Transgender Akhada at Kumbh Mela in Prayag
| Onkareshwar Pandey - 06 Feb 2019

Transgender Akhada at Kumbh Mela in Prayag

By Srinjoy Das, Kolkata

For the first time in the history, an Akhada of Transgender seers unified under the banner of the “Kinnar Akhada” has earned recognition

Kolkata, 5th Feb, 2019: The establishment of the “Kinnar Akhada” has huge significance, which shall have a positive ramification on the social position of the third gender in India and the greater struggle for the third gender rights.

The community has to fight many of battles for securing to itself a number of other basic rights. Towards this end a beginning has been made at the Maha Kumbh in 2019.

The Maha Kumbh is the biggest spectacle of the Hindu Religion, it is by far the largest Hindu Religious gathering held every 12 years. The chief feature of the Maha Kumbh is the holy bath (sahi snan) and the congregation of the Hindu Saints propagating their philosophy and order. The Hindu Saints are organized into a number of Akhadas, with each Akhada headed by an Acharya Mahamandeleshwar. However, the Mahamandeleshwars and the Seers were hitherto either a male or a female, the third gender was never a part of an Akhada. At this juncture the “Kinnar Akhada” comprised of transgender Seers with its Acharya Mahamandeleshwar, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi being a transgender herself, has been the game changer.

The community has in recent times won major battles in the legal arena, and the landmark verdicts of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in NALSA and Navtej Singh has recognized and ensured the community of major rights. These were hitherto denied by archaic laws of the land.

The “Kinnar Akhada” has not been recognized by the association of Akahdas “Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad” (ABAP), and in fact the ABAP has opposed the establishment of the “Kinnar Akhada”. However the indomitable spirit of Acharya Mahamandeleshwar, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and her followers have earned a place for the Akhada at the mela ground.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi from the akhada calls it, an "akhada beyond sexuality" and is thrilled to be a part of it at Kumbh. 

"For us, this participation is about mainstream society accepting us. The creator is within us and once we die, we will go back to him. Our doors are open for all," she said, adding that the acceptance of third gender is remarkable in a "conservative society like ours".

In a country like India where the socio cultural fabric is still woven together by the threads of religion, establishment of the “Kinnar Akhada” will go a long way in securing the third gender community its right to religion.

With the Indian Population being chiefly Hindu, a transgender is not only faced with the dilemma of gender identity by also religious identity, as the third gender is often denied right of practicing Hinduism publicly. But with the establishment of the Kinnar Akhada the third gender community shall be able to practice Hinduism with the guidance of the Seers.

The Peshwai of the Kinnar Akhada this year has become a chief attraction at the Kumbh and the members of the Akhada had also participated in the Sahi Snan amidst much pomp and fanfare.

A beginning has been made towards the fight for securing religious rights of the third gender, and it shall not be an overstatement to conclude that, religious integration shall translate into greater social integration of the third gender community.

Photo Courtesy - DNA / News -18

(Srinjoy Das is an Advocate, High Court Calcutta. E-mail –

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