Have you ever heard of the wedding of a transgender person with a deity? Well! It’s not a misconception but a truth!
In the Villupuram district of south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, there is Koovagam village which has a shrine named Aravan Temple where transgenders get married to the temple’s deity. In the southern part of India, transgenders are popularly known as Aravani and hence the divine being of this temple is also known as Lord Aravan.
Tamil Nadu has a number of temples dedicated to Lord Aravan but the one located in Koovagam village is the oldest and the most preeminent one. Lord Aravan was one of the important characters of the ‘Mahabharata’
In this temple, on the first full moon night of the Tamil new year, a huge festival is organized. The celebrations of this one-of-a-kind festival continue for 18 days. The festival is considered unique for one of its most important rituals — wedding of persons of the transgender community with Lord Aravan, the deity of this temple.
For the first 16 days, celebrations are held and wedding songs are sung. On the 17th day, the priest carries out special prayers and the wedding of transgenders with the God is concluded. On this day, the priests of the temple also make them wear mangalsutra from the deity’s side.
The people of the transgender community get decked up like brides for the wedding in which all the rituals of a wedding are carried out. However, on the 18th day of the festival, the idol of Lord Aravan takes a round of the entire village after which the wedding is broken up. After that, the transgender people give up all their bridal clothes and accessories to dress up like a widow and their married life comes to an end. These newly widowed people also mourn on this day.
This festival is believed to hold immense significance among the community as apart from India, transgenders from other parts of the world also travel to Aravan Temple of Koovagam during this festival.
According to Hindu mythology, the wedding of transgenders with Lord Aravan has association with the epic of Mahabharata according to which Aravan was the son of Arjun, and a serpent named Ulupi. Aravan was later abandoned by Arjun but when he grew up, he went to meet his father. At that time, the war of Mahabharata was going on so Arjun ordered Aravan to go to the war front.
During the war, there came a time when the Pandavas needed a prince to be offered as a human sacrifice in front of Goddess Kali. Aravan agreed to being offered as the human sacrifice but on the condition that he will not die as a bachelor. But no one was ready to marry Aravan. Under such circumstances, Lord Krishna came forward in the form of Mohini (a woman) and got married to Aravan. Later when Aravan died, Lord Krishna, as Mohini, also mourned his death. Since Lord Krishna, despite being a man, appeared as a woman and married Aravan, people of the transgender community consider Aravan as their God.