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Transgender Brides For One Night

Transgender Brides For One Night

The annual transgender festival of Koovagam.

Koovagam, a village in Tamil Nadu is fast becoming famous for its annual festival of transgenders and transvestites. Spanning 18 days, the festival takes place at the Koothandavar Temple dedicated to Aravan.

As part of the ritual, participants marry Lord Koothandavar, re-enacting an ancient myth of Vishnu/Krishna who married him after taking the form of a woman called Mohini. The next day, they mourn his death through ritualistic dances and breaking their bangles. Along with this, an annual beauty pageant and several other competitions like singing and dancing are also held.

At the dawn of the 18th day, the air is ripped by sharp wails, as Aravaan is beheaded, widowing all his one-day-old wives. Following tradition, the widows rip the Mangalsutraa from their necks, remove the flowers from their hair and throw away their ornaments. All the while wailing loudly and beating their chests, just like Krishna mourned for Aravan.

A transgender bride getting ready for "Kummi adi" ritualA transgender bride getting ready for "Kummi adi" ritual

Evening scape of Koothandavar Temple KoovagamEvening scape of Koothandavar Temple Koovagam

Transgenders bathe before heading to the templeTransgenders bathe before heading to the temple

Buying mangalsutra in a shop near the templeBuying mangalsutra in a shop near the temple

Getting blessed from an older transgender is considered auspiciousGetting blessed from an older transgender is considered auspicious

Local men flirting with the transgendersLocal men flirting with the transgenders

Passing a mangalsutra shopPassing a mangalsutra shop

Shopkeeper near the temple hoping for customersShopkeeper near the temple hoping for customers

Men wear mangalsutrasMen wear mangalsutras

People from nearby Villages come to offer prayers for lord KothandavarPeople from nearby villages come to offer prayers for Lord Kothandavar

After getting married, transgenders are merrymaking with local men as one night bridesAfter getting married, transgenders are merrymaking with local men as one night brides

Young men from nearby villages seduce transgender brides on this nightYoung men from nearby villages seduce transgender brides on this night

"Bali Peedam" where mourning rituals take place"Bali Peedam" where mourning rituals take place

Merry go round at Bali PeedamMerry go round at Bali Peedam

Mangalsutras are ripped off during mourning ritualsMangalsutras are ripped off during mourning rituals

Bangles are broken as part of mourningBangles are broken as part of mourning

Transgenders doing "Oppari" (a means to express their sadness at a person's death)Transgenders doing "Oppari" (a means to express their sadness at a person's death)

Flowers from transgenders hair are seen hanging on treesFlowers from transgender's hair are seen hanging on trees

Transgenders wear white sarees to signify they are widowsTransgenders wear white sarees to signify they are widows

 

 

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By Vijayaraj PS
Photographs by Vijayaraj PS