LGBT issues and Hinduism

LGBT issues and Hinduism

Hindu views of homosexuality and, in general, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues, are diverse. Same-sex relations and gender variance have been represented within Hinduism from Vedic times through to the present day, in rituals, law books, religious or so-called mythical narratives, commentaries, paintings, and sculpture. The extent to which these representations embrace or reject homosexuality has been disputed within the religion as well as outside of it.

Contemporary Hindu society

Sexuality is rarely discussed openly in contemporary Hindu society, expecially in modern India where sex between men is illegal, due to colonial British laws. [From section 377 of the Indian Penal Code: "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."] However, the Indian government has confirmed it does not support the prosecution of homosexuals and despite the penal code, has stated that this is outdated and there have been no convictions for many years.

Professor of women's studies and world religions Paola Bacchetta argues that "queerphobia is one of the pillars of Hindu nationalism". [Bacchetta, Paola (1999). "When the (Hindu) Nation Exiles Its Queers", Social Text, No. 61 (Winter, 1999), pp. 141-166] However, in the last twenty years homosexuality has become increasingly visible in the print and audio-visual media, with many out LGBT people, an active LGBT movement, and a large Indian LGBT presence on the Internet. From the 1990s onward, modern gay and lesbian Hindu organizations have surfaced in India's major cities and in 2004, plausible calls were made for the first time to repeal India's outdated and nontraditional laws against homosexuality.

Deepa Mehta's 1996 film "Fire", which depicts a romantic relationship between two Hindu women, was informally banned for "religious insensitivity" [ [ Entry on the movie "Fire"] , from IMDB (Internet Movie Database). Accessed on August 9, 2006.] after Hindu Nationalists attacked cinemas where it was being screened on the grounds that it denigrated Indian culture, not on the grounds of homophobia per se,a position shared and confirmed by feminist Madhu Kishwar [] .In addition, The Bharatiya Janata Party (Hindu Nationalist Party) who were in power in India at the time, refused to ban it. Similar protests occurred in 2004 against the lesbian-themed film "Girlfriend" — even though the portrayal of lesbianism was this time distinctly unsympathetic. [ [ 'Girlfriend' causes India storm] , by Jayshree Bajoria, correspondent in Bombay for BBC News.
See also: [ Lesbian-Themed Bollywood Films Provoke Violence, Dialogue] , by Sarah Warn, June 2004, for
] Several human-rights groups such as the People's Union for Civil Liberties have asserted that sexual minorities in India face severe discrimination and violence, especially those from rural and lower caste backgrounds. [People's Union of Civil Liberties [ reports on sexual minorities] ] Hijras and other third-gender groups are similarly oppressed in modern-day India, forced to live on the margins of society.

Most modern Hindus reject homosexuality on the basis that Hindu dharma generally requires men and women to marry and produce progeny.Fact|date=September 2007 Not all Hindus are aware of or believe that some persons (often known as the "third sex" or "third gender") are not advised to marry the opposite sex or beget children according to their own nature. Men that are too effeminate or transgendered to marry women are often rejected by their families and forced to join third-gender groups such as the "hijra". Increasingly, LGBT people are "coming out" to parents and communities, and receiving widely varying degrees of support.

In her book, "Love's Rite", [Vanita, Ruth. Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India, 2005.] Ruth Vanita examines the phenomena of same-sex weddings, many by Hindu rites, which have been reported by the Indian press over the last thirty years and with increasing frequency. In the same period, same-sex joint suicides have also been reported. Most of these marriages and suicides are by lower middle-class female couples from small towns and rural areas across the country; these women have no contact with any LGBT movements. Both cross-sex and same-sex couples, when faced with family opposition, tend to resort to either elopement and marriage or to joint suicide in the hope of reunion in the next life. Vanita examines how Hindu doctrines such as rebirth and the genderlessness of the soul are often interpreted to legitimize socially disapproved relationships, including same-sex ones. In a 2004 survey, most — though not all — swamis said they opposed the concept of a Hindu-sanctified gay marriage. [ [ Discussions on Dharma] , by Rajiv Malik, in Hinduism Today. October/November/December 2004.] But several Hindu priests have performed same-sex marriages, arguing that love is the result of attachments from previous births and that marriage, as a union of spirit, is transcendental to gender.Fact|date=August 2008

Many Indian and Hindu intellectuals now publicly support LGBT civil rights. Some liberal Hindu reform movements, especially those in the West, also support social acceptance of gays, lesbians and other gender minorities. Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar writes that Hindus are more accepting of "deviance or eccentricity" than are adherents of Western religions, who typically treat sexual variance as "anti-social or psychopathological, requiring 'correction' or 'cure'". [Kakar, Sundir (1981). "The Inner World: A Psycho-analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India." Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 39] Hindus, he argues, believe instead that each individual must fulfil their personal destiny ("svadharma") as they travel the path towards moksha (transcendence).

The Hindu Third Sex

Hindu philosophy has the concept of a third sex or third gender ("tritiya-prakriti" - literally, "third nature"). This category includes a wide range of people with mixed male and female natures such as transgenders, homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals, the intersexed, and so on. [Pattanaik, Devdutt. "The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore" (p. 10). Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002.] Such persons are not considered fully male or female in traditional Hinduism, being a combination of both. They are mentioned as third sex by nature (birth) [Buhler,G., trans. "The Laws of Manu" (3.49). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001.] and are not expected to behave like ordinary men and women. They often keep their own societies or town quarters, perform specific occupations (such as masseurs, hairdressers, flower-sellers, domestic servants, etc.) and are generally attributed a semi-divine status. Their participation in religious ceremonies, especially as crossdressing dancers and devotees of certain temple gods/goddesses, is considered auspicious in traditional Hinduism. Some Hindus believe that third-sex people have special powers allowing them to bless or curse others. In Hinduism, the universal creation is honored as unlimitedly diverse and the recognition of a third sex is simply one more aspect of this understanding. [Wilhelm, Amara Das. "Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex" (p. 6). Philadelphia: Xlibris Corporation, 2003.]

Hindu religious narratives

In the Hindu narrative tradition, stories of gods and mortals changing gender occur. [ [Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, Same-Sex Love in India, 2000, first section, sections 1 and 2, "Ancient Indian Materials" and "Medieval Materials in the Sanskritic Tradition" ; O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger (1980). "Women, Androgynes, and Other Mystical Beasts." Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 302-4
Thadani, Giti (1996). "Sakhiyani: Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India." London: Cassell. p. 65
Pattanaik, Devdutt (2002). "The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore", Haworth Press, ISBN 1-56023-181-5
] Sometimes they also engage in sexual activities as different genders. Homosexual and transgender Hindus commonly identify with and worship the various Hindu deities connected with gender diversity such as Ardhanarisvara (the hermaphrodite form of Shiva); Aravan (a hero whom Krishna married after becoming a woman); Ayyappa (a god born from the union of Shiva and Mohini, a female incarnation of Vishnu); Bahuchara-devi (a goddess connected with transsexuality and eunuchism); Bhagavati-devi (a Hindu goddess associated with crossdressing); Bhagiratha Maharaja (an Indian king born of two female parents); Caitanya Mahaprabhu (an incarnation of Radha and Krishna combined); Chandi-Chamunda (twin warrior goddesses); Gadadhara (an incarnation of Radha in male form); Ganesha (the elephant-headed god); Gangamma-devi (a goddess connected with crossdressing and disguises); Harihara (Shiva and Vishnu combined); Kartikeya; Vallabhavardhana, Yellamma-devi and countless others. [For a complete description of twenty-nine of the most gender-variant Hindu deities, see Part One, Chapter Three of Wilhelm's "Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex".] There are also specific festivals connected to the worship of such gender-variant deities, some of which are famous in India for their crossdressing devotees and homosexual undertones. These festivals include the Aravan Festival of Tamil Nadu, the Ayyappa and Chamaya-Villaku Festivals of Kerala, the Bahucara-mata Festivals of Gujarat and the Yellamma-devi Festivals of Karnataka, among others.


In the Mahabharata, as the result of a curse he was compelled to honor, the hero Arjuna takes a "vow of eunuchism," that is, to live as the third sex for a year: "O lord of the Earth, I will declare myself as one of the "neuter" sex. O monarch, it is, indeed difficult to hide the marks of the bowstring on my arms. I will, however, cover both my cicatrized arms with bangles. Wearing brilliant rings on my ears and conch-bangles on my wrists and causing a braid to hang down from my head, I shall, O king, appear as one of the third sex, Vrihannala by name." [ [ Mahabharata (Virata-parva)] , book 2, translated by Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. Project Gutenberg.]

Another important character, Sikhandi, is born female, but raised as a boy. Sihkandi's father, King Drupada, had begged the god Mahadeva to give him a son, to which Mahadeva replied: "Thou shalt have a child who will be a female and male. Desist, O king, it will not be otherwise." When Sikhandi comes of age and marries, Sikhandi's wife "soon came to know that [Sikhandi] was a woman like herself." Fleeing from the unnamed wife's enraged father, Sikhandi encounters a male Yaksha (nature spirit) in the forest, and they agree to swap sexes. Now in a male body, Sikhandi proves to his father-in-law that he is truly male, after the latter sends "a number of young ladies of great beauty" to Sikhandi to test him. They report back that he is "a powerful person of the masculine sex," and Sikhandi becomes a skilled and famous warrior, playing a pivotal role in the war. [Mahabharata, book 5, Chapter 191-5.]


In some versions of the Krittivasa Ramayana, the most popular Bengali text on the pastimes of Lord Ramachandra (an incarnation of Vishnu), there is an interesting narrative of two queens that conceived a child together. When the famous king of the Sun Dynasty, Maharaja Dilipa, died, the demigods become concerned that he did not have a son to continue his line. Lord Shiva therefore appeared before the king's two widowed queens and commanded them, "You two make love together and by my blessings you will bear a beautiful son." The two wives, with great affection for each other, executed Shiva's order until one of them conceived a child. Unfortunately, however, the child was born boneless, but by the blessings of a sage, Astavakra, the child was restored to full health and continued the dynasty. Astavakra accordingly named the child "Bhagiratha" - he who was born from two vulvas ("bhaga"). Bhagiratha later became one of the most famous kings of India and is credited with bringing the Ganges River down to earth through his austerities. [Vanita, Ruth and Saleem Kidwai. "Same-Sex Love in India: Reading From Literature and History", pp. 100-102. New York, NY: Palgrave, 2001. For more details on other versions of this story, see Chapter Six of "Love's Rite", by the same author.]

Hindu texts

Hindus have many sacred texts and different communities give special importance to different texts. Even more so than in other religions, Hindus also foster disparate interpretations of the meaning of various texts. The Vedas, which form the foundation of Hinduism for many, do not refer explicitly to homosexuality. People of a third gender ("tritiya-prakriti"), not fully men nor women, are mentioned here and there throughout Hindu texts such as the Puranas but are not specifically defined. In general they are portrayed as effeminate men, often cowardly, and with no desire for women. Modern readers often draw parallels between these and modern stereotypes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sexual identities.

Historians Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, in their pioneering book, "Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History", for the first time compiled extracts from Indian texts, from ancient to modern times, including many Hindu texts, translated from 15 Indian languages. In their accompanying analytical essays, they also demonstrated that Hindu texts have discussed and debated same-sex desire from the earliest times, in tones ranging from critical to non-judgmental to playful and celebratory.

Historian Devdutt Pattanaik summarizes the place of homosexuality in Hindu literature as follows: "though not part of the mainstream, its existence was acknowledged but not approved."Pattanaik, Devdutt (2001). "Homosexuality in Ancient India", Debonair 2000 or 2001. Essay available [ online] from] Other Indologists assert that homosexuality was not approved for brahmanas or the twice-born but accepted among the lower classes.

In his book, "Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex", Vaishnava monk Amara Das Wilhelm demonstrates how ancient expressions of Hinduism accommodated homosexual and transgender persons much more positively than we see in India today: "Early Vedic teachings stressed responsible family life and asceticism but also tolerated different types of sexualities within general society." [Wilhelm, Amara Das. "Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex", p. 131. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2003.]

Manu Smriti

The Manu Smriti, an important Hindu law code probably compiled between 200 BCE and 200 CE, prescribes punishments for certain instances of male and female homosexuality. If a "stri" [adult woman] was found having sexual relations with a "kanya" [unmarried girl] , for instance, her "head should be shaved immediately or two of her fingers should be cut off, and she should be made to ride on a donkey." [Manu Smriti chapter 8, verse 370. [ Text online] .] If two "kanya" have sex, each "must be fined two hundred (panas), pay the double of her (nuptial) fee, and receive ten (lashes with a) rod." [Manu Smriti chapter 8, verse 369. [ Text online] .]

Vanita states in her introduction to "Love's Rite", the concern here is not with the gender of the partners but the loss of virginity - the same punishment of cutting off two fingers is applied to men who violate unmarried girls, and that there is no prescribed punishment for sexual relations between non-virgin women.

For Brahmanas and twice-born men, "causing an injury to a priest, smelling wine or things that are not to be smelled, crookedness, and sexual union with a man are traditionally said to cause loss of caste" [Manu Smriti chapter 11, verse 68. [ Text online] .] In the same chapter, the atonement for twice-born men is a ritual bath: "A twice-born man who has intercourse with a male, or with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in the day-time, shall bathe, dressed in his clothes." [Manu Smriti chapter 11, verse 175. [ Text online] .] Here again, it can be noticed that the proscriptions are specifically for brahmana and twice-born males; there is no mention in the Manu Smriti of punishment for homosexual behavior between males of the other classes.

The majority of sexual matters dealt with by the law books are heterosexual in nature, and the punishments prescribed for heterosexual transgressions are often more severe. For example, "A man who is not a Brahmana ought to suffer death for adultery ("samgrahana")" (2.8.359).

The Manu Smriti also notes the biological origins of a third gender: "A male child is produced by a greater quantity of male seed, a female child by the prevalence of the female; if both are equal, a third-sex child ["napumsaka"] or boy and girl twins are produced; if either are weak or deficient in quantity, a failure of conception results." (MS 3.49)

Narada Smriti

The Narada Smriti, written around 400 CE, forbids the marriage of homosexual men ("mukhebhaga" - men who perform oral sex on other men) to women: "These four ["irsyaka", "sevyaka", "vataretas", and "mukhebhaga"] are to be completely rejected as unqualified for marriage, even for a woman who has been raped." (NS 1.12.15) [Lariviere. "Naradasmriti, (Part One)". Philadelphia, 1989.]

The Narada Smriti also lists fourteen different types of "panda" or men who are impotent with women (see below).

Kama Sutra

The Kama Sutra is an ancient text dealing with "kama" or desire (of all kinds), which in Hindu thought is one of the four normative goals of life. The Kama Sutra is the earliest extant and most important work in the Kama Shastra tradition of Sanskrit literature. It was compiled by the philosopher Vatsyayana around the 4th century, from earlier texts, and describes homosexual practices in several places, as well as a range of sex/gender 'types'.

The author describes techniques by which masculine and feminine types of the third sex ("tritiya-prakriti"), as well as women, perform fellatio. [Danielou, Alain. "The Complete Kama Sutra", Part Two, Chapter Nine, entitled "Superior Coition or Fellation ["Auparishtaka"] . Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1994.] The Second Part, Ninth Chapter of Kama Sutra specifically describes two kinds of men that we would recognize today as masculine- and feminine-type homosexuals but which are mentioned in older, Victorian British translations as simply "eunuchs." [Kama Sutra, Chapter 9, "Of the Auparishtaka or Mouth Congress". [ Text online] (Richard Burton 1883 translation).] The chapter describes their appearances - feminine types dressed up as women whereas masculine types maintained muscular physiques and grew small beards, moustaches, etc. - and their various professions as masseurs, barbers and prostitutes are all described. Such homosexual men were also known to marry, according to the Kama Sutra: "There are also third-sex citizens, sometimes greatly attached to one another and with complete faith in one another, who get married together." (KS 2.9.36). In the "Jayamangala" of Yashodhara, an important twelfth-century commentary on the Kama Sutra, it is also stated: "Citizens with this kind of [homosexual] inclination, who renounce women and can do without them willingly because they love one another, get married together, bound by a deep and trusting friendship." [Danielou, Alain. "The Complete Kama Sutra". Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1994.]

After describing fellatio as performed between men of the third sex, the Kama Sutra then mentions the practice as an act between men and women, wherein it is mostly scorned, especially for brahmanas. (KS 2.9.37)

The Kama Sutra also refers to "svairini", who are "independent women who frequent their own kind or others" (2.8.26) — or, in another passage: "the liberated woman, or "svairini", is one who refuses a husband and has relations in her own home or in other houses" (6.6.50). In a famous commentary on the Kama Sutra from the 12th century, the Jayamangala, explains: "A woman known for her independence, with no sexual bars, and acting as she wishes, is called "svairini". She makes love with her own kind. She strokes her partner at the point of union, which she kisses." ("Jayamangala" on Kama Sutra 2.8.13). The various practices of lesbians are described in detail within the Second Part, Eighth Chapter of the Kama Sutra.Fact|date=September 2008


There are other ancient Hindu/Sanskrit texts that refer to homosexuality. The Sushruta Samhita, for example, a highly-respected Hindu medical text dating back to at least 600 B.C., mentions two different types of homosexual men ("kumbhika" - men who take the passive role in anal sex; and "asekya" - men who devour the semen of other men) as well as transgenders ("sandha" - men with the qualities, behavior and speech of women). It also states that men who behave like women, or women who behave like men, are determined as such at the time of their conception in the womb. (SS 3.2.42-43) [Wilhelm, Amara Das. "Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex", pp. 267, 334. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2003.] The Sushruta Samhita also mentions the possibility of two women uniting and becoming pregnant as a result of the mingling of their sexual fluids. It states that the child born of such a union will be "boneless." Such a birth is indeed described in the "Krittivasa" Ramayana of South India (see below).

Other texts list the various types of men who are impotent with women (known in Sanskrit as "sandha", "kliba", "napumsaka", and "panda"). The "Sabda-kalpa-druma" Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, for instance, lists twenty types, as does the "Kamatantra" and "Smriti-Ratnavali" of Vacaspati (14th century). The Narada Smriti similarly lists fourteen different types. Included among the lists are transgenders ("sandha"), the intersexed ("nisarga"), and three different types of homosexual men ("mukhebhaga", "kumbhika" and "asekya"). Such texts demonstrate that third-sex terms like "sandha" and "napumsaka" actually refer to many different types of "men who are impotent with women," and that simplistic definitions such as "eunuch" or "neuter" may not always be accurate and in some cases totally incorrect. In his article "Homosexuality and Hinduism", Arvind Sharma expresses his doubt over the common English translation of words like "kliba" into "eunuch" as follows: "The limited practice of castration in India raises another point significant for the rest of the discussion, namely, whether rendering a word such as "kliba" as "eunuch" regularly is correct..." [Sharma, Arvind. "Homosexuality and Hinduism" (as part of "Homosexuality and World Religions"). Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International.]

Third-gender sects in modern Hinduism

Below are listed some of the most common third-gender sects found in Hinduism. There are an estimated half million crossdressing "eunuchs" in modern-day India, associated with various sects, temples and Hindu deities. [Wilhelm, Amara Das. "Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex", p. 346. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2003] Despite being called "eunuchs", the majority of these persons (91%) do not practice castration but are more accurately associated with transgender (i.e., crossdressing) and/or homosexual behavior. In modern times, many Hindus scorn and ridicule people of the third genderFact|date=May 2008

The Aravani or Ali

The most numerous third-gender sect (estimated at 150,000) is the "aravani" or "ali" of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The "aravanis" are typically transgender and their main festival, the popular Koovagam or Aravan Festival celebrated in late April/early May, is attended by thousands - including many feminine- and masculine-type homosexuals. The "aravani" worship the Hindu god, Aravan, and do not practice any system of castration.

The news by Pushpa Narayan | TNN published on the front page of THE TIMES OF INDIA, March 16, 2008, under the heading: "Third sex is official in Tamil Nadu", subtitle: "Karuna Govt First In Country To Issue Ration Cards To Transgender tells about the first trend setting step taken in India where the third gender is officially recognized by the government of Tamil Nadu. Ration Card is the primary definitive proof of identity for citizens in India. No sooner than the first batch of 18 applications were cleared, that too, in less than a day, applications to seek identity as "Third Gender" marked in the sex column as 'T', distinct from the usual 'M' and 'F' have started pouring in. In Tamil Nadu alone 40,000 "Aravanis" vernacular for transgender are estimated to benefit by this move implemented under the leadership of social welfare minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a gynecologist.

The Hijra

The most well-known third-gender group in India is perhaps the "hijra" of northern India. The "hijra" is the only sect that practices castration, a custom introduced during Muslim rule around the tenth century A.D. (Most Hindus do not consider male castration a traditional Hindu practice.Fact|date=May 2008) There are an estimated 50,000 "hijra" in northern India and they are well-known for their crossdressing and homosexuality. After interviewing and studying the "hijra" for many years, Serena Nanda writes in her book, "Neither Man Nor Woman: The Hijras of India", as follows: "There is a widespread belief in India that "hijras" are born hermaphrodites [intersexed] and are taken away by the "hijra" community at birth or in childhood, but I found no evidence to support this belief among the "hijras" I met, all of whom joined the community voluntarily, often in their teens." [Nanda, Serena. Neither Man Nor Woman: The Hijras of India, p. xx. Canada: Wadworth Publishing Company, 1999] Nanda also states: "There is absolutely no question that at least some "hijras" - pehaps even the majority - are homosexual prostitutes. Sinha's (1967) study of "hijras" in Lucknow, in North India, acknowledges the "hijra" role as performers, but views the major motivation for recruitment to the "hijra" community as the satisfaction of the individual's homosexual urges..." [Ibid, p. 10] The "hijras" especially worship Bahuchara-devi, the Hindu demigoddess presiding over male castration and transsexuality.

The Jogappa

A lesser-known third-gender sect in India is the "jogappa" of South India (Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh), a group similarly associated with crossdressing, homosexuality and male prostitution. The "jogappa" are connected with Yellamma-devi, a popular Hindu deity of Durga, and include both feminine transgenders dressed as women as well as masculine types. Both serve as dancers and male prostitutes, and they are usually in charge of the temple "devadasis" (maidservants of the goddess who similarly serve as dancers and female courtesans). Large festivals are celebrated at these temples wherein hundreds of scantily-clad "devadasis" and crossdressing "jogappas" parade through the streets. The "jogappa" do not practice castration. [Wilhelm, Amara Das. Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex, pp. 77-78. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2003.]

The Sakhi-Bekhi

The "sakhi-bekhis" are prominent throughout Bengal, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh although their numbers have diminished in recent years. Members of this sect typically dress themselves as women in order to reinforce their identity as "sakhis" or girlfriends of Krishna and to attain the esteemed spiritual emotion known as "sakhi-bhava". Such men are not always transgender or homosexual but in many cases they are. In modern times, the "sakhi-bekhi" sect was condemned as "sahajiya" (unauthentic) when some members began making public shows of their romantic feelings for Krishna while at the same time having illicit relations with "cudadharis" (men dressed up as Krishna with a crown of peacock feathers). Nowadays, most "sakhi-bekhis" crossdress in private and are less conspicuous. They generally worship Sri Radha, the consort of Lord Krishna, although some specifically worship Lord Caitanya (the incarnation of Radha and Krishna combined) and are known as "gauranga-nagaris". Neither group practices castration. [Ibid, p. 51.]

Religious art

Medieval Hindu temples such as those at Khajuraho depict sexual acts in sculptures on the external walls. The meaning of the erotic images is disputed. Some of these scenes involve same-sex sexuality:

* An orgiastic group of three women and one man, on the southern wall of the Kandariya Mahadeva temple in Khajuraho. One of the women is caressing another.

* A similar group, also on the southern wall, shows a woman facing the viewer, standing on her head, apparently engaged in intercourse, although her partner is facing away from the viewer and their gender cannot be determined. She is held by two female attendants on either side and reaches out to touch one of them in her pubic area.

* Also at Khajuraho, a relief of two women embracing one another.

* At the Lakshmana temple in Khajuraho (954 CE), a man receives fellatio from a seated male as part of an orgiastic scene.

* At the Shiva temple at Ambernath, constructed in 1060 CE, a badly weathered relief suggests an erotic interest between two women.

* At the Rhajarani Temple in Bhuveshvar, Orissa, dating from the 10th or 11th century, a sculpture depicts two women engaged in oral sex.

* A 12th century Shiva temple in Bagali, Karnataka depicts a scene of apparent oral sex between two males on a sculpture below the sikhara.

* At Padhavli near Gwalior, a ruined temple from the 10th century shows a man within an orgiastic group receiving fellatio from another male.

An 11th century lifesize sandstone sculpture from Orissa, now in the Seattle Art Museum, shows Kama, god of love, shooting an arrow at two women who are embracing one another.

See also

* Homosexuality in India
* LGBT issues and the Hare Krishna movement
* Non-westernized concepts of male sexuality


Further reading

*"Gandhi's Tiger and Sita's Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Culture" by Ruth Vanita. Yoda Press, 2005.
*"Homosexuality and World Religions" by Arlene Swidler. Trinity Press International.
*"Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India" and the West by Ruth Vanita. Penguin Books India, 2005.
*"Neither Man Nor Woman: The Hijras of India" by Serena Nanda. Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1999.
*"Same-Sex Love In India: Readings from Literature and History" by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai. Palgrave, 2001.
*"The Complete Kama Sutra" by Alain Danielou. Park Street Press, 1994.
*"The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore" by Devdutt Pattanaik. Harrington Park Press, 2002.
*"Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History" by Gilbert Herdt. Zone Books, 1993.
*"Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex" - Understanding Homosexuality, Transgender Identity, and Intersex Conditions Through Hinduism - by Amara Das Wilhelm. Xlibris Corporation, 2003.

External links

* [ The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association] - Information on Vaishnavas and Hindus.

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