The term involves the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and cultures around the world. The annual observance of LGBTQ History Month began in the United States in around 1994 and it has since been discussed in different countries. This observance involves highlighting the history of the people, LGBT rights and related civil rights movements.
The term, ‘homosexuality’ refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to people of the same sex and also refers to a person’s sense of identity, based on the attractions or related behaviours. In India, this term has been documented for different times, and in recent times the unbanning of homosexuality has invoked a large number of opinions and perspectives. The Indian Mythology depicts the mention of homosexuality in ancient India. The literary texts like “Arthashastra”, “Manusmriti” and major epics like “Ramayana”, “Mahabharata” and the temples refer to instances of homosexuality.
One of the great Indian epics “Ramayana” presents the story of a King, named Dilip. The king had two wives and he died without leaving an heir. The tale as presented in the epic says that Lord Shiva appeared in the dreams of his two wives and told them they would have a child if they would make love to each other. The widowed queens followed Lord Shiva’s advice and one of them got pregnant. They gave birth to a child, who later went on to become the famous king, named Bhagirath. King Bhagirath is best known for bringing the river Ganga from Heaven to the Earth.
The second-century ancient Indian Sanskrit text, “Kama Sutra” presents the term in an actual manner. The chapter, ‘Purushayita’ in this text mentions that the lesbians were called “swarins”. And, these women often married other women and raised children together. They were further accepted both within the ‘third gender’ community and ordinary society. The text also mentions gays who were called “klibas”.
The term “homosexuality” cannot be completed without the reference to one of its most affirmative and visual proofs, to be more precise. The sculptures in the Khajuraho Temple of Madhya Pradesh are known for their homosexual imagery. The sculptures embedded are well-known for showcasing the existence of intimacy between members of the same sex. The temple is popularly believed to have been built around the 12th century. According to various scholars, the images implanted in the temples of women erotically embracing other women, and men displaying their genitals to each other acknowledges the fact about people being engaged in homosexual acts.
The “Matsya Purana”, which is one of the eighteenth major Puranas portrays that during the great churning of the Milky Ocean, Lord Vishnu took the form of a beautiful woman, named ‘Mohini’. Lord Vishnu took this form to trick the Demons so that the Gods could drink all the immortal juice found from the churning of the ocean. However, many different legends talk of Mohini’s (Lord Vishnu’s) various exploits and marriages, including union with the Lord Shiva.
According to Valmiki’s “Ramayana”, Lord Rama’s devotee and companion Hanuman is said to have seen ‘Rakshasa’ women kissing and embracing other women. This is a clear acknowledgement of same-sex intimacy in Indian history and tradition.
Thus, the ancient Indian texts, inscriptions and paintings on temple walls acknowledge homosexuality’s existence in those days. And, the ancient Indian texts are relevant to modern LGBT causes. The ancient literary texts have taken various positions on the topic, ranging from containing the LGBT community’s characters and themes to being impartial or adversary towards it. And, going by these popular references in Indian history and mythology, it appears that ancient “Indian society” did indeed recognise homosexuality through that period, and in many cases even accepted it.
Visual by: Abhiskar Banik
Article by Shalini Deb Roy, The North-Eastern Chronicle