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Bride at night, widow next morning!


The following story( depicting love, sacrifice and death ) has its roots in the depths of the Mahabharatha war, in Krishna’s leela and in the noble nature of a valiant young man- Iravan. Arjuna married Uloopi (The Naga princess) in his exile and Iravan was born out of their brief relationship.

Sahadeva’s prophecy declared that Pandavas need to sacrifice a man marked with 36 sacred signs and filled with valour, strength, bravery, beauty and such, to the goddess Kali for ensuring victory in the upcoming war. Only three persons were able to fulfill this condition- Arjuna, Krishna and Iravan. No one in Pandva’s side was willing to loose any of the two- Arjuna or Krishna,  just before war. Everybody looked towards Iravan with hopeful eyes.

 “We will only sacrifice you if you are willing,” assured Krishna. Iravan thought for a while and then nodded his head in affirmation.
 “I am willing. History must witness and remember a hero, who was sacrificed for his father’s cause.”
“Do you have a last wish?” Krishna got relieved now.
 “I want to be mourned by a widow. I wish that my widow breaks her bangles, beats her chest and unbinds her hair and rolls in mud after my death.” demanded Iravan. 

This created another difficult situation. Searching for such bride, who is ready to become widow the very next day knowingly, looked impossible. Quickly responding, Krishna did the unbelievable. He transformed himself into Mohini (the enchantress), an incomparable beauty and got married to Iravan for fulfilling his wish.
Iravan was happy being married. Mohini acted like her wife and seduced him throughout the night with all her sexuality and charm. That night passed on and the dawn was smeared with the inevitable and unavoidable starting of war.

Iravan was taken to the battlefield. The rituals for sacrifice were performed. At the behest of priest, Iravan tore off the skin from his arms and offered them to Kali. Kali gave her blessings to Pandavas. Then, the war began! Over the course of the war, Iravan kept Kali satisfied daily by offerings parts of his body. The goddess continued her blessings to his father’s side.
Mahabharata war ended and Pandavas won. Iravan was lying all alone on the battle field. During his last moments, the high-pitched wail of a woman stroked his ears. It was so loud, so desperate, so heart-wrenching. Krishna, as Mohini wiped away her sindoor, slashed her wrists whilst breaking her bangles, and wailing while beating her chest. Iravan felt satisfied.

This story forms the central theme of the 18-day festival at Koovagam, where Iravan is worshipped as Koothandavar.
The transgenders gathered here claim themselves as Krishna-in-carnate( A man trapped inside a woman’s body as Mohini). As  self-proclaimed brides of Iravan ,they put up colourful and lively performances through dancing, singing and merrymaking. On 17 th day, they wear Mangalsutra and all bridal jewels to become one day wife.
The very next morning, with the beheading of Iravan and widowing all his one-day-old wives,  the atmosphere gets mournful and air gets ripped by sharp wails. Following the traditions, the widows of Iravan rip the Mangalsutraa from their necks, throw away ornaments, and wail loudly, beating their chests, just like Krishna mourned for Iravan long, long ago….!


Shrawan Singh

Shrawan Singh

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