As far as I have found out, having the operation is the most important aspects of becoming a Hijra officially. There are of course Hijras who have not had the operation, but generally they are either born as a Hijra (either a hermaphrodite or with ‘not perfect’ male genitalia) or will perhaps someday get the operation. The basis of being a Hijra depends on the emasculation of the male, or becoming impotent. Since being a Hijra is comparable feelings wise to being a ‘woman’, meaning that Hijras have feelings for men rather than women.
During my research, which I was doing once again by reading the book by Serena Nanda, I got the ritual operation explained to me, and it, as several other aspects of my research have done, surprised and shocked me. Being from a Western country, namely the United States, it is hard for me to understand people getting things similar to gender reassignment surgery done not in a hospital, or by a licensed medical doctor. Nonetheless, I decided that I was going to understand why the Hijras were willing to get this surgery done by other Hijras.
First off, getting the power to perform the surgery is not an easy process, so not just any Hijra can perform the surgery. Being an Atheist myself, I have never been a big believer in religions, especially when it comes to what I think of as crazy and dangerous rituals. This surgery fits right in with a dangerous ritual, but after reading the book I can understand the religious beliefs of the Hijras better and get some understanding of why they would choose to go to such lengths to receive this operation. In order for the Hijra performing the operation to be able to operate, she first needs to become a ‘dai ma’ which is essentially a midwife. This ‘dai ma’ receives the blessing from a god, the Mata. Once this blessing has been achieved, the Hijra can operate. In order for another Hijra to receive the operation she also needs to get the Mata’s blessing, which can take a long time and several attempts. This blessing is essential to getting the operation because without it, the surgery could kill the Hijra. The entire emasculation process is based very much on religion, something that I will be exploring more in the next blog entry.
1999 The Hijras of India: Neither Man nor Woman. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.