Before the ’90s, the term ‘homosexuality’ was synonymous with the word ‘stigma’ in the dictionary. Either people were forbidden from even thinking about it which made them never utter the word itself, or they were unfamiliar with the concept as a whole.
However, as society has progressed into the 2000s, the LGBTQ+ community has successfully revolutionised the status of homosexuals all over the world. In recent times, even India has made a quantum jump in the rights it provides to the LGBTQ+ community after revoking Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and thereby decriminalizing sexual activity and relationships.
But an intriguing question that stares the Hindu community in the face is why it has taken so long to be receptive towards the LGBTQ+ community when our religion encompasses tales of Gods taking androgynous forms at different points to serve different purposes?
Almost all other religions are in agreement over the belief that all activities that provide pleasure to the physical body must be denounced as they translate into lust, which is equivalent to sin. Furthermore, every religion, from Islam to Christianity sees homosexuality as heresy and explicitly forbids it in their holy texts. Hindu mythology provides a provocative new dimension to homosexuality.
While texts like the Manusmriti dictate punishment for intra-sex relationships, other evidence differs by offering examples, such as that of, Ardhanarishvara, who is the androgynous amalgamation of Shiva and his wife, Parvati. This makes us question that if God really dictates much of our actions and is instrumental in forming our opinions, why is there still an undecided stance among the Hindu’s over the matter of homosexuality when God himself has been found to exhibit that very feat?
The examples of homosexuality in Hindu mythology do not stop there. A common (Hindu) man is well versed with the epic of Mahabharata. Shikhandi (born as an incarnation of Amba) performs a ritual to turn into a male warrior to take her revenge from Bhishma. Shikhandi, therefore, also offers a terrific example of the manifestation of feminist ideals during that epoch.
However, despite the availability of evidence that supports the homosexual narrative in Hindu Mythology, many Hindu practitioners and devotees still conveniently choose to ignore these facts. Baba Ramdev, for example, very easily turns a blind eye towards the androgynous forms of Shiva and Parvati and other homosexual references in the Hindu Mythology and goes to the extent to claim that “yoga can help ‘cure’ homosexuality.”
Many other priests hold a similar stance. This dichotomy in our society has made the matter of homosexuality nearly impossible to understand. Furthermore, due to extremist views presented by publically known figures, people are very easily brainwashed into believing baseless claims proposed by contemporary (so-called) priests as opposed to what has been stated in religious texts itself.
It is well known that religions state the guidelines for people in order to achieve salvation. For a religious being, salvation is the purpose that guides their lives; hence, people often go to great lengths to fulfil that purpose, but oftentimes in the garb of achieving what seems a difficult task, they forget that the underlying principles that help one achieve it are actually very simple. In Hinduism, ‘moksha’ is analogous to salvation: it is the freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Moreover, it is stipulated that ‘moksha’ (salvation) is attained by the soul or the ‘atma’ (soul) which is independent of the physical body as well as other attributes like race, caste, gender, and sexual orientation. All it requires a person to do is to live a simple, selfless life in devotion to God and abstain from materialistic practices. It includes mastering control over excessive or irrational sexual desires as well.
Nowhere does it suggest that rationality stems from homosexuality, but it implies that one must resist the urge of being unfaithful to their partner or indulge unnecessarily in sexual activity if nature doesn’t require one to. By this statement, it is fair to say that a person, if homosexual, who has mastered control over his or her impulses and desires, stands in a better position to attain ‘moksha’ as compared to a heterosexual person who has no discipline over him/herself.
It is true that Hinduism offers conflicting views over the matter of homosexuality. This is one of the reasons behind the misconstrusion and confusion of the facts relating to the subject. However, instead of getting lost amid myriad different opinions, we can find the answers to our questions by looking at the simpler explanations and concepts available to us.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says, “What ineffable joy does one find through Love of me, the blissful Atman. Once that joy is realized, all earthly pleasures fade into nothingness.” In simple terms, it states that the key to inner peace is self-awareness and it is that that helps one be liberated from materialistic and emotional needs.
Let us use God’s example to make the concept of homosexuality an organic, pre-existing phenomenon. Let us use this as a starting point to live as who we are. Let our soul and conscience be our guide rather than another man’s views. Love, not lust. Dignity, not disrespect. Acceptance, not animosity. It is as simple as that.