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The story of us: A look at same-sex love in tales from around the world

Head to Studio Tamasha for a session on ‘the other kind of love stories’ documented in Chinese, Egyptian, Japanese, Greek and Indian myths and folktales.

mumbai Updated: Jan 12, 2018 21:48 IST
Jayati Bhola
Jayati Bhola
Hindustan Times
LGBTQI,Same-sex love,Indian folktales
If Indian myths have trans characters like Shikhandi (the subject of a recent play), cultures the world over feature stories of gender-bending and same-sex love.
Talking Myths Project
  • WHERE: Studio Tamaasha, Bungalow No 76, Aram Nagar Part 2, Behind Physioflex Gym, Mumbai
  • WHEN: Saturday, January 13
  • TIMINGS: 7 pm
  • COST: Rs 100, available at bookmyshow

Indian epics and myths are rich with references of same-sex love. We have form-changing gods, and tales of gender bending for love and war in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas.

How do they compare to myths around the world? A session by the Talking Myths Project hopes to draw parallels and contrasts. Utkarsh Patel, professor at Mumbai University, will discuss same-sex love in Greek, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian and even Japanese myths and folktales.

The project, launched by Patel, Vidya Kamat and Arundhuti Dasgupta Singhalat, is designed to revive oral storytelling for a new generation. It’s also the first of its kind archive of myths, folktales, and legends of the sub-continent in the oral form, along with credited sources.

The subject is timely, as the Supreme Court re-examjnes Section 377 and Mumbai preps for the Queer Azadi march on February 3 with a month full of LGBT events.

“We often hear that homosexuality is a Western import, that it is unnatural and wrong,” Patel says. “I’ll present examples of gay-lesbian relationships in Indian myth,” Patel says. Sapan Saran, co-founder of Studio Tamaasha, believes the myths have the power to affect change in the real world. “We need to take back the narative from the right-wing, have an objective view and look at comparative discussions to understand these themes.”

Same-sex love in myths around the world

In China

The Chinese have a dedicated god for homosexuals. Hu Tian Bao fell in love with an imperial officer, but when Bao was caught peeping at him through bathroom wall – the officer sentenced him to death by beating. Bao died but appeared in a friend’s dream announcing that his was a crime was of love. He was appointed the god of homosexuals by the spirit world.

In Japan

Same-sex relationships were introduced by two gods, Shinu and Ama, the servants of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. When one died, the other committed suicide and the two were buried in the same grave. It is believed, the sun did not shine the next day, until the bodies of the lovers were exhumed and buried separately. However, there is no explicit material to prove that the homosexual overtones were the reason for the offence.

In Egypt

The god Seth was envious of his nephew Horus, the child of his brother Osiris and Isis. So Seth killed Osiris out of jealousy and there have been references of sexual encounter between Seth and Horus – depending on which version you follow, Horus was either raped or seduced by Seth.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 21:48 IST