It was the first time when seers of Kinnar Akhada, led by its Mahamandaleshwar Acharya Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, arrived with Juna Akhada saints for royal bath at Sangam on Tuesday. Discriminated against and humiliated for years, the transgender community seems to have finally found refuge in religion.
Although not recognised by the umbrella organisation of 13 recognised monastic orders of India —Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad— the Kinnar Akhada of transgender ‘saints’ is fast becoming popular among the transgender community with many coming forward to join it.
Kinnar Akahada has become a rallying point for transgenders from all walks of life and even from across the world.
The mention of Kinnars in ancient religious texts as revered beings has given the transgender community a moral boost to fight for their religious rights which they believe have been denied to them by the saints and even the society for long.
The Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad’s disapproval of formation of Kinnar Akahada has no impact on the latter’s office-bearers, who are now rooting for more facilities from the government during Kumbh and are ready to spearhead the religious role of Kinnars in society, which, till now, has only seen them as dancers and musicians.
“Lord Ram blessed the Kinnars on his return to Ayodhya for their devotion towards him. We were promised power in Kalyug. We have never been a part of the Akhada culture as it is for humans, while the ancient sacred texts describe us Demi-Gods. We are the true followers of ‘Sanatan Dharma’ and it is our right to get religious freedom just like others. No one has the right and the power to intrude into our religious freedom when the constitution does not discriminate us,” Tripathi said.
She further said the Kinnar Akhada is open to the transgender community from all walks of life. “The recent ruling of the Supreme Court removing section 377 now gives us protection and more rights in the society. Many members of the transgender community, who were living in fear or were shy, now have the courage to speak up for themselves and approach us,” Tripathi added.
“Although our strength has been increasing, we do not believe in number games. Money, status and class are no bar for a transgender person to join the Kinnar Akhada. However, we carry out background verification of the person joining the Akhada to stay away from any controversy,” Tripathi said.
The Kinnar Akhada came into being in 2015 and gained prominence during Simhastha Kumbh in Ujjain. At least 22 senior transgenders representing regions elected Kamla Bua as the head of the Akhada. Kamla Bua has been the mayor of Sagar. “Office-bearers of the Akhada, who are over 65, have been categorised under Mandaleshwar, Peetahdishwar and Mahants. While many from the transgender community joined us during Sinhasth Kumbh at Ujjain, over 200 transgender are expected to be inducted into the Akhada during Kumbh-2019 at Prayagraj,” said Kinnar Akhada in-charge Pavitra Mai.
Mahi, from Mumbai, who has been running an NGO for the last 15 years, joined the Akhada during Simhastha. Mahi has been working for transgender rights, health and other sectors before she decided to turn to religion.
“This is the first time in history that Kinnars have came forward for their religious rights denied to them by society and so called saints and seers who have divided Hindus. Kinnars have no caste and we will protect the Sanatan Dharma as we have the divine power to bless,” Mahi said. “Transgender of all social classes from the ones moving on bicycles to luxury cars, have found refuge in Kinnar Akhada. Our role as dancers during auspicious occasions will now change and we will play a bigger role as saints,” says Shree Laxmi Gauri who joined the Akhada. “The popularity of Kinnar Akahada can be gauged from the fact that its office-bearers and members are from all parts of the country ,” Pavitra Mai said.