In a major landmark, priests will conduct post death rituals of transgenders. What a great initiative towards including them in them in the mainstream society.
The Indian society’s mindset is broadening and its growing inclusiveness of erstwhile neglected groups of people into the mainstream society is indeed a sign towards progress. Kinnar Akhara, a pro-transgenders organization has decided to conduct post death rituals for all the transgenders who have passed away in the recent years. The ceremony will be held in Varanasi, on the banks of the river Ganges.
The ritual of Pind Daan in Hinduism is said to free the souls of our loved ones from the circle of life and death. The Pind Daan for the deceased transgenders will be organized on September 24th after the advent of the Pitra Paksha–the period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors. A group of Hindu priests and other saints will attend the ceremony.
Irrespective of their religion, transgenders are generally buried. The burial process takes place in distant areas, instead of actual graveyards. Many Hindu priests decline to perform their post death rites and hence the annual shraddh ceremony, doesn’t take place for deceased transgenders. The Pind Daan gesture will hence act as a milestone towards accepting them in the mainstream society. According to the supervisor priest for the ceremony, Acharya Badri Narayan, “This is a major landmark and also proof of the fact that times are changing. Transgenders are human beings and have the right to all rituals. This will also help in bringing them into the social mainstream.”
According to the 2011 Census in India, India has around 6 lakhs transgendered people currently. Transgenders have been treated with disrespect and disgust in the Indian society for a long time. With a lack of opportunities for education and employment, most are left with few options than to beg on the streets. However, our society has started taking baby steps towards the improvement of the situation.
In a step forward towards the empowerment of the transgenders, last month, the Union Cabinet had approved the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016. This includes strict punishments including imprisonment for offences against them. This law will dissuade people from acts including forcing transgenders to leave their residences, treating them without dignity like removing their clothes, or coercing them to beg or engage in other forms of bonded labor. Though there have been criticisms that the Bill doesn’t make a provision for jobs or education for them, however, we can hope that this Bill marks a beginning towards further improvements of the transgender community’s betterment.
There are success stories of people such as Akkai Padmashali and Shanthi Sonu who rose against the stigma of being transgenders in the Indian society to shine and prove their mettle. However, the number of such stories are sadly very low and the community at large is still being subjected to indignity and ill-treatment.
Along with the society, I feel that all of us individually should take the pledge to remove our existing biases against people of different sexual orientation.
I still remember, when I was in college, one of my friends made a rude remark after a transgendered person approached us for money. I told her that they had no other choice other than begging, to which she replied, “I don’t know, I just don’t like their disturbing nature.”
The problem with most of the society is similar to what my friend expressed. We are quick to point fingers at things that disturb us instead of trying to find the reason behind the situation or better still, trying to address it in our own small ways. I then told her about my experiences with transgenders which though limited, helped me understand them better instead of loathing them without any logical reasoning.
I once had the opportunity to interact with transgenders and they spoke about the horrible way they are treated by society and how everyone in the so-called ‘normal’ world avoids them.
Till this day, I always try my best to smile at them whenever I see them at traffic signals. I can see the genuine happiness their face exudes to see someone not giving the usual knee- jerk reaction of just turning away. Start with a smile towards one such person, and see how far we can go towards the creation of a truly compassionate society where every individual is treated with dignity and offered a fair chance towards a fulfilling life.
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