Legends have it that Bahuchara was born to Charan Bapal and Detha. One day, Bahuchara and her sisters were on a caravan journey. One Bapiya, a marauder attempts to attack them. Traditionally, charan men and women do not surrender when apprehended. They opt to take their own lives as opposed to falling in the hands of the enemy. So Bahuchara and her sisters announce ‘tragu’ then cut off their breasts to bleed to death. In charan belief, shedding the blood of charan was considered heinous sin. Due to this heinous crime, the marauder Bapiya was cursed to lose his manhood and become impotent. He was relieved of the curse much later when he repents. He prays to Bahuchara Mata by dressing and acting like a woman and is forgiven for his sins of indirectly spilling charan blood.
HIJRA COMMUNITY: In Hindu contexts, hijras belong to a special class or caste. They are usually devotees of Mother Goddess Shakti, Bahuchara Mata, Lord Siva or all. It is seen that hijra culture draws upon the traditions of several religions. Mention of the hijras is first made in the Kama Sutras re a third sex – tritiya prakriti. The same sex pair dressed up to appear as male and female for fellatio or cunnilingus. During the colonial era, the hijras were banned and stigmatized as as ‘criminal tribes’ by the occupiers who did not see their backyard of sexual morality. There is an initiation ceremony to be accepted into the hijrah community based on sexual physiology but it is not necessary to get into that, except to say it is called the ‘Niwaan’ ceremony. Now hijras are better protected in the name of civil rights and as god’s children. They are given better preferences in society. They are well organized with adoption programs for their own kind; even to be led by spiritual gurus. Regretfully some of them are also stigmatized as sex-workers for survival.
Hijras have an interesting spiritual backup. Ardhanarisvara, the symbolical merger of Siva and Parvathi, has a special significance in the hijra community. They identify themselves with the gender ambiguity by the Shiva-Parvathi union. Hijras are also said to confer boons. This is from the Ramayana. A devoted crowd follows Rama when he goes into exile. Before he entered the forest, many of them cry. Rama gave a speech and request that ‘men and women’ should return to Ayodya. Fourteen years later, while returning to Ayodya, he finds that the hijras have not left their place as no order was given to them as they were neither men nor women. Lord Rama was pleased with them and gave them the boon to confer blessings.
In South India, hijras claim one Aravan as their progenitor. These group calls themselves the ‘aravanis’. The story in the Mahabaratha is, Ahiravan or Aravan wants to ensure the victory of the Pandavas so he intends to give his lifeless body to Goddess Kali. That is a noble cause indeed. The Pandavas on the quiet want that too as sacrifice in the warfront was not uncommon. But Ahiravan also had a dream of getting married and enjoying sexual pleasures before giving his life for the Pandava cause. That seemed to be a fair wish but who would want a defective man in bed, more so when he was going to die? The clock was ticking in the Krukshetra.
So Lord Krishna manifests as Mohini, marries him, stays with him for few days until all human frailties are exhausted and Kama’s arrows are broken! Poor fellow, he did not know that his condition precedent was spent with an illusion! Later Aravan is venerated as Lord Aravan in his own right. In Aravan ceremonies, the entire Mahabaratha saga is reenacted in ritualistic dance and singing. In parts of Tamil Nadu, Aravan festival highlight is the breaking of bangles which is symbolic of the death of a husband. In the South, Goddess Renuka is also said to patronize the transgender. Here male devotees known as 'jogappa' dress like women to sing and dance. They are popular troupes during wedding ceremonies.
DEPICTION: Bahuchara Mata is depicted to hold a sword on her top right and a text of scriptures on her top left hand. The bottom right hand symbolizes the abhay hasta mudra or showering of blessings. She holds a Trishula or trident by her bottom left hand. The Mata wears a prominently ornamented crown. Her nose ring is circular and earrings are of the south-Indian thonggattan kundalas. Mata is heavily jeweled. An extended garland adorns her red saree-clad body. Pictorial depictions show her in a natural environment with flora and fauna.
VAHANA: Her vahana is the rooster, a territorial bird that proclaims it’s area by its crowing. Thus it heralds each dawn with a call to wake and arise. It also symbolizes innocence, imminence of spiritual unfoldment and wisdom. Incidentally the rooster is also depicted as ‘Seval’ in Lord Skanda’s battle flag. In many mythologies, rooster are seen as the intermediary of communication between gods and man. In Hindu ritualistic worship, spilling rooster blood is common among ‘Theyyam’ cults. Theyyam dance is traced to the sage Parasurama. In lighter vein, roosters symbolize undisciplined romantic fellows with no inking whatsoever about being monogamous.
SRI CHAKRA AND KUNDALINI: There is another version that states that her vehicle is ‘Kurkut’ the sepent with two mouths. This is an attempt to link Goddess Bahuchari to Sri Chakra and kundalini. Bahucharaji is said to be seated on low end of the spine and other end goes to Sahastrar, which means that Bahucharaji is the goddess of starting the awakening of kundlini which eventually leads the liberation or moksha. Thus she is claimed to be a manifestation of Goddess Durga and that her name in Tantrism is Bala Tripurasundari. The Bala here is said to bestow Virya or semen to man in Tantric worship. Impotent men are said to embark these prayers for abhaya, varad and vidhya, their desired boons and wealth as well. Her Yantra has Nine triangles symbolising that she is Durga. It would be interesting to know if there are verifiable scriptural writings to this effect.
MYTHOLOGY: (1) A king prostrates before Bahuchara Mata for the boon of an offspring. He gets a son. But the prince Jeta was impotent. The Goddess appears in his dreams to order that he cut of his genitals and wear women’s clothes. Thereafter he is to devote his life as her servant. The Goddess also identifies all impotent men in the region to chop off as well. Punishment for breaching this would be seven generations of impotency. This saga is said to have brought about the cult of Bahuchara Mata, whose devotees are required to self-castrate and remain celibate.
(2) In another intriguing myth associated with Bahuchara Mata. The goddess was once a princess with a deviant behavior husband. Now, he never comes to the bridal bed but prefers disappearing in the jungle where he ‘behaves like a woman.’ Well he undergoes punishment by castration!
(3) In another version, a man who attempted to molest Bahuchara Mata. He was cursed with impotence. As usual, he was forgiven when he agreed to ‘drop’ his masculinity, dressed as a woman, and worshipped the goddess. Footnote: One is reminded that in generality, folklore, defies ordinary rules of story- telling.
BAHUCHARA MATA TEMPLE: Said to be constructed in 1783 AD, the temple of Bahuchara Mata with its stone decorations, is located in Bechraji town in Mehsana district of Gujarat, India. The origin of Bahuchra Mata is situated at Varakhdiwala temple in Bechraji. There is another, the Toda Mata temple in Sankhalpur which is two kilometers away. Among the three Shakti Peeths in Gujarat , the Goddess is worshipped as Bala at Bahucharaji, as Ambika at Ambaji and as Kalika Mother at Pavagdah. At Bahucharaji, Mataji is residing as a young girl.
(Chp: draft Gods and Goddesses)
By Yogi Ananda Saraswati