Monday, December 1, 2008


So a few weeks ago in class we watched a film about gender, and it covered Hijras. This was a really fascinating film because it gave me a glimpse at a more modern day Hijra. Just as Serena Nanda explained, there were Hijra “midwives” who performed the operation, although it is now illegal (there are still some clinics that will do it but they are very expensive), and there was a god leading the Hijras. This was where Nanda and the film differed. Nanda said that the Hijras worship Bahuchara Mata, but the film said that it is actually Santoshimata. Both of these gods lead the Hijras, with “Mata” being in both of their names. They are both gods who watch and protect over a Hijra during the operation, and although the first parts of their names differ, they essentially are both the Mother Goddess to the Hijras.

What was most interesting about the film was how they explained the people living in the same cities as the Hijras. Although they are afraid of the Hijras, dislike them, and look down upon them, they also require the Hijras. The Hijras, so they believe, have the power to curse as well as to bless. When a baby is born, or a couple married, they need the blessing of a Hijra. In a society where these women are shunned, they are also needed and depended upon for many things. This was very interesting to me because although they are shunned, go through a long and painful emasculation process and then have almost nothing left in the end except for their Hijra family, they still find work blessing babies or couples, and they are needed for something. I believe that without being needed in this way, the Hijras would be having a much harder time living in India than they do now. Being needed is essential to most people because it allows them to know that even though they may not be the ideal person of their culture, their culture would also not be the same without them. This is how the Hijras live. Without the blessings that they provide they would be forced into even more prostitution and begging than they already do. The Indian societies that they live in depend on the Hijras just as the Hijras depend on the societies.

Works Cited:

Nanda, Serena
1999 The Hijras of India: Neither Man nor Woman. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Film: Antony Thomas Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She (2006).


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