In Hinduism, homosexuality has never been explicitly outlawed. The legalization of homosexuality has divided Hindu nationalists. Over the last thirty years, homosexuality has been more apparent in print and audio-visual media, with numerous LGBTQIA+ people, an active LGBTQIA+ movement, and a big Indian LGBTQIA+ presence on the Internet. Hinduism’s perspectives on homosexuality and LGBTQIA+ problems in general differ, with many Hindu organisations voicing opposing viewpoints. Several Hindu texts portray homosexual life as normal and joyful; the Kamasutra acknowledges and recognizes same-sex relationships. Many Hindu temples have statues of men and women doing homosexual behaviours. Several Hindu deities are transgender or LGBTQIA+.
From Vedic times to the present, Hinduism has depicted same-sex unions and gender diversity through rituals, legal records, religious or narrative stories, commentaries, paintings, and even sculptures. Even though we’ve already learned about mythological individuals like Ila, Shikhandi, and Brihannala that serve as stand-ins for homosexual groups and stories, we shouldn’t stop there. In Hindu ethics and morality, the concept of sin is essential. Its goal is to promote world order and regularity, Dharma enforcement, and evolution via a corrective and punitive process. Intentional and inadvertent behaviours, as well as neglect and ignorance, can all lead to sin.
We find a story about homosexuality in Hinduism that ranges from Vedic Hinduism to legendary Hinduism to local mythology and supports the idea that homosexuality is not a sin.
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The Vedic Story
A number of deities have been identified as supporters of third-sex or homoerotically inclined people. This assistance might be provided by epic stories about the god, as well as religious rituals and ceremonies. According to Conner and Sparks, Arani, the goddess of fire, love, and sexuality, has been associated with lesbian erotica through rituals in her honor, such as rubbing two pieces of wood considered feminine, known as the adhararani and utararani, together to replicate a spiritual lesbian relationship.
These sticks are also supposed to be the male and female parents of the deity Agni, who is described as a kid of two births, two mothers, and even three mothers in the Rig Veda. Heaven and Earth are the names of his mother. However, in Vedic scriptures, these two are also described as male and female, as Dyaus and Prithvi. The two mothers are also referred to as sisters in the passages. The two sticks, or aranis, used in the ceremony are referred to as feminine. Although gods participate in homosexual or bisexual behavior, such relationships are usually ritualistic in nature and serve goals other than sexual pleasure.
The Story of Agni
Agni, the deity of fire, wealth, and creative activity, had homosexual affairs with other gods. Despite being married to the goddess Svaha, Agni has a same-sex relationship with the moon deity Soma. Mitra and Varuna are depicted in Vedic literature as emblems of manly devotion and personal relationship (the Sanskrit term Mitra meaning “fellow” or “companion”). They can be seen riding sharks or crocodiles with tridents, ropes, conch shells, and water jugs in their hands. They are often shown riding side by side in a golden chariot driven by seven swans. In ancient Brahmana literature, Mitra and Varuna are also related with the two moon phases and same-sex relationships: “Mitra and Varuna, on the other hand, are two half-moons: Varuna is waxing, while Mitra is waning.”
Regional Mythology Angle
The Bengali mythical literature Krittivasa Ramayana contributes the account of two queens who conceived a kid together. When the legendary Sun Dynasty emperor, Maharaja Dilip, died without an heir, the demigods were alarmed. “You two make love, and with my blessings, you will bear a magnificent son,” Shiva reassured the king’s two devastated consorts. Shiva’s instructions are carried out by the two queens, one of whom has a child. According to certain versions of the narrative, when they fall in love, Kamadeva, the deity of love, bestows a child on them. The infant was born without bones, but with the intervention of the sage Ashtavakra, he was able to entirely recover.
The famous Mohini Avataram
In the later, non-Puranic tale of Ayyappa’s birth, Vishnu as Mohini falls pregnant from Shiva and bears Ayyappa, whom she abandons in shame. According to one story, Pandalam’s Pandyan ruler Rajasekhara adopts the infant. In one narrative, Ayyappa is referred to as “ayoni jata,” or “born of a non-vagina,” and later Hariharaputra, “the son of Vishnu and Shiva,” before growing up to become a famous warrior.
According to Tamil versions of the Mahabharata, Krishna, a Vishnu avatar, also took the shape of Mohini and married Aravan. Aravan had accepted to be sacrificed in order for him to taste love before he died. After Aravan died, Krishna mourned in the Mohini form for some time.
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Aravan’s marriage and death are remembered each year in a rite known as Thali, in which Hijra (Indian “third gender”) performers represent Krishna and Mohini and “marry” Aravan in a mass wedding, followed by an 18-day celebration. The event finishes with Aravan’s ritual burial, during which third-gender persons (known locally as hijra) lament in Tamil tradition, hammering their chests in traditional dances, breaking their bangles, and donning white mourning attire. This story is not found in any other versions.
Queer storylines in Hindu literature
According to Goldman, “few societies have given transgenderism as prominent a position in the worlds of mythology and religion as traditional India has.” He stated that many beliefs about gender transition stem from patriarchal societies’ need to regulate women’s sexuality, although many myths “convey a favourable evaluation of women and femininity.” Gender changes can be induced by a god or by the use of magic to deceive others or assist a romantic relationship. Gender can change spontaneously as a result of changes in spiritual or moral character, either in a single life or via reincarnation. In their book Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History, historians Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai collated texts from ancient to modern Indian literature, including Hindu scriptures.