The Indian Rainbow
By: Manasvi Mishra
"If being gay is a choice, then when did you decide to become straight?"
-Shubh Mangal ZyadaSavdhaan, 2020
The topic of homosexuality is one of the most debated upon in today's world of opinions and arguments. Everything from their existence to their supposed ‘ties with the devil’ is a topic of discussion. But today, we'll talk about something a little more particular: homosexuality in India. Because, there is a question in everybody's mind, "Are Indian gay individuals different from those living in the remaining 194 countries of the world?"
Well, there are two answers to this daunting question. At an individual level I'd go out on a limb to say that no, not really. I'd wager they feel emotions the same way, romantic or otherwise, since these things aren't really variable. But we are not here to talk about philosophy (yet). As for these individuals' surroundings and social habits, they are a different matter.
India is a conservative country, has been for a while now. But what does that exactly mean? According to Google, being 'conservative' entails the following-
1. Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values.
So, we can say that India holds its 'traditional' values when it comes to people of the LGBTQ+ community. But again, we must explore what these 'traditions' really are because queer people aren't treated exactly...well here. So let's see- is this treatment really aligned with India's values or have people again used religion as a crutch to justify their discriminatory practices (spoiler alert, it's the latter).
If we talk about culture and values, we must talk about the Vedas; holy scriptures which have been believed to hold all the answer's of the universe but you probably already know that. All 'devout' men seem to hold these books at the highest of levels. These same 'devout' men claim that homosexuality is 'unnatural' and 'against Indian values'. So then these Vedas must carry this outlook too? Surely, these men haven't ignored their holy books being supportive of homosexuality in order to feed their personal bias?
Well, they've done exactly that. Let's analyse the Kama Sutra, a second century Indian book on the topic of romantic and sexual relations. This book mentions swarinis, women who married each other and raised children together. "But surely they must have been ostracised? No way people didn't discriminate against them,” I hear you cry. Not only were these unions readily accepted, they were considered ordinary and came under the "third gender" community which was actively considered a part of 'normal' society. The book also mentions klibas, homosexual men which were considered impotent, (don't celebrate just yet), with women because of their homosexual tendencies. Were they ridiculed? Not at all.
"But, what do I care about some random book with compromising pictures in it? The Vedas say it's wrong, so it must be."
Eight kinds of marriages existed under the Vedic system. Homosexual marriage came under gandharva(celestial variety) meaning- "a union of love and cohabitation, without the need of parental approval."
"But there's no example of an actual same sex union. These concepts are just on paper."
Varuna and Mitra, or as I like to call them, the Indian Achilles and Patroclus. Two individuals mentioned in the Rig Veda who were depicted side by side on a golden chariot, a shark or a crocodile. "They could just be best friends!" They are representative of the two half moons. And how exactly, do they cause these half moons? By engaging in some purely heterosexual, absolutely platonic intercourse. To quote, “On that new moon night, Mitra implants his seed in Varuna and when the moon later wanes, that waning is produced from his seed. Varuna is similarly said to implant his seed in Mitra on the full-moon night for the purpose of securing its future waxing,”
So there you have it. The Vedas recognised and accepted homosexual unions. "But these are just words. There's no physical proof these unions existed." If you're a fan of statues and sculptures, let me point you in the direction of Khajuraho temple, a site in Madhya Pradesh believed to have been built around the 12th century. It showcases statues of same sex monogamous and polygamous unions. "But these things are interpreted, right? You're probably just projecting your thoughts on this perfectly heterosexual statue." I urge you to Google these sculptures and try to deny them yourself.
"The Ramayana, the ultimate holy book for us Hindus, there's no homosexuality in it. Zip, zilch, nada."
In both Valmiki's Ramayana and the Bengali Krittvasi Ramayan female same sex unions are recognised. In the former, Hanuman notes female rakshases kissing other females and embracing others who had been kissed by Ravana. "But the rakshases were the villains. Thus it's wrong." In the latter of the two cases I've mentioned, two widows drank a magic potion given to them by the exasperated king Sagara of Ayodhya. These women made love to each other, and one of them became pregnant and conceived a child. "This child must be a horrendous villain. Some monster who ate babies and drank blood-" This child was king Bhagirathi. And if that name sounds familiar to you, that's because king Bhagirathi is the one who brought the river Ganges to earth. So, not a villain. Rather, a hero.
What is my point? For 800 words I've been throwing ancient examples and italicised words at you. What am I trying to justify? I could've written a very simple article saying something along the lines of, "Queer people are treated badly in India." But what good would that do? Everyone knows queer people are treated badly in India. My question and I reckon yours, is why? What the perpetrators have always claimed, from teachers to politicians is that homosexuality is against our values. But I've given you numerous examples and there are countless others of it not being against our values, but rather completely aligned with it.
So, why are these people treated like garbage? Why has modern society not given them even the right to marry when medieval society did? There is no logical explanation for it.
Homosexuality in India is simple, back then, when society wasn't divided on the terms of money, or political power, people didn't view homosexuality as anything more than what it was- a union of love just as pure and beautiful as any other.
And now, when people seem to have forgotten that the root of our culture is kindness and to support others over oneself, these people are being murdered, harassed and dehumanized.
I can confidently say that homosexuality isn't against Indian values. But your hate and lack of compassion most certainly is.