks and food. Everything was super expensive. They were serving a small bottle of beer for Rs. 600 which is usually available in the market for Rs. 50. One small shot of cheapest whiskey they had costed Rs. 600. Anyways, I bought a few drinks and was basically enjoying the party. My friends also enjoyed the party a lot. I could easily see how shocked they were but at the same time it was a interesting time for them, especially for Ravikant.
Suddenly police showed up and asked the DJ to stop the music. Actually its not allowed to play loud music after 10 PM at public places anywhere in India. The organizers tried to settle the police but these guys did not want to hear anything. Finally party was stopped and we were asked to move out of the club immediately. I was kind of disappointed because post pride parties are different than regular parties, are so much fun and I enjoy them a lot but this time I could not. But I do not regret at all, I was happy that at least I got to attend the parade. It was a nice experience and I got to learn a lot. Hope to attend Delhi pride again next year.
Please click here for more pictures of the pride parade-
I went to Nepalafter 7 years but this time motive was different. When I went to Nepal last time, I visited Narayanghat and Kathmandu and basically I was just a regular tourist. But this tour was more than tourism for me. My main intention was to attend Kathmandu gay pride and learn more about gay activism in my neighboring country. Kathmandu Gay Pride is organized by an NGO called Blue Diamond Society. The main guy behind all the activities of Blue Diamond Society and all other gay activism in Nepal is Mr. Sunil Babu Pant, the director of Blue Diamond Society. He is one of the members of Parliament and Constituent Assembly in Nepal.
rainbow flag at the parade
We arrived at the Blue Diamond Society office the day before the parade and I was surprised that nobody was present there. We knocked the door and one person showed up, in fact he was the only one present at the office. He said that since everyone was working hard for the pride and their preparation just ended yesterday, today everyone was celebrating and it was vacation for them. Anyways, he gave me tour of BDS office and explained me basic work of the organization. Luckily I was traveling with my friend Babu who speaks Nepali hence language was not a barrier.
loved their dress
We talked for an hour and finally left with an invitation to attend the parade. I arrived to the BDS office on the parade day around 10 am. The whole office and its surrounding was full of people. They were wearing very colorful dresses and rainbow was everywhere. There were so many people dressed in traditional Indian wears which was really interesting to see. Later I was told that so BDS has networking all over Nepal and these people who looked like Indians came from the Nepal border close to India. The office staffed looked very confident and when I talking with them they were so open with their sexuality.
Red is new Black
Nobody wanted to hide anything. I interviewed so many people including Mr. Pant and learnt a lot. Mr. pant told me that Nepal is way more progressive than India in terms of gay rights. He said that Nepali society is very much accepting the LGBTI community and he seemed very happy with the progress. He said that when he started his activism he had face problems with political parties because all of them were opposing him and his demand of equal rights for gay community and he had to struggle a lot in the beginning.
But only after a few months when the same politicians and political parties noticed that he was getting huge support in Nepal, they all started to contact him and they were all requesting him to join their party. Later he participated in the elections and was elected for parliament. He did so much advocacy for equal rights for LBGTI community and finally in the year 2008 supereme court of Nepal ruled in favor of laws to guarantee full rights to LGBTI people, and all gender minorities must be defined as “natural persons” under the law; this included the right to marry.
I was really surprised to hear that Nepal had already legalized gay marriages. Mr. Pant told me that in fact they were using this status of gay marriages in Nepal to attract tourism and kill poverty and they use the same slogan in gay pride parade also. The gay pride is celebrated on the same day when whole Nepal celebrates a festival called Gaijatra. Mr. Pant told me that Gaijatra has been celebrated in Nepal for ages and the idea of this festival is that everyone is supposed to be happy, make jokes, dress strangely and make other laugh and happy.
I asked Mr. Pant about his hope from the future and he said that if the condition goes on the same way then very soon they won’t need to organize gay prides in order to make LGBTI community strong but the only idea behind the parade would be increase tourism and bring more money jobs to Nepal because the society would accept the LGBTI community completely and it won’t be any issue at all in future. He said that even he started a travel agency called Pink Mountain to attract LGBTI tourists and it was getting very good attention.
Suman ji in the office
Mr. Pant said that definitely there is discrimination against LGBTI community in Nepal but not as much as India or many other countries. Whatever he said was very interesting for me, especially the status of LGBTI community in the society. LGBTI community heavily discriminated in India but Nepal seemed very progressive. Anywyas, I interviewed a few other people including Suman Ji who was in-charge of Lesbian community work. She also told me the same thing that society in Nepal was changing its views for LGBTI people and very soon there won’t be any discrimination at all. She said that Lesbian community is more discriminated compared with Gays or Bisexuals but she was satisfied with the progress and had a good hope from the future.
rain disturbed a bit
Finally the paraded started and I was part of it. Everyone was so happy, dancing, laughing, shouting and cheering-up… the same way in India. There were a few groups who were performing traditional Nepali dance and songs. It was raining that day hence parade was not really organized and in fact it was stopped for a while but in any case at least 1000 people attended the parade. I saw many people just jumping in from the restaurants or shops and joined the parade. The non-participants seemed cool to me, I did not really feel anyone was disturbed.
British ambassador in the parade
I once left the parade and went to a shop and then started talking with the owner. I asked him if he knew anything about the parade and he said it was Gaijatra parade. I asked him if he was aware of any connection with gay pride and he said no. So I am not really sure if everyone even knew that it was a gay parade. The biggest shock for me was presence of British Ambassador along with a few other country’s consulates in Nepal. I was thrilled to see the British Ambassador participating and supporting the parade. It immediately reminded me of section 377 in India which criminalized same sex practices in India and was introduced by British themselves.
Mr. Pant on an elephant
Anyways, it was happy to see British Ambassador there in the parade. Mr. Pant was sitting on an elephant in the parade and I noticed non-participants calling him, raising their hands which was a clear indication that Mr. Pant was a popular guy in Nepal and people liked him. There was a chariot which was provided by Nepal Art Museum and the elephant was provided by National Zoo in Kathmandu for free to support the parade which was again a wonder for me. All these things made me feel like definitely Nepal was more progressive than India in terms of equal rights for LGBTI community. And not only in terms on LGBTI rights but in Nepal was way ahead than India in terms of women rights. I was really impressed with the condition of women in Nepal, in fact it was the most impressive thing for me.
chariot in the parade
Finally the parade ended with candle lighting and a speech by Mr. Pant. Whatever I saw in the parade was not a wonder for me but when I think of the country Nepal and when I compare it with India then everything was a wonder for me. I was surprised to see how this small country which used to be a Hindu country, like India, only until a few years ago has accepted the LGBTI community whereas in India we are more developed, we have more money, better education but still the condition of LGBTI community is very bad. Anyways, it was really nice that I attended the parade and got to talk with Mr. Pant and other people working BDS. It was very inspiring and a blessing for me. I would definitely like to attend the parade again in Kathmandu in future.
I got to attend Kolkata Gay Pride as well which was on the 2nd of July. I arrived in Kolkata on the 1st of July after attending the Chennai pride and spending a few days in Bangalore. My friend Sourendra from Mumbai had introduced me to Mr. Rajshrei Chakrobarty who was Secretary of Dum Dum Society and one of the organizers of Kolkata Gay Pride. I knew that Kolkata was the first city in India to start gay prides and I was expecting it to be the biggest one in India this year as well but when I arrived at the parade venue I was shocked to see that there were hardly 50 people in the parade.
Mr. Chakrobarty told me about the reason of few people before I asked him about it. He said that most of the organizations working on gay rights in Kolkata boycotted the parade because of some internal politics hence they could not make the parade as big as it used to be in the past. He said that Dum Dum Society and one other organization called Anandam were the only two organizations that organized the pride this year. I was surprised to hear that most of the organizations boycotted the parade but at the same time I was happy also that at least someone organized it.
The most important message
The parade started from Jatin Das Park near Hajra crossing and ended at the Academy of Fine Arts. The parade started with only 40-50 participants but it was really interesting. I have been to all the big prides taking place in India within past one year and Kolkata one was the most liberal parade I had ever seen in India. I noticed that nobody was wearing the masks. They had an auto rickshaw with loudspeakers and the participants of the parade were singing songs of human rights, equal rights and gender equality. They were passing out pamphlets which had writing about LGBT rights.
It was raining most of the time during the parade but it could not stop people from joining the parade. The parade started with 40-50 people and ended with at least 100 or 120 people. A lot of people joined at the Academy of Fine Arts where the parade ended. In fact, the end was the most interesting part of the parade for me. At the academy a lot of young lesbian couples joined the parade. I had never seen that many lesbians before in any of the parades whether Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai and very interesting thing was that these girls were young.
They being young surprised me the most because in India lesbians coming in public and very rare and whenever I see any lesbian I always find them over 35, living either alone or with their partner and always have no connection with the family but these young girls were really young and I don’t think they were living alone or had no connection with their family. They were so open and they knew that their parents were going to know about their sexuality if they participated in the parade but they still did it which meant their parents either knew about it or these girls knew that their parents would not mind knowing that their daughter was a lesbian. I liked it.
Mr. Ranjeet Sinha
The parade ended with speeches from Mr. Ranjeet Sinha, Mr. Rajarshi Chakrobarty and a few other social activists. After the parade ended, I went with Mr. Chakrobarty to attend a cultural dance and performance program organized by an organization called Saathi. This program was basically a platform for the LGBT community to show their talent and have fun. I spent about an hour at the program and then headed back to my hotel for overnight. Dum Dum Society had organized a cultural program about 2 hours bus ride away from Kolkata two days after the parade.
Cultural dance performance
This program was really something and I could easily see how Dum Dum Society was working honestly with the LGBT community and how they had strengthened the people belonging to the community. The program was just awesome. They had several dance performances, some of them based on Bollywood songs and some on traditional Kolkata songs, they had fashion shows where all the clothes were designed by the people belonging to LGBT community and I was shocked to see the quality of the program. It was really awesome and I enjoyed it a lot. The chairman of municipality was the chief guest of this program.
He had a lot of fun
There were more people in this program than the parade. I think there were at least 500 people at this program. I was able to interview a few people including Mr. Rajshree Chakrobarty, Mr. Ranjeet Sinha and a few other people from LGBT community and all of those interviews were really interesting. Mr. Chakrobarty told me about the history of gay activism in Kolkata. He said that it first started in Kolkata in the year 1989 which clearly shows that they were one of the few who started gay activism in India and at present there are about six or seven organizations working on LGBT rights in Kolkata.
I asked about the condition of the LGBT community in Kolkata and he said that the condition of the LGBT community living in Kolkata city area is in much better condition than the LGBT community living in the other districts or suburbs of Kolkata because of the influence of media and availability of organizations working in the city. He told me that the condition of the LGBT community is much better in Mumbai and Delhi when compared with Kolkata because Mumbai had started working on this issue way before Kolkata and since Kolkata is the poorest metropolitan city in India, the life of LGBT community is not easy here.
Equal rights, yea!
Mr. Chakrobarty told me something really interesting that transgenders are more discriminated against when compared with gay community because their sexuality is more visible but when we talk only about discrimination then yes, the whole LGBT community is discriminated against on various levels. I asked the same question which I ask to other people whom I interview about many people thinking that homosexuality is a disease or a fashion and it being possible to change it by getting people married or making them practice yoga (Baba Ramdev Says). His answer was like the others in that he said it is not possible to change somebody’s sexuality by getting them married.
He said that many people get married with a woman under family or social pressure but they are not happy and they practice sex with a same sex person even after marriage. I know several people who do this and I definitely believe that it just not possible at all to change somebody’s sexuality by getting them married or teaching them yoga. I asked him about the existence of the LGBT community in Hindu culture and religion and he told me several stories which proves that the LGBT community has always been in existence. I also believe the same because I have read several Hindu sacred books and have visited temples where same sex behavior sculptures are shown.
Our rights, human rights
He told me something really intersting that I did not know before. He told me when Hanuman went to Sri Lanka to search for Sita, he saw that Ravan had kept several women but he was not able to give time to all of them hence these women had started making sexual relationships with each other which clearly shows that there were lesbians during Rama’s time also. I asked him about the revocation of section 377 and he told me that homosexuality was accepted in Hindu society and temples of Kamasutra and several other books clearly proves it but British made it illegal and this judgment of the High Court of Delhi was a right judgment and most probably it will help changing the society in the future.
She was very active
It was really informative talking with him. He was a real and honest social worker working on LGBT rights in Kolkata. After Mr. Chakrobarty, I got to meet Mr. Ranjeet Sinha who was a transgender himself and was working with transgenders in Kolkata and nearby districts. He also told me about the problemswhich the transgender community was facing in Kolkata. He told me that there are reservations on the basis of caste and religion but no reservation for transgenders. He demanded for a separate toilet system at public toilets because when he goes to the male toilet, people make fun of him and if he goes to the female toilets then women are scared.
Mr. Sinha told me a story of his one friend, who was a transgender Hijra himself and was a well known social activist in West Bengal and was suffering from AIDS. He had to go to the hospital once and the doctors forcibly took off his clothes, made him wear men’s clothes and only then they admitted him in the hospital. Mr. Sinha demanded that their identity should also be recognized on official documents such as passport and voter ID card. He said that all the NGOs are focusing only and only HIV and AIDS but they must do something on other issues also related with LGBT community. He mentioned all the South Indian states, especially Chennai, as being especially progressive working on transgenders issues.
Very colorful event
He also said that it is not possible to change someone’s sexual identity and if one tries to do so then the result is always horrible. Kolkata taught me so many new things. I was especially thrilled to see the work of Dum Dum Society. It was really a nice experience meeting with people like Mr. Chakrobarty and Mr. Sinha and so many other people who helped me in Kolkata and educated me about their issues and their work. I hope to go their next year as well and will hope that all the organizations that had boycotted the parade this year would join the parade again by ending the internal politics and making Kolkata a city of equal rights for everyone.
It was Chennai gay pride yesterday on the 27th of June and I came to attend the festival. This festival was not as big as I was expecting it to be but big enough to bring attention of local people and make them aware about something called “gay”. I was expecting for at least 1000-2000 people but it had hardly 400-500 people. The parade started near Labor Statue at Marina beach at 5 PM and lasted for over an hour. The parade was organized with the help of many organizations working in Chennai for LGBT rights but most probably Shakit Center was the biggest name.
The people at the parade seemed to he really happy and energetic, especially people from LGBT community. Delhi and Mumbai pride had music and many people were dancing whereas Chennai parade did not have any music but still people were singing something in Tamil- which I did not understand for sure, jumping, laughing and dancing. They were hugging each other and seemed so happy. There were all kinds of people: gay, lesbians and hijras. But I noticed one thing that Chennai parade had fewer lesbian couples when compared with Delhi and Mumabi parade and this parade seemed less open than Mumbai and Delhi one.
I also think so
Participants of Delhi and Mumbai pride were much open in expressing their relations with their partners like they were holding hands with each other or just walking together which showed that they were a couple but Chennai Pride did not have anything like this. The participants of Chennai pride were more like did not want people to know about their partner. I think since South India is more Hindu part and people are seen as more religious, maybe this is the reason why gays of Chennai want to hide their relations more than Delhi and Mumbai people. Anyways, I was happy that they at least organized such event.
They were cool
I was talking with one of the organizers of the parade and he said that last year the parade was bigger than this year but the important thing was that this year more community members participated whereas last year there were more outside supporters which increased the number of people in the parade. I had also noticed the same that Chennai parade did not have many outside supporters whereas Delhi and Mumbai had big number of supporters like students and families as well. The Marina beach area is a big picnic spot for Chennai people and since the parade was on Sunday, there were thousands of local people who watched the parade.
It was good the parade took place at such place where locals got the see the parade. I also distributed pamphlets to the people around and masks to the people who seemed interested in joining the parade but seemed confused. The usage of masks was on a bigger level here in Chennai than Mumbai and Delhi. I saw a few people wearing two-three masks at the same time to cover their whole face. I talked with a few participants of the parade who were wearing the masks and they said that Chennai is still so conservative about gay culture hence they did not want others to know that they were also at the parade.
Their wording was “if others see me participating in the parade, they would think that I also have the same taste.” I know that gays are made of fun of all over the world and many people hate them just because of their sexuality but I expect the big cities to have a better view about gay culture but Chennai did not seem to have this better view for gays. I asked Mr. Annirdudhan Vasudevanthe, one of the organizers of parade, about the change in conditions after Delhi High Court decision of making gay relations legal and he said that there is some change for sure but not really much or not something that really changed the society.
People from the organizing committee
Annirudhan was happy to say that at least people have started talking about it and now at least they know that there is something called the “LGBT” community and they have also their rights. He said that the condition is not going to change really soon and that it will take sometime but hopefully someday they will also have equal rights in the community. He said that the LGBT community is discriminated against everywhere in the country and they demand protection and medical health care from the government of the India. He said that many people think that homosexuality is a disease which can be cured by giving some special therapy which is just not true at all.
There were families also
Annirudhan said that being homosexual is neither a fashion nor abnormal at all; it is a natural process and anyone could be born with such human nature. I also believe the same. He talked about the Aligarh Muslim University’s professor Srinivas Siras who was found having sex with a same-sex person and was suspended only because of this reason. Prof. Siras later committed suicide because the university administration had funded a sting operation to video Prof. Siras having sex with a same sex partner.
Mr. Annirudhan said that even though gay relations have been legalized in India, Prof. Siras was still punished. I was talking about the same matter with one of the participants and he said that said that the government should ask the university about how they dared to record Prof. Siras personal life without his consent. Recording somebody’s personal life without without their consent is a punishable offense under Indian law because it comes under the right of privacy act and government police should register a complaint against the university administration and punish them, not Prof. Siras.
I also think that it is true that nobody has rights to do such thing. There are so many beautiful laws in India but implementation of these laws, how affective are they??? So many problems with gay community in India. I am happy that I came to attend the pride and I would like to come here again and hope that the Chennai gay community will have fewer problems when I come here next year and there will be more support from outsiders as well. One thing is very sure that the gay community will not be able to get equal rights in the society until we straight people support them so please come together to help our LGBT community and make a better world.
Kothis and Aravnis are Hijras
There was a party also the night before the parade whereas Delhi and Mumbai had a party on the parade night. This party was organized at a four-star boutique hotel called Le Waterina situated at Kotivakkam Beach, Trivanmauyr, Chennai. This was the most expensive party I had ever been to. There was no entry fee in Delhi’s party, Mumbai party was Rs. 500 but drinks were not so expensive inside whereas the entry fee for Chennai party was also Rs. 500 and the drinks were really expensive. Anyways, I got in and met a few locals who had come to attend the party.
Rainbow flag of Chennai Pride
I met a guy who did not even know about the parade taking place the next day but he knew about this party. I asked him how did he come know to about the party and he told me that he got an SMS on his mobile about the party. I asked him if he would come to the parade as well and he was like why would I come to the parade. He seemed hesitant to talk about the parade and the party but I saw him the next day in the parade. I think he was also a gay but did not want to talk about it and I expect such behavior from the LGBT community in India because I know that the LGBT community always hides their sexual identity because there is so much discrimination against them and they do not have equal rights.
Go-Go dancer at the party
This party showed me something new, something that I had not seen before: a male go-go dancer. I was thrilled to see it. The party had a famous DJ from Delhi who was playing western music all the time and then he announced that they had a dashing boy from Bangalore who was going to dance tonight. This go-go dancer appeared in shorts and a T-shirt but later he took off his T-shirt and was wearing really short shorts. He seemed like a popular dancer because many people knew his name. I think he was in the party for more than an hour and I think his presence boosted-up the party. People went crazy to see him. I had seen such only on TVs before and it was so fun to attend the party.
Holika is a festival which is celebrated on Holi eve. It was on the 28th of Feb. this year but I could not attend it. This festival has a very interesting story behind it. It is said that there were two brothers named Hiranyakashyapu and Hirnakchya. Both of them were evil souls and were always just fighting and were killing religious people. Finally Lord Vishnu killed Hirnakchya and since then he became the biggest enemy of Hiranyakashyaup. After sometimes Hiranyakashup did meditation and made Lord Vishnu happy. Lord Vishnu appeared in front of Hirnyakashyapu and asked him to make a wish.
Hirnyakashyapu asked for immortality but Lord Vishnu said that whoever has born, has to die for sure and then Lord Vishnu asked to make some other wish and and then Hirnyakashyapu did something really smart. He asked for a condition where neither a human or an animal could kill him, neither in the day nor in the night, neither on the earth nor in the sky… and finally he was granted this boon by Lord Vishnu. After being granted this boon, he started taking advantage of it. He started harassing innocent people, prohibited religious practices, declared himself as a God…
Didn't like this at all
Hirnyakashyapu had a son named Prahalad who was a very religious kid. But his father was always against him. He asked Prahalad several times to not pray to Lord Vishnu but Prahalad continued his devotion to Lord Vishnu. Hirnyakashyapu tried everything he could to stop Prahalad from practicing religion but Prahalad never stopped. Finally Hirnyakashyapu decided to kill his son Prahalad. He through Prahad in the ocean but Prahalad survived and returned back to home, then Hirnyakashyapu left him in the jungle but again Prahalad survived and returned home.
Prahlad’s aunt whose name was Holika had a boon that she would never be affected by fire so she offered her brother, Hirnyakashyapu, to help him killing Pralahad. Hirnyakashyapu agreed for it and they setup a wood pyre to burn Prahlad alive. Holika sat on the wood pyre with Prahlad hoping that Prahlad would die and she would not be affected by fire at all but some miracle happened Holika burnt alive and died and nothing happened to Prahlad. Now people celebrate this festival on the Holi eve. People setup wood pyre and put a statue of Holika and Prahalad and burn it.
On the festival day, people make mustard paste and rub it over their body. After rubbing the mustard paste whatever the waste comes, is put into the wood pyre. The idea behind it is that people get rid of their sin and get a fresh body and soul. But this festival has become an environmental issue now because people cut green trees and burn it. It was the first time this year when I saw a group of student educating people about not cutting green trees for the festival. I also believe that this should not happen but I am sure it is not going to stop soon.
Benares is already in lack of greenery and not only Benares but the whole world is talking about this issue. I have heard that Chinese cut over 25 million trees every year just to make chopsticks. India has also cut over 75% of its jungles. I do not understand what will happen in future if such practices continue. I hope someday people will understand the issue and change such practices. I know that education and awareness about the issue is the only key to stop such practices but don’t know who will bring this change. I know that we can not stop this festival but we can replace green trees by other wastes so please stop cutting trees and plant new ones.
It was Shivratri on the 12th and I was super excited for it. Shivratri is the biggest festival of Benares. Actually it is celebrated because it is wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva. There are more than six thousand temples in Varanasi but 11 out of them organize a wedding parade of Lord Shiva. The parade starts from different temples and end near Vishwanath temple (golden temple). The most popular and biggest parade starts with Mahamrityunjay temple and is the last parade of the day. I also went to see the parade with my friends and it was just awesome.
a character sitting on a horse
Since Bhang is associated with Lord Shiva and is part of Benares culture, most of the people of Benares consume a little bit of Bhang for the festival as blessing of Lord Shiva. They take a bath in the river Ganges, do some rituals at Shiva temples, offer bhang and later consume it as blessing of the temple. The whole city is decorated with lights, free bhang drinks are served everywhere, people come out…its so fun. I love this festival. It is said that all kinds of characters had participated in Lord Shiva’s wedding like Gods, Goddesses, ghosts, demons, devils, headless, crazy, lepers, one legged, one eyed, animals… so the wedding parade also had all kinds of characters.
There were people wearing masks of ghosts, someone was dressed as a God, someone was a Goddess, there were snake charmers, hijras, cows, bulls, goats, dogs, horses, elephants, people were smoking ganja…it was crazy. There was one guy dressed as Lord Shiva and was leading the parade. He was too high in bhang, actually he was almost sleeping while walking. I had seen the same guy at last year wedding parade also and I think they intentionally make him consume a lot of bhang because he was sleeping last year also. He was not able to walk, would get fainted sometimes. He either walking so slowly with his closed eyes, or was dancing or would get fainted. I am sure Lord Shiva did not get fainted when he was going to marry, but Benares makes people fainted by its bhang:)
Lord Shiva fainted
He was carrying a trident and a Damru and was wearing a Dhatura garland. He would do Tandav dance for like a minute or a few seconds and then get fainted. People would start shouting Har Har Mahadev (chant of Lord Shiva) and Jago Baba (wake up baba, baba is another name of Lord Shiva in Benares) as he would get fainted or would fell asleep and again this guy would wake up and would start dancing. There were thousands of people shouting Har Har Mahadev, it was so loud and I was just loving it. I don’t really know he can someone be alive after consuming that much of bhang as he had consumed.
There was loud music, people were playing drums but the I loved the Nagada drum most. Nagada is also very Benares intrument and is used for wedding and cremation parade both. We are the champions of Nagada. Josh wanted to consume bhang and he did not ask me before buying it. He just went to a shop and bought a glass of bhang lassi and drank it. He thought that it would make him high immediately as alcohol does but in fact bhang takes sometime to react. After a while he asked me again to drink more bhang lassi and I took him to a good shop but I did not know that he already had consumed bhang before.
After finishing more than half glass of bhang lassi he said that bhang doesn’t make him high and I said that it would take some time. He asked me how much time and I said that at least 2 hours and then he told me that he had already drank a glass of bhang lassi about an hour ago. I told him not to drink his second glass but he said he could deal with it. I knew that two glasses of bhag was too much but he thought it would be okay for him. It has been more than 48 hours since he drank his second glass and he is still in his room sleeping. I asked him if he would like to drink another glass of bhang and he said never in his life again.
elephants were also there
Many people have made several documentaries about Benares and its festivals but nobody has ever made any documentary about this festival. I was planning to film the festival but could not because I was busy with Josh’s project and I could not collect enough resources but now Josh wants to help me in making a documentary about this festival and I am really looking forward to it. I will try my best to make a movie about this festival and I know it will be super fun. The festival is over now and now I am excited for next year one. Har Har Mahadev.
Megan and Adam were getting late so I asked them to go but I stayed for the party. I was wandering around and stopped by a bus stop and sat there for a while. Two people, who seemed rural, came and sat next to me. It seemed like they had also seen the parade and were talking about it. One of them was really angry about the parade. He was swearing at the government and the people who had organized it. One of them was saying that people are making fun of Indian culture openly and the government allows them to do so. I think he has not read Ramayana, Kamasutra or have visited Khajuraho because Ramayana talks about hijras whose sex practices are also like gays, Kamasutra also talks about homosexuality and Khajuraho is stuffed with homosexual sculptures.
She had most number of posters
I have not visited Khajuraho but I have read Ramayana and have looked at Kamasutra book and after looking at these books, I feel like India has the oldest gay culture in the whole world and gay culture was accepted in our society but the British made it a crime. I spent an hour just wandering here and there and then came back to the place where bus was supposed to start from. I met a guy there who was a 20 year old student of Delhi University. I was just sitting near the bus and he came and sat next to me and started talking. He said that he was feeling very confident and open after attending the parade. He said that he was also shy before coming to the parade but after attending the parade he did not have this problem of being shy about himself anymore.
He wanted to talk to me about the problem he was having with his boyfriend. He said that his boyfriend doesn’t talk to him anymore. He said that his boyfriend had slapped him few months ago in front of his friends and then stopped talking. He was so sad about it and wanted my advice but at the same time he said that his boy friend used to love him a lot and he could not believe that they could ever breakup. He was in too much love with his boyfriend. I advised him to wait for a while and keep trying to contact his boyfriend and see how things go. He seemed so happy after hearing that he should try to be in touch with his boyfriend.
I asked him if he had informed about his boyfriend to his parents and he said no because he was scared of his parents getting mad at him after listening that he had a boyfriend. I asked him if he would like to get married with his boyfriend and he said this is what he wanted. I asked if he thought his parents would ever allow him to marry a man and then he was quiet for a while and said no. I asked him if his friends knew about his boyfriend and he said that they know but very few of them are supportive of him, and most of his friends just make fun of him.
The leading banner
He wanted my advice to dress himself look sexy in the party. He had an extra sleeveless t-shirt which he had brought specially for the party, and he had a piece of cloth which he wanted to rap around his waist so that he can look sexy. I am not a fashion expert but I tried my best to help him look as sexy as he could. After talking to him I was wondering what would happen if he is forcibly married to a girl. He did not need to marry a girl. It would be bad for both his bride and he himself. A lot of homosexual people in India are forcibly married to the opposite sex which sounds like a crime to me.
I believe it.
I also notice one other thing- that a lot of homosexual people were calling each other by feminine and funny names, like a lot of them using the word randi (slut) for each other. I did not understand why they do it. Hijras always take a feminine name but homosexual people usually don’t use feminine names but it seemed like they like doing it. One other very interesting thing for me was that homosexuals were making fun of hijras. When we were going to the party place by a bus, there were a lot of hijras also in the bus.
Isai is Christan and bhai means brother
Hijras are known for their clapping and hijra songs. All the hijras were singing their hijra songs and were clapping in hijra style but a group of homosexual people, who were being interviewed in the bus, were making fun of the hijras all the time. They would be like “Oh my God! Where did they come from, these hijras, randi… There was a guy who stood up and said loudly that if anyone has a coin of Rs. 1, then please give to these randi hijras, otherwise they will keep clapping and singing. I know that there was no anger behind it but they would always make fun of them and they seemed so friendly to each other. It was a fun ride, though.
I liked that bus ride a lot and would not forget it ever. People were so happy, they were laughing, singing, hugging each other, making fun of each other… it was so fun. Finally the bus stopped and we arrived at M Lounge Bar in Sector 15, Noida. I had thought that I was going to a place where they would be having food and a little bit of drink and people would be talking, that’s all; but this place was something beyond my imagination. Actually it was a disco. As I stepped in, everything I saw was new to me because I had never ever been to a disco before.
Yea, 377 quit India
People were dancing, drinking, hugging, kissing… I had never seen anything like that before. There was a bar also in the disco and I also thought to drink a bit but I did not know that things were super expensive there. Entrance was free for the participants of the parade but the rest of the things were really expensive like drinks, food, cigarette… I drank a shot of whiskey and a bottle of beer but I still wanted to drink more because the atmosphere was thrilling there. I was enjoying myself a lot.
We really need it
Finally I had to come out of the disco and buy some alcohol from a shop and drank it. Before buying the alcohol I met the organizer Mr. Amit Agrawal and talked him for a while. He was too drunk to talk actually so he asked me to talk with one of the other organizers, who was a 25 year old student. He said that he was also a gay and when I asked him if he had informed about it to his family he said “No”. When I asked him if he thought that his parents would allow him to get married with his boyfriend, he said he did not know about it. But he would not like to get married with a girl.
He said that they had organized the parade without taking any financial assistance from any other NGO or institution or charities. Everything was organized by a group of gays. They had contributed money from their own pockets to make the event happen. He was also very high and he gave me his mobile no. and asked me to call him the next day so that we could talk more. After talking to him I got in the disco again. Now the party had reached at its top. �Whatever I saw there was completely new to me.
I saw many gay couples kissing, hugging and dancing together. I saw a couple of a 60+ and a 20 year old guy. They were also dancing and kissing, actually they had the longest kiss. I think their kiss lasted for something like two hours. There were a lot of hijras also who had their partners and they were kissing. I saw few lesbian couples also. I noticed that the daily visitors of that disco would come and sit at a corner and see things going on. I am sure they had also not seen anything like that before. I could easily see their shocked and curious face.
My body my business
I don’t think that any of the daily visitors danced that night. They were just watching what was going on that night. It was so fun. I was enjoying myself a lot. It felt a little bit strange at first to me and I was also shocked like other daily visitors but after spending few minutes everything seemed normal to me. I just felt like people were enjoying themselves and the most important thing for me was that they were happy. The feeling of freedom and joy is always awesome and I could easily see that feeling there.
It was funny that one of the guys came to me and started dancing and touched my ass but I did not know what to do. He touched me for few seconds but after no reaction from my side, he left me and joined someone else. I really liked the way he respected my feelings and I think the same way we should respect their feelings as well. None of the homosexuals made fun of me, or insulted me or tried to disturb me because I was a straight but I don’t understand why straight people always make fun or insult homosexuals. Why don’t straights also respect gays’ feelings the way they respect straight people’s feeling?
Who can stop us???
Now the party was over I headed back to home. I really enjoyed the party.It was really a fun night. I felt like it was one of the best things I had ever done with myself by participating and supporting the parade, and the obviously party was also so fun. I was supposed to talk with the two members of the organizing committee next morning and I was really looking forward to it but I could not because when I called them next morning, both of them said that they had drunk too much last night and now they just wanted to sleep so I could not talk with them.
I will try to talk with them next time when I go to Delhi. Mr. Amit had asked me to organize the Gay Pride Parade in Benares as well but I am not sure if Benares is ready for this kind of event. My overall experience was awesome and I really felt good to be in the parade. I saw the pain of the gay community in India, I listened their issues, I talked with them and finally I would say only one thing that they also deserve equal rights, equal rights for everything, and social acceptance. I don’t know how long will it take for them to get equal rights in India but one thing is very sure that it will take a long time for the gay community to get social acceptance in India.
Lots of hugging in the parade
They gay community is everywhere in each and every part of this world, somewhere it is hidden because of social pressure and somewhere it is open because of more awareness and education and liberalization. I was reading a newspaper article about an NGO that works with the gay community in Varanasi and it said that NGO was working with 1500 gays only in Varanasi. I am sure this number is not a real number, the real number is a lot bigger than this because most of the gay people do want to make their relations public because they are not accepted in the society.
Participants with the candles
And finally they are married forcibly to some opposite sex partner and their life is destroyed. I don’t understand what anti-gay people have to do with acceptance of gay culture. They don’t harm anyone. I think gay culture is all about having sex with the same sex partner or interaction towards the same sex, nothing else, rest of the things are just like anyone else whether they are straights, hijras, transgender or whatever… And who are we to stop anyone from exposing their thinking or stopping them from what they want to do with themselves?
Gay culture is only different inside the room and how could someone know what anyone what does inside the room? �It’s bullshit idea to think that we should even try to know what someone is doing inside the room. Outside room activity is same for everyone, whether they are homosexual or straight. When anybody is born in India, they get a few of the basic human rights and freedom of speech, freedom of thinking and equal rights for everyone are a few of those basic human rights. I think gay culture as just different thinking, nothing else, and everybody has rights to think whatever they want to think.
Like this poster
A few people think like they want to have sex with an opposite sex partner, they have it and few people think like they want to have sex with a same sex partner so they should also have it. And if there is any idea of equal rights, then gays also deserve equal rights as anybody else living on this planet. �What if a straight is married forcibly with a same sex partner? It is hard for me to think what would have happened with me if I was forcibly married with a boy, I would have no fun living with a same sex partner. The same question should be raised for everyone who thinks that homosexuality is abnormal or whatever…Just think about it.