The city’s transgender community is organizing an all-inclusive Durga Puja, where everyone, including members of the LGBTQI community and others marginalized in society will come together to celebrate the festival.
The small-budget Puja on Gokhale Road will have an ardhanarishwar idol (half female and half male), to be moulded by transpersons and even the rites will be performed by a transgender priest. Taking cue from the ethos of Navratri festival, which coincides with Durga Puja, the celebration will be joined by members of nine marginalized sections, such as the HIV-affected, sex workers, streetchildren and senior citizens at old age homes.
The Puja in a 9ftX9ft space inside the residence of Ranjita alias Ranjit Sinha, member of West Bengal Transgender Board, portrays a gamut of metaphors questioning the practice of the class structure that has traditionally barred transgenders and other minorities from taking part in big socio-religious events, such as the Puja.
For instance, the idol is being created by transmen, guided by Kumartuli artist Biswanath Pal. “There is a twist in this tale of the deity coming alive in the hands of my transmen brothers who were born women but have opted for manhood by choice. This is our way of questioning patriarchy and mainstream hegemony,” Sinha said. “The overpowering brahminical or the upper-strata muscle flexing that is often associated with the Pujas sometimes end in isolating a whole lot of people from the festive spirit. We want them to be a part of our Puja, everyone from gay, lesbian, bisexual to the heterosexual… and not just the gender variants, but all sorts of underprivileged sections who are confronted with contemptuous gaze of revellers whenever they enter a pandal,” said Joe Tapashi Dutta. The Puja, dedicated to the marginalized, will have a Kumari Puja, where 20 streetkids will be part of.
The idol is being fashioned after the composite androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. “The embodiment of ardhanarishwar, where both Shiv and Shakti fused into each other to become one, is truly the transgender deity,” Sinha said.
A week before Mahalaya, Kabirag alias Ketaki Poddar paints the eyes of idol. “Why should we stay away from this festival, which is apparently ‘sarbajanin’ (everyone’s)?” said Kabirag, who will perform the puja. This priest will be a Vaishnav one, clad in dhoti and sporting tilak and a tulsi-beaded chain.
The idea struck the “other” men and women soon after the September-6 apex court judgment, decriminalizing gay sex. “It was a natural outcome of the Supreme Court striking down Section 377 of the IPC,” said Anuradha alias Animesh Sarkar. “The SC order symbolizes change, from a tradition that bestowed the d”ecision-making powers on the mainstream and the powerful.” About the venue being her own home, Sinha said, “As the Puja was planned in a hurry, we couldn’t find a bigger venue. From next year, we’ll be better organized.”
India’s first transgender college principal Manabi Bandopadhyay called the Puja “unique”. “Transgenders are Durga themselves, so it will be Durgas worshipping Durga,” she said.
Source: Times of India