Archive for the Hijras of India Category

The hijras’ house

Posted in Hijras of India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by designldg

 

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Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
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To give birth to a hermaphrodite is still considered by simple Indians to be one of the most terrible curses than can befall a woman.
At the same time the blessing of a hijra is considered to be unusually potent.
It can make a barren woman fertile.
It can scare off malevolent djinns.
It can nullify the evil eye.
In the streets hijras are jeered at, sometimes even pelted with rubbish.
Yet at a poor family’s most crucial and most public celebrations, at a marriage or at the birth of a male child, the absence of a hijra would almost invalidate the whole ceremony.
(From City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple – 1993)

This house is in a village nearby Varanasi (Benaras) where leaves a Hijra community.
Sunita, the guru, is Muslim and Shushila who wears a yellow sari was born in a Hindu family.
Spirituality has been overpowering religion, they can’t have children but they take care of most of the children of the village.
Hijras are physiological males who have feminine gender identity, women’s clothing and other feminine gender roles.
They have a long recorded history in the Indian subcontinent, from the antiquity, as suggested by the Kama Sutra period onwards.

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A life of Bravery

Posted in Hijras of India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by designldg

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Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

“Nothing’s more important than having the bravery to live your life”.
(“Daily Inspiration” by Robin Sharma)

This is a portrait of Sunita which I took a few days ago inside her house in a little city located nearby Varanasi (Benaras) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Sunita thinks that she is around 65 years old but she is sure that she joined an hijra community when she was 12.
She was born in a poor Muslim family from the state of Bihar.
As she was still very young she understood that being an hermaphrodite wouldn’t allow her to live a life like ordinary people, she wasn’t a boy neither a girl.
So she happily decided to become an hijra, it was her will then and she has been learning from a guru (teacher) how to perform for weddings and new born babies.
Today she became a guru herself and she introduced me to Shushila, an Hindu hijra who stays at her side and who will become the guru when she dies.
It is nice to see that in this community Muslims and Hindus are living together and respecting their beliefs, their religion.
They are also called to any Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jain family’s functions in the city, and even Christians call them for Christmas.
A few months back Sunita went to Mecca, on the pictures she showed me she shaved her hair and dressed like any male pilgrim.
She saved money all her life in order to stay there for two months, she says that she is not the same anymore, she feels that she is closer to God.
It was the only moment in her life when she had to act like a man.

While I was leaving her house she walked with me for a while along the railways, she told me that she is respected there and that she is happy with her life.
She insisted, “Tell everyone I am happy” and she gave me her blessings.
Few people are like Sunita, she had the bravery to live her life…

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Shushila, the Hijra

Posted in Hijras of India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by designldg

 

© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved. 
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

This is a portrait of Shushila which I took a few days ago inside her guru’s house in a little city located nearby Varanasi (Benaras) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Shushila is 35 years old, she was born in an Hindu family of the same town, she studied at school untill the age of 16 and she joined an hijra community when she was 17.
She didn’t become hijra (Hindi: हिजड़ा, Urdu: حجڑا), nor she was forced to be so, she was born like that as an hermaphrodite and therefore she is considered as a member of “the third gender”, neither man nor woman.
Like most of the hijras, she refers to herself linguistically as female, and wears women garments.

Becoming an hijra is a process of socialization into a “hijra family” through a relationship characterised as chela “student” to guru “teacher”, leading to a gradual assumption of femininity.
Typically each guru lives with at least five chelas; her chelas assume her surname and are considered part of her lineage.
Shushila’s guru is Sunita, a Muslim hijra, who has been teaching her to perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of babies, involving music, singing, and dancing.
Hijras are intended to bring good luck and fertility and they are most often uninvited to Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jain family’s and even to Christian’s for Christmas.
Hijras are said to be able to do this because, since they do not engage in sexual activities, they accumulate their sexual energy which they can use to either bestow a boon or a bane.
It is said that hijras’ curse brings bad luck or infertility.

One day Shushila will become the guru of her community after Sunita’s death.
Sunita decided that it ill be like that and Shushila will follow exactly what her guru said, she will carry the same teaching with younger hijras.
It is nice to see that in this community Muslims and Hindus are living together and respecting their beliefs, their religion.

As I was asking, she told me that she was happy with her life, she said that in her society she wouldn’t have been able to do anything else so she was enjoying her life as an hijra.

I took many pictures of her, I said that I wanted natural poses, I was trying to show her soul like I did with her guru’s portraits.
With Sunita we tried to make her laugh as she wasn’t used at all to be in front of a camera and finaly I like this one which is far away to what I wanted.
After showing her she said she was happy of the result.

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Close Encounters of the Third Gender

Posted in Hijras of India with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by designldg

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“The third sex is described as a natural mixing or combination of the male and female natures to the point in which they can no longer be categorized as male or female in the traditional sense of the word.
The example of mixing black and white paint can be used, wherein the resulting color, gray, in all its many shades, can no longer be considered either black or white although it is simply a combination of both.”
(From “Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex” by Amara Das Wilhelm”

Shushila is an hijra, neither man nor woman, she belongs to a third gender, ensconced in tradition in India for years…
She is the chela (disciple) of Sunita, her guru and she will become guru as well the day her guru will leave this world…

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