Dance, music & claps at Bhopal love parade

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By RASHEED KIDWAI
  • Published 4.09.04
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Hundreds of onlookers clapped along as Kareena, Mallika, Neha, Madhuri, Nigar and others swung their hips lustily in what is being touted as Bhopal’s answer to the famous love parades of Rio, Berlin, San Francisco and Tel Aviv.

But those moving along the Madhya Pradesh capital’s narrow lanes and bylanes were not Bollywood starlets or the latest icon of Hindi pop. Instead, those lapping up the attention were eunuchs celebrating their annual festival.

Hundreds of eunuchs gathered in Bhopal on Thursday to celebrate the annual “kajaria” festival to mark the climax of the monsoon. Playing loud music, making suggestive gestures and exchanging bawdy jokes with bystanders, they moved through all of old Bhopal to pray for mankind at the ancient Gupha mandir (cave temple).

Mallika said her fellow eunuchs had a broader objective behind their riotous exuberance. “For the last 50 years or so, we have been praying for good rains, harvest, communal amity and world peace. As members of the ‘third sex’, we are closer to God,” she said.

The carnival attracted a number of participants. Sweet shop owners distributed laddoos free while some handed out sherbet and soft drinks along a four-km stretch.

Most eunuchs were dressed for the occasion: some wore lehengas with backless cholis while others preferred short skirts or t-shirts and jeans.

At Pir Gate in the heart of the town, traffic came to a standstill when the revellers passed by at noon. Youngsters gaped at Nigar, barely 20, who looks somewhat like her namesake who features in the Chadti Jawani remix number and reportedly appeared topless in the Norwegian magazine VI Menn. The original Nigar recently courted more controversy, appearing in publicity stills of the film Hello... Kaun Hai with just a few flower petals to save her blushes.

Madhya Pradesh is an important destination for India’s eunuchs, estimated at one million. Until recently, the state had a eunuch, Shabnam Mausi, as an MLA and still has some serving as mayors and corporators.

Most of them choose to become hijras, but it is believed that young boys are often abducted on their orders and ritually castrated. But a few are actually hermaphrodites.

Shabnam Mausi, who represented the Suhagpur Assembly constituency between 1998 and 2003, says eunuchs are popular as some people regard them as a better alternative to corrupt politicians. “We don’t have the same vested interests as other people,” she said, adding that eunuchs are thought to be more likely to serve the people than cater to their own interests as they have no family ties and usually live in communes.

But politics was not evident at the carnival where the eunuchs sang raunchy songs, danced provocatively and made a nuisance of themselves.

Leader Haji Surriaya said the “kajaria” festival dates back to the era of the nawabs when the eunuchs enjoyed patronage in royal courts. They sang and danced and many served as harem guards, with unrestricted access to the private apartments of nawabs and begums.

Many believe that eunuchs possess occult powers. A hijra’s curse is widely believed to make a man impotent or ill or cause him financial ruin. A woman runs the risk of becoming infertile.

Even worse than their curses is being harassed by them. Eunuchs have threatened to expose themselves to many local debtors here of late, leading to a speedy recovery of debts.