Hidden Truth about Ethnic Lifestyle of Indian Hijras


Sibsankar Mal1,2*, Grace Bahalen Mundu3

1Department of Geography, S.S.M. College, Keshpur, Paschim Medinipur-721150, West Bengal, India

2Research Scholar, PG Department of Population Studies, Fakir Mohan University, Balasore-756020, Odisha

3Assistant Professor, PG Department of Population Studies, Fakir Mohan University, Balasore-756020, Odisha

*Corresponding Author Email: mal.sibsankar@gmail.com



The Hijras of India occupy a paradoxical space in the binary gender continuum of male-female and are also ubiquitous group under the umbrella term of transgender. This paper is a humble attempt to review and highlight the hidden truth of ethnic lifestyle and unique cults of this community. Available literature on this marginalized group says that the construction of the Hijra identity draws its inheritance from strong historical fairy-tale inceptions, mostly resulting from the portraits of Hijra characters playing significant roles in Indian mythology. This paper highlights a few significant aspects of the hidden life of Hijra community and argues the importance of exploring their unconventional traditions. Although, throughout the India, it is believed that Hijras have the power to bless, but the problems confronting these groups of people have not been adequately explored, due to the hidden nature of the community. By addressing exclusionary practices, the article draws out intersections between identity politics and the reproduction of social difference triggered by existing inequalities and inequities of class, gender and sexuality. The focus of this paper is therefore not only on Hijra subjectivity, but on the perspectives and the process of recognition of the Hijra as a third gender.


KEYWORDS: Eunuch, Hijra, India, third gender, transgender.



Hijra or Indian transgender has been acknowledged in ancient Hindu scriptures. In India, Hijras are viewed as an institutionalized ‘third sex’ that has always existed (Nanda, 1999). Hijra is an umbrella term used for those person who are transgender, eunuch, hermaphrodite or intersexed, bisexual, transsexual, transvestite, intersex, and bigendered (Dutt, 2002; Mal, 2015, 2018; Loh, 2014; Kollen, 2016).


The word ‘Hijra’ is Urdu, derived from the Arabic root hjr in its sense of ‘leaving one's tribe’, (Alhawary and Benmamoun, 2005) and has been borrowed into Hindi. The Urdu and Hindi word ‘Hijra’ may alternately be romanized as hijira, hijda, hijada, hijara, hijrah (Mal, 2015, 2018).


The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as ‘eunuch’ or ‘hermaphrodite’, where ‘the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition’ (Nanda, 1990, 1999), although LGBT historians or human rights activists have sought to include them as being transgender (Stryker and Whittle, 2006; Stryker, 2008). The Eunuchs have been in existence since the 9th Century BC. The word ‘Eunuch’ has been derived from a Greek word meaning ‘keeper of the bed’ because castrated men were in popular demand to guard royal harems. The practice is believed to have started in China, where at the end of the Ming dynasty, there were as many as 70,000 eunuchs in the grand palace (Ali, 2005). Numerous references to eunuchs in the royal courts of India’s Muslim rulers are cited. Hijras in Indo-Pak draw their cultural heritage from the Khawjasara of Mughal era. Khawjasaras were eunuchs or hermaphrodites, who were employed by Mughal rulers as care-takers of their harems. Khawjasaras played potent roles in the courts, held effective sway in the affairs of the state, and also acted as confidants of their masters (Dutt, 2002; Coway, 2002; Sharma, 2000; Rehman et al., 2009).


A number of terms across the culturally and linguistically diverse Indian subcontinent represent similar sex or gender categories. While these are rough synonyms, they may be better understood as separate identities due to regional cultural differences. In Telugu, a Hijra is referred to as Napunsakudu, Kojja, or Maada. In Tamil Nadu, the equivalent term is Thiru nangai, Ali, Aravanni, Aravani, or Aruvani. In Odisha, a Hijra is referred to as Hinjida, Hinjda or Napunsaka. In Punjabi, both in Pakistan and India, the term Khusra and Jankha are used. In Gujarati, they are called Pavaiyaa. In Urdu, another common term is Khwajasara. In Bengali, Hijra is called Brihonnola, Hijra, Hijre, Hijla, Hizre, or Hizra. They are also termed as Durani in Kolkata and Menaka in Cochin. (Mal, 2015, 2018). The word Kothi (or sometimes refer as Koti), is common across south India, which is often distinguished from Hijra. Kothi is a feminine male who takes a ‘receptive’ role in sex with a man. They often dress as women and act in a feminine manner in public spaces, even using feminine language to refer to themselves and each other (Nanda, 2003; Khan et al., 2003). The usual partners of Hijras and Kothis are men who consider themselves heterosexual as they are the ones who penetrate (Nanda, 2003). These male partners are often married, and any relationships or sex with Kothis or Hijras are usually kept secret from the entire civic society. Additionally, not all Kothis have undergone initiation rites or the body modification steps to become a Hijra (Reddy and Nanda, 2009). These type of transformed Hijras are locally called Giriya in Delhi, Sridhar in Cochin, Panthi in Bangladesh, and Meti in Nepal (Naz Foundation, 1999, 2000).


A lot of debate has surrounded the issue of the Hijra construct, this identity being equated with the Western homosexual and transsexual identities. However the Hijras have taken a separate stance and have preferred calling themselves the ‘third gender’ or the Trithiya panthi or Trithiya prakriti’ that literally means of the third gender or the third nature (Kalra, 2012). Identification as a Hijra symbolizes a choice to be gender variant which implies that a Hijra person could take on the role of a woman, a man, or an in-between being. One doesn’t need to be born with an intersex variation to be considered a Hijra (Goel, 2014) and, no intersex variations are related to the Hijra identity without the patronage of a Hijra Guru. The uniqueness of the Hijra community lies in the extraordinary blending of the biological body, gendered identity and sexuality in complex permutations and combinations within a specific social and cultural milieu (Goel, 2016). The Hijras are not a homogeneous entity as revealed by the accounts of Gayatri Reddy (2005) and Revathi (2011) in their work with Hijra communities in South India. The idea of Hijras as ‘neither male nor female an intersexed impotent man, who undergoes emasculation in which all or parts of genitals are removed’ (Nanda, 1990) is a conflicting difference between ‘the cultural ideal’ and ‘the real behaviour’ (Nanda, 1999) of the Hijras in India; many Hijras have not undergone the ceremony of castration and are referred to as Akwa Hijras who, in spite of having male genitals, have earned their place in the Hijra community (Goel, 2016).


In Hinduism, the Hijra community neither born male nor female, but self-identified as female, are historically believed to have the power to grant wishes and casts spells, and are often present at weddings and births. Our society holds stereotypic beliefs that God has blessed them with powers in their blessings and curses being born with sexual deformity. People do fear this dogma (Mal, 2015; Sharma, 2000; Talwar, 1999; Winter, 2002) and often get exploited by Hijras in hoarding money and other favours. Deviant behaviours and ambivalent appearance make others apprehensive and annoyed in interacting with Hijras, therefore, lead towards negative attitude towards them (Nanda, 1999; Sharma, 2000; Talwar, 1999). They do not conform to conventional notions of male or female gender but combine or move between the two. Their vulnerabilities, frustrations, and insecurities have been historically overlooked by mainstream society (Agrawal, 1997). Therefore, they are a marginalized and stigmatized community (Jami, 2005). The Hijra claim that mainstream society does not understand their culture, gender, mentality, and sexuality (Mal, 2015). Some Hijras do not define themselves by specific sexual orientation, but rather by renouncing sexuality altogether. They seemed that sexual energy is transformed into sacred powers. However, these notions can come in conflict with the practical, which is that Hijras are often employed as prostitutes (Nanda, 1999). The discrimination based on their class and gender makes the Hijra community one of the most disempowered groups in Indian society. The systematic violence that Hijras face is reinforced by the institutions such as the family, media and the medical establishments and is given legitimacy by the legal system.



This paper is a humble attempt to critically review and counter argue the existing literature on Hijras of India and highlight the hidden socio-cultural life of this ethnic group, which led to mass discrimination and deprivation of the specific population. For the present study, various literature relating to Hijras culture and traditions are critically reviewed and arguments are forwarded and some information have been collected through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions from 51 Hijras of Kharagpur town of India, having given their oral consent for the interview in a span of 3 years from 2011 to 2014.



In the following section, inter‑related major findings are described to layout the controversy about Hijra cult and the hidden ethno-cultural practices of their life.


Organizational life of Hijra community:

The Hijra community, is composed of a strict hierarchy with large groups of Hijra, which is totally different from general human society. Their hidden culture, rule and regulations, behavior, religious practices are much different and unique. They lived together with its own internal system of classifications based on ‘ordered rankings’ (Douglas, 1996) in a household which is called according to their culture Gharanas (sometimes referred as Mahalla or Dhera) led by Nayaks (topmost leaders) and Gurus (next level leaders). Several Chelas (disciples) live under one Guru. Hence, the social status of Hijras in their community as a member of the household is unequal (Mal, 2018). The Nayaks also act as policy makers for the Hijra community (Nanda, 1994). Each Nayak may have a number of Gurus under her. These Gurus rule over the community members or Chelas regulating their day-to-day life and teach them about various Hijra customs and rituals. There are no rules or regulations as to when a Hijra can become a guru. The grandmother Guru (the Guru of Guru) is referred to as Nani (somewhere as Nana). All Hijras are obedient to her. Under the advocacy of Guru other Chelas lived with an interesting kinship among themselves. The Chelas under one Guru refer to one another as Gurubhai or Gurubon. For a Chela under a particular Guru, the Gurubhai of the Guru becomes the Kala Guru (Aunt) and the Guru of Guru becomes the Nani/Nana Guru or Dada Guru. Their society is strictly hierarchical and a Hijra’s life is governed by regulations laid down by immediate superiors (Mal, 2015, 2018). Though uncommon, a Hijra member of one Gharana can change his Gharana and join another one, after paying some amount of penalty which is called Dand. Reasons for such a change could be voluntary or involuntary, including dissatisfaction with one’s Guru (Nanda, 1999; Kalra, 2012; Mal, 2015).


The mother-daughter relationship of the Guru and Chelas is a fascinating one with a religious and social basis. Hijras identify with Shiva for her devotion to the Mother Goddess (specifically Mata Bahuchara) and devotion is equivalent to submission. The Goddess, representing ambivalence toward the real mother that is perhaps universal, contains both the power to give life and charity, and the power to destroy those who anger her by disobeying. She is angered by the consort who, being her son as well, refuses her incestuous advances and thus she must castrate him in violence. After this, she protects the son because he is in ultimate submission to her. The Goddess will protect the devotee, but only after she has castrated him. She will give him life, but only after she has killed him. The worshipper’s anxiety over his inadequacy to fulfill the sexual needs of the mother is resolved by self-castration in order to appease the mother (Reddy, 2005; Mal, 2015).


Communal association of Hijras:

The role of Hijras as transgender individuals is deeply rooted in Indian culture and mythology (Nanda, 1999). Individuals belonging to Hijra communities are born males or rarely born hermaphrodites (born with both male and female sex organs and characteristics). The Hijra role particularly attracts individuals who have different cross-gender identities, personality constellations, behavior and attributes (Nanda 1999). But above all, most Hijras decide to join the Hijra community in their youth for reasons such as the escape from poverty, to completely express their feminine gender identity, due to bad treatment by their family of origin for female attitude or after a time period of homosexual prostitution (Mal, 2015). Therefore it may be assumed that there is not one but a series of early life events and effects which are affecting somebody in formally joining transsexual communities by adopting female behavior and clothing, taking female names and by undergoing emasculation operations or surgical removal of the male genitals.


Hijras live communally, usually with their Guru. When a Hijra has some wealth, they build a house. This is considered an ordinary house until their death, when they will heir the house not to an individual but to the whole community. Then the building is called a Dhera. Sometimes in many places of India, under each Gharana, there may be more than one adjoining Dheras (Mal, 2015). The Dhera is in the hands of the person they appoint, but that person may not sell or damage the house - they are only the guardians, not the owner. Each successive Guru of the house will in turn appoint a successor. Income from religious and other performances goes to the house, but each person participating receives a small share as their personal income. Most of the money goes to the Guru, who in turn is responsible for all expenses associated with maintaining the Dhera. Any Hijra will usually be welcome in any Dhera. So all Hijras, but young Hijras in particular, are very mobile and they frequently travel one Dhera to another. There is also a regular circuit of conferences, religious festivals, and meetings at the Dheras.


Like human beings everywhere, Hijras are both shaped by their culture and the role they play in society but are also individuals who vary in their emotions, behavior, and outlook on life. Some Hijras were outgoing, flirtatious, jolly and loved to dress up, perform, and have their photos taken. They met the difficulties of their lives with a good sense of humour, which they often turned on themselves (Mal, 2018). Each Dhera is characterized by an ethno-cultural combination of Hijra class. In India the Hijras are mainly classified into five intra-gender categories which includes Khusra (a genuine Hijra with sexual deformity or hermaphrodite), Aqua (a cross‑dresser or transvestites and transsexual), Zananay (an impotent male, homosexuals, or bisexuals), Khoja or Chhinni (a castrated Hijra through the removal of penis, testicles, and scrotum), and Chhibri (a biological fit female with fake Hijra identity) respectively (Mal, 2018).


The Hijra community in India due to its peculiar place in sub-continental society which entailed marginalization yet royal privileges developed a secret language known as Hijra Farsi, The language has a sentence structure loosely based on Urdu and a unique vocabulary of at least thousand words. Beyond the Urdu‑Hindi speaking areas of subcontinent, the vocabulary is still used by the Hijra community within their own native languages. Although many Hijras are talking in Bengali or Hindi (Mal, 2015, 2018).


Traditional cult of Hijras:

As maximum Hijras are born biologically males, they have option of castration. Often the castration is not compulsory, it is voluntary and willing, and a castrated Hijra has a status in their community this operation i.e., castration is also called as Nirvan in Hijra community (Nanda, 1999; Reddy, 2005). The castration is not compulsory process and it is possible if they want to get castrated; in the Hijra community there are two types of groups they are the non-castrated are Known as Akwa Moorath and castrated are known as Nirwan Moorath.


 Nirwan (The castration cult of Hijras):

A process of emasculation with no anesthetic and a ceremony lasting 40 days (Kalra, 2012; Mal, 2015). Either way, the person is reborn as a Hijra; the rite of passage is called Nirwan or Nirvan, which translates to “rebirth”, “calm and absence of desire”, and “the dawn of a higher consciousness”. There are two types of castration namely


1. Dai (midwife) Castration:

Here, Nirvan, i.e., castration is done by a Hijra itself. This ritual is usually performed by an experienced Hijra. The operator means the Nihra who does the Nirvan is called Dai Amma (midwife), so this operation is called Dai Nirvan. Nirvan is done in Dai Amma’s house itself, no medical treatment or no medicines are used in this operation.


On the first day when Hijra Moorath who is willing to be castrated will go to Dai Amma and request her to perform the Nirvan, Dai Amma after studying the physical conditions of the Moorath decides about the Nirvan. After the careful checkup of the Moorath by the Dai Amma, the Moorath is allowed to go through the castration process, after that a day is fixed for the operation. On the anointed day, the Moorath is dressed like a bride and all the wishes are fulfilled, because after the Nirvan that Moorath is going to start his life as her, without male genital organs. Early morning Dai Amma arranges for Puja (worship), there will be a framed photo of Bhojaraji Mata and Bahuchara Mata, decorated with different flowers, and several types of sweets, fruits, etc., will be offered to the goddesses Bhojaraji Mata, the Puja will be conducted in a traditional manner. Later on the Moorath will be given bath and that Moorath is asked to pray to the goddesses and to forgive all sin done by him in his life. Dai Amma asks the Moorath to strip naked and she takes help of other Hijra to hold the Moorath tightly and straight, because the operation will be done now, Dai Amma will fly her knife on the penis and testis to cut them off. The operation is over and done, but the result of the operation will depend on the toleration power of the Moorath because as mentioned earlier no medical aid is administered. That night the Moorath is not allowed to sleep and drink water or eat anything. The bleeding is not controlled in, the Moorath will be allowed to bleed, after passing of 24 hours ‘Sesame oil’ is boiled and poured on the wound, it gives some relief to the Moorath from the burning of the wound. Also, boiling hot water will be poured on the wound to clean the blood clot on the wound, by using boiling ‘Sesame oil’ and water the wound will be treated and cured. Till 40 days the Moorath is treated with this, and she is not allowed to have sex, and even food given is in such a way so as to maintain her health and to cure wound. No rice food will be given to her because of the sugar contents in the rice, no fruits, milk, sweets etc., will be given. Sometimes she is offered highly narcotic liquid. Also Moorath is not allowed to makeup or to dress up, she has to remain in the house only for 40 days. The Moorath is feed only with ghee, mutton, fresh greens and vegetables and wheat made foods like chapatti, because of the fat contents, vitamins and proteins that helps her to be strong. Tea is served without milk, i.e., black tea with ghee, because it helps in free urine flow, this will follow for a period of 40 days and on the last day all Hijras will get together to congratulate the Moorath, they present the Moorath with Saree (garment of Hindu women), gold and silver jewels, etc., to her. All Hijras gather together and play Dholak, sing songs, dance together, and later they will have food and this ends the occasion which is called Jalsa. Now, from this day on the Moorath is Nirvan.


2. Doctor Castration:

Here the castration is done with medical treatment under medical supervision; the diet will be same as in Dai Amma Nirvan.


Jalsa (The occasional function of Hijras):

Jalsa means, a new castrated Hijra involve or devote herself to goddesses Bhojaraji Mata or Bahuchara Mata. The end of 40-day period of the castrated Moorath is celebrated with a full day ceremony that involves dressing the Nirvan-Hijra as a bride, attended by Hijras from all Gharanas. It is an important milestone in their lives (Kalra, 2012). In this day all Hijras will be invited to celebrate, Hijras will apply Haldi (Turmeric) and Mehandi (Henna) all over her body and she is bathed with hot water and she is dressed with green Saree and blouse, also Nirvan Moorath is decorated with silver and gold ornaments and with green bangles, like a bride groom. In the same time a framed photo of Bhojaraji Mata was decorated by several flower and fruits, sweets traditionally, a vessel filled by milk will be kept in front of the photo of goddesses decorated with flowers, Haldi, Sindur (Minium) etc.; all these arrangements will happen throughout the night. At around 4’o clock in the morning all Hijras will offer Puja with camphor and oil lamps and the Nirvan Moorath will carry the vessel filled with milk on her head and some senior Hijras will take her to any well or seashore to drop the milk in the water. This indicated that her life is not milk nor water, her life is a combination of both. Returning from their ritual function they will have breakfast and start for the get together party which is to be done in the day, in the afternoon all Hijras will get together, and after having food, they will play Dholak, sing songs, and dance together to congratulate the new castrated Hijra for her new life and her Guru.


Live lihood of Hijras:

Traditionally the Hijras engage themselves mainly three forms of livelihood to earn their living to sustain themselves and their Gharana or Mahalla by form of Basti (begging), Badhai (to shower blessings) and Pun (prostitution) to earn their live hood.



The Hijras here earn their livelihood by begging, they have areas/locations which are allocated to them as per the Gharanas they come from on specific days the visit businessmen, shopkeepers, street vendors and general men and women give them some money. This practices is associated with their daily spatial migration (Mal, 2015). They sometimes use their identity expediently while accessing male appearance and behavior for reasons of employment in male occupations (Nanda 1999). Because Hijras sometimes dress and behave like men by threaten women in public to get money, many feminists argue that their self-definition as female victims in public is improper (Prabhughate et al. 2012).



A Hijra herself takes pride in being, above all else, a ritual performer, sanctioned by the gods to bless families, while eschewing talk of what may be her primary work, prostitution. An outsider, upon first sight of them aggressively attempting to seize a customer on the street, may believe the Hijras to solely be beggars or prostitutes. Others are familiar with the Hijras only as female performers and seemingly self-proclaimed fate-manipulators who arrive in a band to dance and sing and bless, or perform Badhai, at weddings and births (Reddy, 2005; Kalra, Gupta, and Bhugra, 2010). Their presence can be thought of as auspicious with regard to their capabilities for manipulating divine energy, or, on the contrary, as loathsome and calamitous with regard to their infertility despite, and as well as what people may see as the threat of their free and overwhelming sexuality. These Hijras have maintained the culture of their community, i.e., Playing Dholak or Dhol (A musical instrument like a drum) and dancing in their own flamboyant style. These Badhaiwala Hijras will go to the marriage and birth or opening occasions and ceremony, they will dance by playing Dholak and sing songs entertaining the party (Mal, 2015). The Indian society believes that it is an auspicious omen to have Hijras in the parties or occasions like marriages, birth ceremony, opening ceremony etc.



Hijras resorting to sex work, call sex work as Pun and some of the work as commercial sex workers besides doing Basti and Badhai.


Religious life of Hijras:

The Hijra community is a syncretic tradition that is comfortable participating in many religions. An individual Hijra usually thinks of them as ‘something’ which assume a neither-male-nor-female gender role (Mal, 2015). Although majority of Hijras considered themselves as Muslim, yet they will be comfortable participating in a Hindu Aarti if the occasion arises. Hijras belong to a special caste which is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim religion. They are usually celebrating both religious occasions and worship various god or goddess. In areas where there is a custom to do so, they go about looking for a family that has a birth or marriage. When they find one, they go and sing, dance, and generally put on a show. Then they bless the bride and groom, or the baby and mother. Some Hindus believe that their blessing ensures the fertility of the newborn, the mother, or the bride.


Hijras believe that emasculation is the source for their ritual power and the religious obligation for their social identity (Nanda, 1990; Sharma, 2000). In mythical stories, castration is necessary in order to change into third gender. “Through the bleeding, maleness flows out, femaleness flows in; mixture results” (Cohen, 1995). Further, in Hindu mythology, impotence creates generative power through the ascetic practices of sexual abstinence in terms of emasculation (Nanda 1999). In general, Hinduism accommodates categories of transgenderism and furthermore, gives them a particular powerful importance. References to a third sex, androgynies or individuals who have undergone sex changes can be found throughout various texts of Indian mythology (Nanda, 1999; Reddy, 2005). Not only examples and stories of humans but also deities are detectable in ancient Hindu texts like Vedas, Kamasutra, Ramayana, and Mahabharata (Mal, 2015). Therefore, God Shiva (in the popular form of Ardhanareshwara) is one of the most important sexually ambivalent deities, who incorporates male and female characteristics and thus, is referred to as ‘half-woman god’ (García-Arroyo, 2010). Shiva is paradoxically portrayed as both ascetic and erotic and thus, Hijras use his iconographic image to articulate their affinity towards Shiva and further, to receive respect and to legitimize their role and practices in social life (Reddy, 2005). Hijras also identify with Arjun, a hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata who assumed a eunuch-transvestite identity and performed songs and dances at weddings and childbirths (Nanda, 2000). Besides their affinity towards Shiva and Arjun, all Hijras, whether Hindu or Muslim, worship Bahucchara Mata who is particularly associated with transgenderism. From their identification with the Hindu goddess, they also derive procreative power (Reddy, 2005; Mal, 2015). Thus this visible ‘other or third gender’ maintains its special privileged status through religion at pilgrimages only the Hijra can undertake the tasks of serving both men and women in offering prayers (Jami, 2005).


Kinky sexual life of Hijras:

Historically, Hijras were placed in Royal houses where they served as Khadim (domestic servants) who were permitted to enter the female domain into which not even close male kin could gain entry as the Hijras’ status as impotent permitted this liberty (Jami, 2005). The Hijra could enter the women’s domain without any objection from the men because they were perceived to equal women in appearance, and they were impotent. Women’s interaction with the Hijra gained legitimacy through yet another source, the divine factor. While female interaction with males was forbidden, divinity could in a sense provide sanction; the different myths associated with the Hijra imbued them with divine powers, placing them above humanity and discounting any maleness. This allowed them to interact freely with both men and women without fear of disgrace and free from the severe consequences that could result from their exaggerated feminine appearance (Sharma, 2000; Nanda, 2003; Reddy, 2005; Jami, 2005).


During love relations with male sexual partners or Kothis, Hijra compares herself with a woman. Most often men pretend to be in love‑affair with the Hijra and continue to have sex regularly. Maximum Hijras are practicing a relation of Sodomy and mouth‑genital sexual contact with intra‑community members. For younger Hijras, it is often and mutual. Often they got mental satisfaction rather than physical by their sexual practices. They also watch sexual and romantic movies and enjoy the gender feelings sometimes with masturbation. Most Hijra described their first sexual intercourse experiences at the age of 10 to 14 years. The first sexual relationship in most cases was developed with male relatives or neighbors (Mal, 2015, 2018).


As a sex worker, Hijra or Pun must satisfy men who visit her for paid sex, engaging in the maximum number of varied sexual acts so that in her inner group she will earn a good name as one who performs excellently and makes good money. It is important that word is spread to other men toward the Hijra community to the effect that sexually she is more satisfactory than a woman. When dealing with women, however, she must project herself as one of them in most respects, at the same time maintaining her distinct position as a Hijra and not presenting as a woman simply to earn loyalty and make the acquaintance of other women. She will project herself as a woman when offering prayers, fake her monthly menstruations, taking medication for pain relief, wearing pads in her underwear to prevent any escape of blood, and avoiding all sexual activities. The situation changes markedly, however, when it comes to the performance of the Nayak or Guru. They project themselves as masculine characters to the Hijra, with full authority and control demonstrated through group dynamics and various expulsion and inclusion ritual rights. The women consider the Nayak to be a saint, more like a divine entity, a form of musicality that women psychologically want to interact with.


The Hijra dynamics discussed above illustrate that gender role for Hijra community is not fixed nor does its sexual entity remain the same. It follows a trajectory through female-male-female that extends to saint at times, with corresponding gender bias roles. But this is neither conclusion nor climax. The sum of these gender-dynamics is that none of these performances is voluntary; these are compulsions dictated by a social structure dominated by masculine hegemony in which Hijra herself is a part and an active participant. While she becomes a member of one Hijra group at times in order to feel secure in a hegemonic world, she in fact opts at times overtly for another world by challenging her sex, her gender, even her desires. As Connell (1995) observes, hegemony, subordination and complicity are relations internal to the gender order which, to a Marxist way of thought, deal with conflicts of interest in various groups.



The Hijras are an important and integral part of Indian society. No celebration is considered complete without their participation and blessing. Hijras, in everyday lives, practice transaction roles as a distinct, linguistic and ethnic group in their dealing with men. In western countries, the Hijras or transgenders are very much part of the society, then why not in India they will be given recognition and respect like others? Although the government of India has recognized Hijras as the ‘third gender’, but this recognition cannot ensure the social acceptance of these people. We need to take a look either into their past or into the future to stop vast discrimination against such a large portion of the population and to help them to divert their way from untraditional customary to general citizens. Anti-discrimination laws to prevent discrimination against Hijras need to be seriously considered. Still they are the underprivileged among the underprivileged groups. India is required to create and implement laws, policies and programmes that facilitate Hijras’ rights as citizens, right to protection against violence and discrimination, right to equality under law, right to vote and stand for election, right to livelihood, right to fair portrayals in the media, and a life with dignity as a social human being.





All Hindi words excluding ‘Hijra’ have been transliterated using the English Roman script and are consistently italicized, based on the modern form of transliteration used in R. S. McGregor’s Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary (1993). Spellings of deity names and names of individuals from classical Hindi texts have been obtained from W. J. Johnson’s A Dictionary of Hinduism (2009). According to transliteration conventions, the correct spelling is ‘Hijr.ā’; for this article, the author uses ‘Hijra’ (without diacritics) for easier reading.



This paper is based on a research by the corresponding author from the PG Department of Population Studies, F. M. University, Odisha. The authors thank to Dr. Pralip Kumar Narzary for his encourage and supportive role throughout the research period which made possible to implement this kind of study with marginalized Hijra people in the context of India. Finally, the authors express their gratefulness to the members of the Hijra community who provided their valuable time and shared intimate and secret issues of their lives.



This paper has no intention to blame Hijra community on any ground, rather it has just been tried to bring out the hidden truth, which has so far remained hidden for whatsoever reason. Further, this study does not identify or affect any individual, group, society or any other community. This study is immensely useful for policy makers and planners.



This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.



The author declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.



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Received on 28.07.2018        Modified on 10.08.2018

Accepted on 29.08.2018      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res. J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2018; 9(3): 621-628.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2018.00104.3