17 Things You Should Know About Hijras, Another Caste In India

Hijras are secretive about their lives and customs, which makes people want to know about their lifestyle, livelihoods, origins, customs and traditions. Estranged from mainstream customs and tradition, they have created their own lifestyle and carved a space for themselves in society.

1. The word ‘hijra‘ in India is used to refer to an individual who is transsexual or transgendered.

Besides calling them hijra they are also called Aravani, Aruvani or Jagappa.

2. Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have recognized them as the third gender, an option on official documents.

3. In 2014, hijras and transgendered persons were recognized as the third gender by law in India.

4. The word hijra when translated into English is defined as ‘eunuch’ or ‘hermaphrodite’.

5. In general, hijras are born with typical male physiology, with very few born with male inter-sex variations.

6. There is an initiation rite for hijras called ‘nirwaan‘.

It is a ceremony when the penis, scrotum and testicles of hijras who are born with male variations are removed.

7. Hijras in India often work as sex workers and are involved in prostitution.

The feminine male who takes a receptive role in sex with a man is called a ‘kothi’.

8. The usual partners of hijras are men who consider themselves heterosexual, and are the penetrative partners.

9. These heterosexual men are mostly married and keep affairs with hijras secret.

Even if they get married, the marriage is not considered legal in India.

10. There is evidence that some Indian hijras identify themselves as Muslims.

However, they do not practice Islam differently than other Muslims.

11. There are only few employment opportunities for hijras.

Most of them get their major income from performing at ceremonies while giving ‘bhadhai’, extortion or by working as sex workers.

12. Due to the social status of hijras, they developed a secret language called ‘Hijra Farsi’.

It is loosely based on Urdu with a gentle mixture of some unique vocabulary.

13. In countries like India and Pakistan, hijras are granted basic civil right like other citizens.

They also have an option to identify themselves as ‘Eunuchs (E)’ in passports or any other official documents.

14. During the British Raj, there were various attempts to eradicate the eunuchs in the country.

15. Majority of hijras practice syncretism, which involves a combination of various traditions, theologies and mythologies.

16. Hijras belong to a special caste and are devotees of the mother goddess Bahuchara Mata(their patroness) whose primary temple is in Gujarat.

17. Hijras also worship Lord Shiva, who merges with Parvati to form Ardhanari – half woman (Parvati) and half man (Shiva).


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