Eunuchs, or the Hijras, in India secretly occupy a dominant position in the society – a fact socially not acceptable to many in our communities. The record of Hijras, also called the third gender, dates back to four thousand years. Irrespective of being highly unacceptable to the society, Hijras do spend a normal life just like you and me. Here we tell you about few traditions and customs of eunuchs which are inheritably different from the two normal genders.
1. A superstition is that Hijras take the host’s luck away if turned empty-handed from a wedding or a celebration.
2. Although they are barred from legally marry or go to school, they are now recognized as the gender ‘E’ in all the government papers and official documents.
3. Most of their ceremonies originally have their roots in Hindu religion, but major aspects of their social structure are from Islam and the majority of their leaders and gurus are Muslims.
4. Evidence of eunuchs dates back to thousand of years in Mahabharata as well as in Islam, where eunuchs served in harems of Mughal rulers.
5. In olden days, Hijras were used to work as women servant apart from performing on weddings and occasions. They were kept as trusted life guards in female areas and some even become generals in Mughal armies.
A prominent eunuch was Malik Kafur, who concurred the entire Deccan for Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji.
6. Emasculation operation is often termed as rebirth for Hijras, which is like their own nirvana. After this operation, they become a potent eunuch from impotent male.
7. Midwife is the person who carries out the emasculation operation after receiving sanction from goddess. And there are various procedures during these four days of isolation period which involve extra care, special diet, sufficient sleep and so on.
8. Once the operation is done, the four days of isolation comes to an end, and the eunuch is taken to a nearby water body for rituals, which is replica of marriage rituals in Hinduism.
9. Apart from living a customary life, no one cares to know about their death procedures. Some say that a funeral ceremony is a sober moment for them which is mostly carried out during night.
10. Every eunuch has a guru, who is believed to be blessed with a power of knowing everything about their disciples. Sources say, they even have an ability to foresee their death, which is only true if he originally is born as eunuch and not undergone the emasculation.
11. The dying eunuch is believed to have some divine powers, due to which eunuchs would come, seek her blessings and pray for her soul.
12. When the other eunuchs come to know about one of their own’s death, they would sit in the corner of a home and immerse themselves into prayer. Eunuchs around her pray for forgiveness so that she is born with a clear gender in next birth.
13. On death of a eunuch, all her relatives and friends gather together and inform the crematorium authorities, who are requested to keep silent.
14. On death, jewellery is removed and the body is bathed and wrapped in fresh white cloths. All the rituals are carried out in the simplest way.
15. The dead body is often cremated according to Hindu traditional rites in an open ground, and water of Ganga or any other holy water is poured into the mouth of the dead. The senior most of the male blood relative lights the body.
16. On death of Muslim eunuchs, everyone gathers at the place of deceased and the senior most member of the guru takes the responsibility of performing rituals including positing of death, where the head faces towards the kaaba.
17. Annual festival of Hijras takes place on the new year of Tamil lunar calendar at Koovagam, a small village 200 miles south of Madras, where Hijras from all over India come and gather.
18. Hijras consider themselves as ‘Mohini’, where the priest of Aravana’s temple marries them for a day and then cuts off the magalsutra thereby making them a widow.
19. Thousand of eunuchs dress in beautiful garments and ornaments to gather in Yellamma Devi Fair which happens five times between October and February every year at Yellamma temple, Belgaum district.
20. Hijras seek blessing of Barucha Mata asking for forgiveness so that they would be born again with a functional gender in the next birth.