History was created at this year’s Kumbh as ‘Kinnar Akhada’ carried out a procession to break the rules of patriarchy.
Intro: India’s largest spiritual and cultural event, Kumbh 2019 took place in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj from 15 January to 4 March. Pilgrims from all over came for the royal bath. This year Kumbh was not only about aesthetic and cultural importance but for the first time, it was an initiative to show solidarity to transgenders.
The unique thing about this Kumbh fair was that there were 14 Akhadas (arenas) instead of 13. The 14th one was ‘Kinnar Akhada.’ Puspa Mai, Mahamadaleshwar, of kinnar akhada said, “the existence our community had in the days of Krishna, that culture has almost vanished from today. To re-establish this we founded this kinnar akhada”. All these ‘Akhadas have their own specialties and significance.
It wasn’t until a long time ago when transgenders were characterised as mentally ill, socially aberrant and sexually predatory. Transgenders still face severe discrimination, stigma, inequality in our democratic and traditionally intact society. Needless to say, most cultures in our country is patriarchal. Patriarchy has forced us to trap ourselves in our own bodies because it refuses to answer the complexities of gender. Patriarchy by gender trickles it down to binary numbers, and if not you will be oppressed and will become unnecessary. Under these circumstances, in Prayagraj Kumbh fair, the members of kinnar akhada carried out a procession to break the rules of patriarchy. “We have debunked a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding the community for the people, that’s why you might observe how people respond to us with respect and grace”, says Puspa.
Kinnar akhada was aimed at empowering the transgender community and accepting them as part of our society. “We are a community that has come out of the society itself and we are a part of the society as a whole”, added Puspa Mai.
The 2014 NALASA judgment talks about reservations to transgender people in the education and employment sector gives an individual the right to identify oneself with any gender. This along with the abolition of Section 377 have become some of the most progressive landmark judgments that apex court has passed. In India’s long-standing history of patriarchal behavior, the kinnar akhada has become a landmark procession in bridging the gap between society and transgender people.
#KhelBadal is part of Gender Campaign, which looks into different facets of patriarchy and how it impacts women, men, and the LGBTQIA community.
Video production by Video Volunteers
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of the VV editorial team