The Hijras of India

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The hijras of India are unlike any you might see in any other part of the world. You might have occasionally come across men dressed as women, wearing garishly bright makeup. They immediately attract attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons and most often win ridicule.

We are really not sure if eunuch, transvestite, gay or transgender is actually the right term for a hijra as their social mores are very unique and are almost above classification by western terms. One can attempt to know them by their social mores rather than by classification by taxonomy, so here goes:

Who is a hijra?

Is there no western classification to this transgender from India? Because of a lack of proper english definition, most research points to hijras associated with a matriarchal, hierarchical clan that encompasses LGBT orientations. Some relevant points here to help you understand who a hijra really is: 1. There are more than a million hijras in India, the largest presence in any country!

2. Hijras live in clans or all-male hijra communities. The hierarchical head of such a community is called a guru. The followers are chelas. The gurus and chelas live in harmony.

3. In larger cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, hijra communities could coalesce based on language and caste but they are mostly secular in their views on everything.

4. Their sharp clapping conveys their presence and orientation quickly to the normal folks. The clap I demonstrate in the audio is simply limp and incorrect.

The hijra’s clap is a distinct horizontal flat palms striking against and perpendicular to each other, with fingers spread, as opposed to the common applause-style, vertical palm & closed fingers strike. I believe this is an extension to their physiological identity. It communicates ‘I am, who I am’. There is a sense of instant identification of the community they belong to.

Sociologists actually think there are subtle variations in the ‘taal’ of the hijra’s clap...
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