At this year's Simhastha-Kumbh which is being held in Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain district, a group of kinnars (eunuchs) are preparing to create history.
They have formed a separate Kinnar Akhara, and wish to take a dip in the famous Gandharva ghat and participate in all the rituals of the Kumbh – something that has never happened at the ever Kumbh before.
Eunuchs were always allowed at Kumbh, but they never emerged as a large congregation in the past.
While preparations for the Shahi Snan in April are on, the new akhara for transgenders isn't getting recognition from the existing seers.The Kumbh is said to be the largest spiritual gathering on earth.
The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, an umbrella organisation of 13 akharas, has refused to take the new akhara into its fold. The two parties are at loggerheads with each other and even threatening to move court.
What's the controversy?
On January 10, the Kinnar akhara members met the Central Simhastha Fair Organising Committee (CSFOC), headed by Makhan Singh, and asked for Rs 50 lakh in funds, which is the norm for existing akharas. Singh told them that funds will be given only after the Parishad gives them recognition.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a well-known transgender activist and founding member of Kinnar Akhara, told Scoopwhoop, “I will take the organisers to court over charges of discrimination. Kinnars are part of Sanatan Dharma for centuries. We are not at the mercy of any Parishad.”
Traditionally, there are 13 akharas for the Simhastha-Kumbh: seven Shaivite, three Sikh and three Vaishnavite. They control and manage the ascetic space in India, and also the religious gathering of Kumbh.
The akharas claim they have been in place for centuries. The Akhara Parishad works with the government for allotment of land and funds for Kumbh and it's current head is seer Narendra Giri.
How was Kinnar Akhara formed?
The akhara was formed in October 2015, led by a spiritual guru of Ujjain named Rishi Ajaydas.
"We have already opened a separate akhada (camping ground) for Kinnars in my ashram on October 13. At this inaugural function [of Kumbh], eunuchs from 17 states took part," Ajaydas told PTI in October.
A large number of transgenders are already in Ujjain ahead of the Kumbh.
“People ask me why this Kinnar Akhara. I say why not? We should have our own space. It's a progressive step," Tripathi told Scoopwhoop
All eyes are now on the Kumbh, which will have the first Shahi Snan on April 22 and will conclude on May 21.