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Maiden Entry of Kinnar Akhara grabs the Spotlight at Ujjain Kumbh

The transgender community is fighting against discrimination for ages and they seek acceptance and recognition and want to be part of the society

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Lakshmi Tripathi, the mahamandaleshwar, or great leader of the Kinnar Akhara. Image Source: Scroll.in[ Punit Reddy]
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  • The Simhastha or Kumbh Mela at Ujjain saw a gathering of thousands of devotees lined up to seek the blessings of the transgender community, Kinnar Akhara
  • Kinnar can be understood as Kin-nar which means what-men and is the closest Sanskrit word for transgender
  • While some of the existing 13 Akharas are struggling to find devotees, the newly formed Kinnar Akhara has received an overwhelming response with thousands of people 

With over 100 million participants, the Kumbh Mela festival in India is the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims. By washing themselves in the sacred rivers, the Hindu pilgrims and sadhus believe to be cleansed of all their sin and liberated from the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The Simhastha or Kumbh Mela at Ujjain saw a gathering of thousands of devotees lined up to seek the blessings of the transgender community, Kinnar Akhara.

The Kumbh Mela is held once every three years at Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik and Ujjain. The venue is decided based on planetary movements and it is believed that the event marks the time when the river waters gain the power of amrita(the nectar of immortality) churned by devas (celestial forces) and asuras (subterranean forces) from the ocean of milk. The waters are believed to have the power to rid of all the sins acquired in one’s life so that he can start his life once again.

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The holy men, popularly known as Naga Babas are the first to bathe in these waters. The Babas or mendicants belong to one of 13 akharas, or ascetic orders. The scroll.in report says that the term naga probably originated from the word nanga, or naked, for they are digambaras – which means sky-clad, a metaphor for naked. The shahi-snan, or the royal bath of the babas, is the highlight of the Kumbh Mela. The bodies of the Naga Babas are usually smeared with ash, which is believed to contain a spiritual power born of celibacy. The ash mingles with the water, thereby lending to it this power. Only after these holy men have bathed do devotees jump into the water, cited the Scroll.in report.

A transgender from the Kinnar Akhara at Ujjain Kumbh. Image source: Punit Reddy

Kinnar can be understood as Kin-nar which means what-men and is the closest Sanskrit word for transgender. An akhara is a place of practice with facilities for boarding, lodging and training either used by Indian martial artists or a monastery for religious renunciates. The akhara members, the babas, are aligned to various schools of Hinduism such as Shaivism and Vaishnavism. There are Sikh akharas too. The akharas are either astradharis (those who bear weapons) or shastradharis (those who bear scriptures), says the Scroll.in report.

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According to the Scroll.in report, while some of the existing 13 Akharas are struggling to find devotees, the newly formed Kinnar Akhara has received an overwhelming response with thousands of people falling at the feet of the transgenders led by Lakshmi Tripathi, who was declared the mahamandaleshwar of this spiritual gymnasium. As they were seen as a subversive group, rather than a traditional one, they were denied the right to take part in shahi snan. So, they took out their own procession, the Peshwai, with horses and camels, and even took a bath on their own terms.

“We thought we won’t be accepted here because we are generally discriminated against, but people not only welcomed us, they showered money and devotion on us,” Pavitra, who belongs to the Kinnar Akhara, told The Indian Express.

The transgender community has been fighting against discrimination since ages. They seek acceptance and recognition and want to be part of the society. The public support at the Kumbh Mela has not only made them happy but has also sparked a hope of complete assimilation into the society.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    How double faced can we be? On one side we seek blessings from them and on the other we do not consider them as a part of our society!

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Anukreethy Vas, New Miss India, Explains Challenges Of Single Mother

Anukreethy calls herself a tomboy

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Anukreethy Vas, New Miss India World Explains Challenges Of Single Mother
Anukreethy Vas, New Miss India World Explains Challenges Of Single Mother, flickr

The newly crowned Miss India World Anukreethy Vas — who works for transgenders’ education — feels a smile keeps everyone going, something she has learnt this quality from her mother, who rose her single-handedly. The 19-year-old feels that being raised by a single mother was challenging, but being strong in every situtation kept them going.

“The challenges were there forever starting from school because I am not from a city-based place. I studied in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli) which is not really a city but I was very strong enough because my mother didn’t let me down at any point. She used to say, ‘You are a strong person. How can you cry?’ and that’s how she brought me up,” Anukreethy told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

“I have never seen her low. She has a lot of problems herself but she never showed that to me and that is how I was brought up. Even if I had something inside me, I never expressed it to other person because I feel that a smile is one thing that keeps the other person going. And this is what I learnt from her.

“She inspired me in every way and she has been a great role model,” added the beauty queen, whose mother is an IT professional named Seleena.

Single mother
Single mother, Pixabay

Anukreethy is currently pursuing Bachelor of Arts in French at Chennai’s Loyola College to become an interpreter. She is also a state-level athlete, whose aspiration is to become a supermodel. Her faith in destiny keeps her confident at all times and this reflected well while she was announced the winner on Tuesday night.

Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar crowned Anukreethy at the gala, where Meenakshi Chaudhary from Haryana was adjudged first runner-up and second runner-up was Shreya Rao from Andhra Pradesh.

Anukreethy calls herself a tomboy, loves to ride a bike, but more than that she is actively involved in giving education to transgenders.

“I work for the transgender education. There was one of my friends who was transgender in school and her family abandoned her. That struck me about this topic. I was helping an orphanage and NGO with the education of their children.

“In 2015, I associated with an NGO, and the main area of work was education of transgender children. We are now being able to adopt 30 transgenders and educate them,” she told IANS.

LGBT flag
LGBT flag, Pixabay

As of now, she is “really happy” about her victory at the Miss India contest.

“I will put my best to get the crown again,” she said, referring to the Miss World crown which Manushi brought back to India long after Priyanka Chopra won it in 2000.

So after the sudden fame, is she going to miss all the normal things that she enjoys doing?

Also read: Miss India 2016 Priyadarshini Chatterjee fights for Sexual Exploitation of a 13-year-old Girl

“Not really. I still have a normal life. My friends back home are supportive. Yes, just the responsibilities have been added, but rest is normal,” said Anukreethy, who is currently not focussed on Bollywood. (IANS)