‘God­dess doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate’: Trans­gen­ders get their due

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Htnation - Su­manta Ray Chaud­huri su­manta.chaud­huri@htlive.com

On Oc­to­ber 8, in a Durga Puja pan­dal of San­tosh­pur Lake Pally (SLP), a com­mu­nity fes­ti­val in south Kolkata, Shree Muhuri Ghatak, a trans­gen­der woman, drew the eyes of the god­dess, con­sid­ered a sa­cred act that sym­bol­ises in­fus­ing life in the idol.

A few years ago, in­volv­ing a trans­gen­der per­son in puja ac­tiv­i­ties would have been quite un­think­able. “We have in­volved trans­gen­der per­sons in ev­ery stage of the puja cal­en­dar – from khuntipuja that marks the be­gin­ning of the mak­ing of the pan­dal to im­mer­sion,” said Som­nath Das, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the SLP com­mit­tee.

“This is a unique ini­tia­tive where Ben­gal’s big­gest fes­ti­val is be­com­ing a plat­form to ed­u­cate peo­ple against dis­crim­i­na­tion of any sort,” said Ghatak, who has be­come the brand am­bas­sador of this 61-year-old com­mu­nity puja.

“Though we were toy­ing with the idea of spread­ing aware­ness of LGBTQ rights, the Supreme Court ver­dict of Septem­ber 6 vin­di­cated our stand and em­bold­ened us to go full steam ahead,” said Das.

Ghatak is not the only one. Megh Sayan­tan Ghosh, the first trans­gen­der lawyer in West Ben­gal, drew the eyes of the idol in Jodh­pur Park Cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion in south Kolkata and Tor­pedo Wel­fare So­ci­ety in Howrah.

“Just as the god­dess does not dis­crim­i­nate be­tween her chil­dren, we need to spread the mes­sage that ir­re­spec­tive of gen­der and sex­ual iden­tity, hu­man be­ings should be re­spected,” said Ghosh.

Syed Tan­veer Nas­reen, pro­fes­sor-in-charge, depart­ment of women’s stud­ies in Univer­sity of Bur­d­wan de­scribes these as “imag­i­na­tive use of the fes­ti­val for pos­i­tive sen­si­ti­za­tion.”

“The en­tire com­mu­nity has been rel­e­gated to the fringes of the so­ci­ety. The puja com­mit­tees have taken a bold step to in­volve LGBTQ mem­bers to spread the mes­sage that dis­crim­i­na­tion has to end fast,” said Nas­reen, who thinks the as­so­ci­a­tion of the god­dess with com­mu­nity mem­bers sends a pow­er­ful mes­sage to the com­mon peo­ple.

Go­ing a step for­ward, there are ex­am­ples of the god­dess be­ing wor­shipped as Ard­ha­narish­vara – a com­pos­ite an­drog­y­nous of Lord Shiva and God­dess Par­vati.

This puja has been or­gan­ised by Ran­jita Sinha, mem­ber of the West Ben­gal Trans­gen­der De­vel­op­ment Board, and her as­so­ciates on the Gokhale Road in south Kolkata.

“I have de­lib­er­ately cho­sen this year to or­gan­ise the Puja to cel­e­brate the Supreme Court ver­dict that re­lived In­di­ans of the bag­gage of Bri­tish colo­nial legacy. The god­dess as Ard­ha­narish­vara is a sig­nif­i­cant sym­bol of our move­ment against gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion,” Sinha said.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the idol mak­ers for the Gokhale Road puja are all trans-men or transwomen. “They got the chance to show­case their cre­ative tal­ents,” said Sinha.

Dur­ing a com­mu­nity puja in north Kolkata from Oc­to­ber 16 to 18, trans­gen­der per­sons, dressed up like Durga and her daugh­ters Lak­shmi and Saraswati, will show­case the theme of gen­der-equal­ity at the pan­dal. This puja is be­ing or­gan­ised by Anan­dam, an NGO work­ing for the com­mu­nity wel­fare and Dur­bar Mahila Sa­man­waya Com­mit­tee, a body set up in 1995 that works for the rights and wel­fare of sex work­ers.



Draw­ing the eyes of the god­dess is con­sid­ered a sa­cred act that sym­bol­ises in­fus­ing life in the idol.

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