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October 1, 2014

Quick Notes on Devdutt Pattanaik's new book on Queerness

Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher : Zubaan books / Penguin India

Rating : 3 / 5

Shikhandi and other tales they don't tell you reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness. A lot remains hidden and untold in the Hindu mythology in terms of queer people - bisexuals, transgender, transsexuals and cross dressers but take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver his devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend; and many more.

Pattanaik delves deeper into sexuality of gods/goddess and shows how they shed their original sexuality (if there is any) and molds into other with ease. Lord Shiva becomes a woman to deliver the child of a devotee, Arjun takes the form of a snake to enchant a difficult princess, Lord Ram welcomes hijras to his kingdom, and so on.

Clearly, these stories has been extensively researched and different points of view of modern vs old queerness has been exploited. From same-sex desire to gender-bending behaviour to cross-dressing to bestiality, the range of activities these texts describe is exhaustive. What i particularly liked about these stories is that it reinforces the basic premise - that soul has no gender and really what you make of feminism and patriarchy lies more in you mind than in you organs. All of them are backed up by solid footnotes and clear illustrations.

These 30 short stories push the envelope of sexual imagination, boundaries between man and woman and queer people. It tells about their fluidity and not rigidity of gender - in turn enforcing the basic concept of enjoying life. They are not provocative - and does not enforce any beliefs but just questions them. Some times, in life that is the most challenging thing. Read the book to allow you to challenge your queer notions.

1 comment:

Ankita said...

nice review. Our mythological world was far more liberal in accepting various relationships that are now taboo for us.