The History of LGBT in India

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There was much jubilation on Parliament Street, New Delhi after India’s Supreme Court passed the legalization of homosexuality. This was a symbolic moment for the LGBT community that an archaic era streaked with colonial laws that had for decades condemned members of the community and organizations that supported them had come to an end.
However, it for sure did not mark the beginning of the history of LGBT in India. Contrary to what people think, LGBT is not a construct of the white man. It is deeply ingrained into the culture and religions of India. Let’s take a brief history lesson on the history of LGBT in India.

Evidence of Homosexuality in Ancient India
When the Supreme Court delivered its landmark judgement against section 377, a lot of naysayers labelled it as ‘unnatural’. There are also those who said that homosexuality wasn’t a part of traditional India. However, this could not be further from the truth.
We cannot discuss homosexuality or LGBTQ+ in ancient India without talking about one of its most widely known affirmations. The temple of Madhya Pradesh- the Khajuraho temple- believed to have been built around the 12th Century, is known for its unconcealed homosexual imagery. The visual images embedded into the temple are an apt depiction of sexual fluidity between a woman and a woman, and a man and a man. There are also various depictions of orgies involving females.
According to Valmiki’s Ramayana, Lord Hanuman saw rakshasa women embracing and kissing other women when he went back to Lanka after a visit to the goddess Sita. On the other hand, a story- by Krittibas Ramayana- is told of King Bhagiratha who was conceived of two women. The text enunciated that King Dilip died without an heir and left behind his two wives.
After his death, the queens both received dreams from lord Shiva where he told them that they should make love to each other and they would bear a child. One of the queens got pregnant after they followed the instructions and gave birth to King Bhagiratha. He is the king known to bring River Ganga to earth from heaven.
The story of Shikandi or Shikhandi is also told in the Mahabharata. Shikandi was raised as a man but was born as a daughter to King Drupad. Later on, with the help of a yaksha, she became a man and was able to get into the battlefield of Kurukshetra  and laid Bhishma to waste. The story of lord Vishnu is told by Matsya Purana where he transitioned into ‘Mohini’, a beautiful woman. His intention was to deceive demons so the gods could drink amrut. After lord Shiva saw Mohini, he fell for her and their relationship resulted in lord Ayyappa.
Kamasutra by Vatsyayana in chapter nine talks about oral sex (Auparashtika), sexual acts with transgenders, and homosexuality. There’s a mention of svairini in chapter Purushaya. These are independent and self-willed women who have sexual relations with women. There are also mentions of men attracted to the same gender in the book. 

These individuals are referred to as third nature or Tritiya-Prakriti. The book also recognizes eight different marriages. Among them, is lesbian and gay marriage refered by the term ‘gandharva vivah’.

If we were to rely on these well-known references and stories in Indian mythology or history, it’s clear that ancient or traditional Indian society did acknowledge LGBTQ+ in that period. Therefore, it’s only correct to say that LGBTQ+ is ingrained into the history of India and it’s time outside forces accepted it.

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