While the Supreme Court recently decriminalised homosexuality and queer sex, there’s still a long way for the community. While the law may be on their side, there’s still a long run for society to open its arms. Nonetheless, this has been a huge step forward, with the law on the side of LGBTQ+. We hope this will make it easier for people to come to terms with the changing mindset.
But, even through years of darkness, there have been people and places that have put effort into making spaces. Spaces safe for the LGBTQ+ community.
From cultural gatherings to film festivals and inclusion awareness, here are the biggest 5 influences that help you celebrate Pride in India:
The Koovagam Festival
The Koovagam Festival is an 18-day-long festival that occurs annually between the months of April and May. Thousands of transgender individuals from across the country meet at the Koothandavar Temple in Tamil Nadu.
The festival is to originate from the story of Aravan, son of Arjun from the Mahabharata. The story states that on the 18th day of war Aravan, also known as Koothandavar, offers himself as a sacrifice to Kali Devi. He does so, so she can aid them in winning the war. His only wish before death was to marry. But no women had shown agreeance to marry him. Thus, Lord Krishna takes the form of Mohini, a female, and marries Aravan for the night.
The Trans-community in India looks at Mohini as the truest embodiment of transgender. Thus the Koovagam festival, all the transgender consider themselves to be brides of Aravan.
Each day there are celebrations, singing and dancing. On the 17th evening, the “brides” marry Aravan by the temple priests. On the 18th day, however, the death of Aravan. We see these same brides break their bangles and mourn for Aravan, their husband.
Beyond the rituals and traditions, the Koovagam festival has become a meeting point for the community. It has become a space of celebration of transgender culture.
There are a multitude of blood donation camps, Swachh Bharat drives and even education and awareness programmes. These include spreading information on issues like STDs, AIDS and proper sexual health.
Queer Chennai Chronicles – Queer LitFest
As part of the Chennai Rainbow Pride Month, the QCC or Queer Chennai Chronicles held a LitFest. It was a gathering of many like minds that brought a variety of perspective on queer literature. The QCC is a one-day festival that comprises of presentations, panel discussions, oration, poetry and reading. It creates a safe space for the discussion of not just queer literature and representation. Furthermore, it gives recognition to the writers and translators. They are often silenced and ignored by the general public. The QCC gives them a place to be heard.
Queer and Allies Art Festival (QAAF)
It was found in 2015 by Mist, an online collective of LGBTQ+ activists. QAAF provides one meeting ground for performers, artists, craftsmen and other creatives. They host a wide range of performances, installations exhibitions and screenings. All of these are present by members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as strong allies. Anyone can register and participate to show their creativity.
“Together, you, me, queer and straight artists alike, can come together in solidarity to dialogue about sexuality, diversity and rights, and your contribution will make this all possible,” their website states.
Nothing says freedom, pride and love than a Pride Parade.
They did start of small with only a few people taking big placards to the streets. However, marches have become significant in number now. They happen in almost every state of India including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Lucknow to name a few.
They witness large amounts of people, completely in-dress with beautiful bright colours, innovative placards and chants. The rainbow truly does look beautiful when it bleeds through the streets. It’s heartwarming to witness children, the youth as well as parents of the LGBTQ+ as allies on the streets. But nothing beats seeing people openly confess their gayness, their pride and love for who they are as they throw the mask and show up in front of their society who they truly are.
Following your local LGBTQ groups on Facebook is the best way to know about any upcoming Pride Marches and events.
KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival
It truly can’t be about Pride and festivals if we don’t have KASHISH on the list. First found in 2010, KASHISH has grown and become the biggest queer festival in India. It is also amongst the Top 5 queer festivals in the world. They showcase the diverse voices, realities and complexities of queer life in India and abroad. From features and short films to documentaries and mainstream films, KASHISH includes them all.
Founder Festival Director Sridhar Rangayan has always championed a celebration of LGBTQ identities and Kashish uses cinema as a means to entertain as much as educate the audience, create change and make us think.
It has become a place for creative freedom and expressions of a community that has sidelined and silenced for a large part of independent India’s history.
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