9th September, 2018: Talk with Devdutt Pattanaik

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GB teamed up with author, illustrator, mythologist, Devdutt Pattanaik, for a detailed talk on the Queer in culture and myth.

The scriptures, culture, rituals and lived realities of the Karmic faiths were discussed, with a focus on human sexuality.

Date: 9th September 2018

Time: 5pm to 8pm

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SC ruling on Section 377 has removed legal barriers, now emotional ones must be tackled: Devdutt Pattanaik

First featured on firstpost.com

As the Supreme Court of India has scrapped portions of Section 377, effectively decriminalising gay sex in India, there’s a tremendous sense of relief that this has finally happened. It was an eventuality but we wondered when this would come to pass, and also there was a sense that this was the last frontier — if we fail here, it will never perhaps occur in our lifetime. So yes, it’s a great relief that it has.

In 2009, when the Delhi High Court had ruled to abolish Section 377, editors asked me to write articles about it. I wrote one that became quite popular — On Krishna’s Chariot Stands Shikhandi — which talks about how in the Mahabharata, a female to male trans-sexual plays a critical role in the victory of the Pandavas over Kauravas. In other words, queer sexuality was a very important part of the dharma war. My aim in writing this article was to draw attention to how queer sexuality is very much a part of Indian traditions.

Then in 2013, on my birthday, I heard this horrible judgment which overturned the Delhi ruling. I remember breaking down… I couldn’t believe India could take such a regressive step and that we were going back to colonial times and ideas — that this primitive, outdated law was being upheld.

Five years later, on my sister’s birthday, I happened to be in Delhi when I heard of the Supreme Court’s ruling. I went to the SC along with the petitioners and lawyers, and the joy in the room had to be witnessed, as the judges unanimously threw out this archaic law and read it down to its bare minimum.

So many people worked towards making this judgment happen. For my part, it was important to make the general public aware that homosexuality, bisexuality, transexuality are very much a part of Indian traditions. Therefore, I started writing extensively (about these subjects) — not so much for advocacy as for awareness. I wrote books like Shikhandi, retold queer stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, stories of Yuvanashva, Bhangashwana, of men who became women and women who became men, of kings who became pregnant, of gods who took on female forms, stories of men who fell in love with men, women who fell in love with women.

I also introduced a book called I Am Divine, So Are You by Jerry Johnson, which comprised essays explaining how religion — especially Karmic religions, religions that believe in rebirth such as Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Sikhism — can act as an ally rather than as an adversary (of queer individuals). We made these books available thanks to the publishing houses that enabled this, and they were received very well — revealing how mature Indians are.

We were not a conventional, fundamentalist state that frowns on pleasure and private acts of intimacy and I think some of (my) books along with those of Ruth Vanita were also presented to the SC judges. So I think this, perhaps in small measure made people aware that (queer sexuality and identity) is very much part of our culture and in some small way I hope that it contributed and helped in this judgment today.

The legal barriers have now been removed but the emotional barriers are still to be tackled — and this can only be done at the private level within families where we allow our children, our nephews, nieces, siblings, parents to tell us stories about unconventional sex lives, unconventional emotional lives, about queer feelings, thoughts and experiences. It’s only when we talk to each other and reveal the truth to each other that life will become better and I think that’s the journey ahead. The journey of acceptance, of sensitisation, of accommodation, of dealing with people who are different from us. And each one is on a spiritual journey… as we make ourselves worthy of listening to other peoples’ truth without flinching, making ourselves vessels of love. I think that’s a journey that is private and personal. The law just has made it possible to talk about it openly and this is just the first step. So many things will happen now.

As a queer Indian, I always got my strength from Hindu scriptures and I always felt comfortable with my sexuality. I would always wonder why other people had a problem with my sexuality and I realised that perhaps they have not read the Vedas and the Puranas as I have. Therefore, it has been my life’s mission to help people understand the brilliance of the Vedas, Puranas and the RamayanaMahabharatawhich tells us to live fulfilled lives, accommodating different types of sexualitites around us.

At a personal level, I never really sought legal approval. I was just careful as people can misuse or abuse the law, and one has to respect the law of the land. It was very difficult to respect a law that was completely against who you are. I am so glad that this law has gone away and I don’t have to pretend or be wary of someone who can use it to make my life miserable. Other than that, I think my life has always been wonderful.

Our country and people surprise us and in a way we had outgrown this law long, long ago… However, its presence was a reminder of the colonised mindset… of having been a British colony. I am so glad we have finally declared our independence day for the LGBTQ community that includes me. I am part of an informal group called Gay Bombay and we have always provided safe spaces for young gay men where they can talk about their sexuality and come to terms with it and not submit to parental pressure or be part of horrific forced marriages which destroy not only one but two lives forever. So we have tried to help some people… some unfortunately succumb to the pressure of marriage and that is a horrible thing. Now, hopefully, it will become much easier. We may hopefully not need safe spaces but have open spaces where people can talk about sexuality in more open terms. I am really looking forward to a new India.

— As told to FP Staff

Updated Date: Sep 06, 2018 20:11 PM

Krishna As a Girl

krishnafemaleclothes.jpgPublished on 1st September, 2018, in Speaking Tree

Strivesha is a depiction of Krishna as a woman, writes DEVDUTT PATTANAIK, and narrates stories related to the form of Krishna that displays joy and showers affection

Back in the year 2011, I went to an exhibition of Sudarshan Sahoo, master stone carver from Odisha, at Jehangir Art Gallery, and saw an image of Krishna, standing with flute in hand. What caught my eye was the nose-ring worn by Krishna on the right side of the nose. Women traditionally wore it on the left side, and men on the right. I smiled as few notice the right side nose-ring on the face of Jagannath, the form in which Krishna is worshipped in Odisha. Noticing me smile, the sculptor said,“Krishna of the Raas Lila wears everything that women wear. Not just nose-rings but also earrings and a long plait. His eyes are lined with kohl and his feet are painted with alta and made red like a dancer. He is a God who is comfortable in female attire.”

In temples across India, among the many attires of Krishna is one called Strivesha, where he dresses as a woman. Krishna is shown wearing a sari and women’s jewellery. Some identify this as a form of Mohini, the divine enchantress, an avatar of Vishnu and Krishna. Others say this is Krishna dressing up like his mother Yashoda to amuse her. Still, others say this is Krishna being ‘punished’ by the gopikas, cowherd girls.

The story goes that tired of the pranks of Krishna, the women of Gokul once got together and decided to dress him as a girl. The lyrics Nar ko nari banao (make the lad a lass) is a popular Thumri composition. They grab Krishna and make him wear a skirt and blouse and paint his hands and feet with alta.To their surprise, rather than being upset or angry, Krishna participates in the activity.“More jewellery,” he demands,“ and better makeup.”Thus, what begins as a punishment ends up as a joyful activity, a lila, a game.

In another story known as Gore Gvala Ki Lila — the game of the fair cowherd — Radha and Krishna one day exchange each other’s clothes. Krishna dresses up as Radha and Radha dresses up like Krishna. This is done at Radha’s insistence, as she wants to feel like Krishna. But then she realises that even though she wears Krishna’s clothes, her heart is still Radha’s. “O Krishna, you can look like me but you will never know the pain in my heart when we separate.”To remember his beloved Radha, some say, Krishna wears Strivesha.

In still another explanation for Strivesha, it is said that after a night of intimacy, when it was daybreak, Radha and Krishna hurriedly put on their clothes only to find that they had worn the other’s. And everyone in the village wondered who this beautiful, new, dark, milkmaid was and who this handsome new cowherd was.

In Tamil Nadu, among the local transvestites and eunuchs known as Alis, there is the popular story of Aravan, a warrior who had to be sacrificed on the eve of the battle at Kurukshetra. But he did not want to die without a wife who would weep over his dead body. Since no woman wanted to marry him, Krishna turned into Mohini and became his wife, showered him with affection, and wept for him on becoming his widow. This event is enacted each year near Puducherry in the temple of Koothandavar.

The mood that Krishna evokes with this feminine adornment is one of love, affection and play, a breakaway from the rigidity of those who control and comment on society today. Little wonder then that the poet-saint, Tukaram referred to Vithal, Krishna’s form popular in Maharashtra, as Vithaai, Mother Vithal.

9th September, 2018: Talk with Devdutt

GB teams up with author, illustrator, mythologist, Devdutt Pattanaik, for a detailed talk on the Queer in culture and myth.

The scriptures, culture, rituals and lived realities of the Karmic faiths are discussed, with a focus on human sexuality. Apart from this talk on the Queer in Myth, Devdutt shall talk about his interactions with GayBombay.

In keeping with our anniversary month, the floor will be given to a talk about GayBombay and its history.

Date: 9th September 2018

Time: 5pm to 8pm

Venue: Mesa,
Sab TV road,
O Link Road,
Andheri west,
Mumbai 400053

To get google maps to direct you: CLICK HERE

Entry Free
(🔞but GB reserves the right to reserve entry for those who respect the space)

The evening promises to be as exciting as informative, so do come and bring your friends along.
Looking forward to seeing you there 😊

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Call us : +91 98705 04010

29th April, 2018: I Am Divine So Are You (Videos)

GAYBOMBAY conducted the book reading of I AM DIVINE, SO ARE YOU – edited by Jerry Johnson, in collaboration with Devdutt Pattanaik.

At G5A Laxmi Mills Estate, Shakti Mills Lane, on April 29, 2018

I Am Divine,  So Are You, edited by Jerry Johnson, brings in perspectives from the Karmic faiths of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism, which together represent the beliefs of almost a third of the world’s population. For this, Jerry has partnered with many experts and practitioners of the faith, most popular among them being, the celebrated mythologist and author, Devdutt Pattanaik. Among the others are our very own Sachin Jain and Sukhdeep Singh.

The scriptures, culture, rituals and lived realities of the Karmic faiths are discussed, with a focus on how they lend themselves to a recognition and acceptance of fluidity in human sexuality, This is a landmark book as it recasts religion – especially Karmic faiths – as an ally of queer emancipation.

The program also includes, a spectacular ART Presentation by Devdutt and Jerry: A Journey into the Queer Heritage of India. (Based on their book)

The evening was as exciting as informative! Watch for yourself in the videos below!