Becharaji, patron saint of transgenders

Becharaji town is famous for its temple to Bahuchara Mata, goddess of fertility and patron saint of hijras (transgenders). It is also one of the highly revered Siddha Shakti Peethas, a place where Sati’s hands are said to have fallen and a place where the sincere wishes of the faithful are fulfilled.

Bahuchara Mata

The goddess Bahuchar Mata, one of the forms of Durga

The town of Becharaji is named after its temple to Bahuchara Mata.

Bahuchara Mata is a Hindu goddess, one of the many forms of Durga, a warrior’s daughter of the Charan caste. According to the legend, she and her sisters has set off on a journey when a marauder called Bapiya attacked their caravan. It was the Charan custom, for men and women, never to surrender to the enemy. in response to the attack, Bahuchara and her sisters cut off their breasts and cursed Bapiya, who became impotent. The curse was lifted only when he worshipped Bahuchara Mata by dressing and acting like a woman. That is why Bahuchara Mata is considered the patron saint of India’s hijra community.

Bahuchara Mata’s symbols are a sword, sacred scriptures, the hand gesture of blessing (mudra abhay hasta) and a trident. She is seated on a cock, symbol of innocence.

The Hijras

Hijra at the Jaisalmer Desert Festival (Rajasthan)

In Indian culture the hijras are transgenders. The word hijra also refers to the cast or community they live in. Usually It is hard for hijras to form a real family, or even to find work. They mostly live by begging or prostitution.

Koothandavar idols  – Photo : Swamy-Koothandavar-Thirukkoil

India’s hijras are both respected and mistrusted. They are respected because they are believed to confer fertility. They are paid to attend weddings, where they sing, dance and bless the newlyweds to make sure the marriage will be fertile. But they are also mistrusted because they are believed to be able to cast the evil eye.

Every year the hijras from all India gather for the Koothandavar festival where they relive an episode of the Mahabharata. The festival takes place in the village of Koovagam, 200km south of Madras in Tamil Nadu. It starts at full moon and lasts 18 days in April and May.

Hijras at the Koothandavar festival – Photo : Ashit Desai 

In April 2014 the country’s supreme court recognised the existence of a “third gender”, neither male nor female, and ordered the government to respect transsexuals’ rights. In so doing, the Supreme Court forced the central government and State governments to identify transgender people and give them the same social welfare rights and access to work and education as the rest of the population.

Becharaji, Sidha Shakti Peetha

The idol of the Becharaji temple | Photo :

The Bahuchara Mata temple is considered especially holy because it is a Shakti Peetha: Sati’s hands are said to have fallen here. It is one of three Shakti Peethas in Gujarat, the others being Ambaji and Kalika in Pavagadh.

The Bahuchara Mata temple is also a Siddha Peetha, a place where the sincere wishes of the faithful are fulfilled. Childless couples and parents of handicapped newborns come to make offerings and pray to the goddess.

From a religious standpoint, this temple is of equal importance to other famous places of worship in Gujarat such as Ambaji, Pavagadh, Dwarka, Somnath, Palitana, Girnar and Dakor.

Becharaji temple after the evening arati

[Arati du soir au temple de Becharaji ]

Vous aimerez peut-être aussi...

Uttarayan, Makar Sankranti and the Kite Festival
Uttarayan, the time of year when the sun starts its northward journey, is celebrated in Gujarat state with a kite...
The Arts of Kutch Region, Gujarat
Bordered by Pakistan and Rajasthan, Kutch is an ancient land that takes its name from its turtle-like geographical features (Kachchh...
Palitana, the sacred hill of Jains
Palitana is an incredible temple complex perched on Shatrunjaya Hill that seems to touch the sky. The 3500 steps that...
Ahmedabad, the city of 'pols', Gujarat
Ahmedabad ("Ahmed's City”), boasts a rich heritage from its past as a merchant city. The old town and its many...
Vadodara (Baroda), city of the Gaekwad dynasty
Vadodara, also known as Badora, is Gujarat's third-largest town, a fast-growing industrial town but also a cultural capital. Although tourists...
Rann of Kutch, the great white desert...
The Rann of Kutch is one of the world's largest salt deserts, a bright, white vastness interrupted only by touches...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *