So while reading the book last night, I was tested on all of my beliefs. I’m afraid of surgery enough as it is, but what the Hijras do for their beliefs is incredible. In 9th grade we did a religion unit in Ancient World Cultures, and we talked about ‘nirvana’ being the place that Hindus and Buddhists wanted to reach. Hijras call their emasculation process “nirvan.” This means to be reborn, in their case as a woman. It is a “rite of passage,” which I can understand. This passage takes them from being someone they know they are not to being someone they know they are. The three parts of the rite consist of removing the former being (the actual operation, which as mentioned before can only take place with a blessing), then recovery where the individual is neither a man nor a Hijra, and finally the ceremony where the individual becomes a Hijra with all the Hijra powers. Since I don’t believe in any sort of god, this was at first hard for me to understand, but now I have come to an understanding that goes along with my beliefs.
If I was going to be getting a surgery similar in risk to what the Hijras receive, I would want reassurance from the doctor, my family, and everyone else important to me that everything was going to be ok. Essentially, the Hijras get their reassurance from the god. If they don’t get the reassurance they don’t get the surgery, ensuring for themselves that they will survive. During and after the surgery many more “pujas” which are basically offerings to the god Mata, are made to protect the recipient. The entire ceremony and operation is very religious and ritualistic, which is done for safety and spiritual reasons.
1999 The Hijras of India: Neither Man nor Woman. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.