Pride month: Queer History in India

On the sixth of September 2019, a major barbaric remnant of our colonial past was scrapped off in a good move by the Supreme Court of the country. In Navtej Johar vs. Union of India, the apex court’s verdicts decriminalised all consensual sex among adults which had earlier been deemed as “Against the order of nature” by the British in the Indian Penal code. This primarily meant homosexual sex.

Five years prior to that, in the National Legal Service Authority vs. Union of India, the supreme court has already given a verdict recognising transgender as the third gender, granting them all the fundamental rights and the right of self-identification as either a man, a woman or third gender.

These judgements, and subsequent actions by the government in their compliance, are paving the path for a future where our society treats its LGBTQ+ members more fairly. However, there’s just as much resistance to the change by reactionaries who see it as a degradation of society.

Their central claim is the homosexuality is a western introduction, something that didn’t exist in India before British polluted India’s cultural sensibilities. However, this claim cannot be farther from the truth and stems from nothing but a lack of knowledge about our civilisational history. India, just like any ancient civilisation, has a very rich queer history.

Some of the earliest texts composed in the country, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas, collectively known as Itihasas, are filled with stories of homosexual love and characters that change gender. Some famous exams include Ila, shikhandi, Mohini and the Ashwin Kumars. Later, more practical texts like the Kamasutra has in it the entire ninth chapter devoted to homosexual activities. Outside literary evidence, we also find plenty of archaeological evidence, in the form of rock sculptures at temple sites such as Khajurao.

If we move from ancient to medieval India, we find that the trend continues. The love between Mehmud Ghaznavi, who established the Delhi Sultanate, and his slave Malik Ayaz is widely known and often cited as an example of true love. Babur, the first Mughal emperor also had homosexual feelings and very freely mentions that in his memoirs. Considering that he didn’t fear people’s judgements despite being an emperor tells a lot about homophobia in those times. Another good marker of lack of homophobia was when Aurangzeb had to frame the famous Sufi poet Sarmad, whose love for a Hindu man Abhay Chand was known far and wide, and Aurangzeb couldn’t think of any charges. Speaking of poets, many famous poets of the Urdu language, both men and women, have expressed their love for the same sex between the 17th and 19th century, including Meer, Wali and Rangeen.

Examples like these and several others show that Indian society had a positive view of alternative sexualities and genders. This changed with the coming of the British, whose declaration of it as an “unnatural crime” deeply poisoned our collective consciousness. Therefore, contrary to what the orthodox people of our times believe, it’s not homosexuality and transgenderism which are foreign pollution, instead, homophobia and transphobia are.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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