Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022
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Mythology

Instances In Ancient Indian Texts And Love Songs That Celebrate Queer Relationships

Ancient Indian texts stand testimony to the multiplicity of gender roles that were normalised in society

Worshipping gender diversity: Trident with Shiva as Half-Woman (Ardhanarishvara), c. 1050 Photo: Getty Images

The Supreme Court, through its recent observation about the need to provide “social welfare legislation” to “atypical manifestations of the family unit”, and by underlining that the LGBTQIA+ community is “equally deserving” of all legal protections, reflected the ancient Indian wisdom that had created the space for such relationships. It might have taken queer activists several decades to see Section 377 decriminalise, but the LGBTQIA+ is hardly a taboo in ancient Indian scriptures.

Perhaps, the foundation head of such description is Ardhanarishvara, the merger of a male and a female deity as embodied by Shiva and Parvati. By lending an androgynous character to the Supreme Being, the ancient texts subverted the idea of rigid gender roles dominating the modern world centuries later. But this is not the only instance of subversion. Unlike the present times when movies about queer relationships often become controversial or invoke hush conversations, Sanskrit texts are replete with characters having varied and unfettered sexuality. While the movie Fire (1996) that showed a romance between two women drew the outrage of Hindu groups, sculptures in several temples, as well as excerpts in the Kamasutra, talk about such love in great depth.

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