Empowerment of transvestites on Koovagam fest

NewKerala.com – Papri Sri Raman, Villupuram (Tamil Nadu)

India’s transvestites, who have faced ostracism for centuries, are discovering their identities and potentials and getting to know their rights and social duties in a tiny village festival here in Tamil Nadu.

Since time immemorial, the Aravanis or eunuch-transvestites have been gathering at the ancient temple of the deity Koothandavar in Koovagam village, about 200 km south of Chennai, to perform an annual ritual of wedding and widowhood.

This year the festival or the day of the transvestites fell Tuesday night. They celebrate their special day by meeting friends and family, participating in fashion shows, debates and theatre, telling their life stories, exhibiting their skills and, of course, giving non-profit organisations like the Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative (TAI) a platform to spread awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and the HIV.

For the TAI, the traditional Koovagam festival is becoming the focus of its HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

The celebration night is usually a full moon night in the month of ‘Chithirai’, when Krishna, according to Indian epic Mahabharata, dressed like a woman and married a warrior called Aravan, who died in a battle the following morning.