In view of SC ruling on Arcile 377 and the ruckus created by political parties with a view on their respective vote banks, an old blog post by Devadatta Patnaik on the tolerance of Hinduism towards non mainstream sexuality. A reminder to Hindutvawadis to not copy the intolerance of others but go with the dharmic way ! On Krishna's chariot stands Shikhandi Published in Sunday Midday, Mumbai, 12 July 2009 It was the ninth night of the war at Kurukshetra. The exact midpoint of the legendary 18-day bloodbath. Not the start, not the end, but the middle. The war had been inconclusive. Sometimes the Kauravas led by the old sire Bhisma had the upper hand; sometimes the Pandavas led by the young warlord, Dhristadhyumna, Draupadiâ€™s twin brother, had the upper hand. A see-saw that was going nowhere. â€œBhisma loves us too much to defeat us,â€ said the Pandavas. â€œYet not enough to let us win,â€ reminded Krishna. â€œHe must die, if dharma has to be established.â€ But Bhisma had been given a boon by his father that he could choose the time of his death. No one could therefore kill him. â€œIf we cannot kill him, we must at least immobilize him.â€ â€œBut no one can defeat him,â€ said the Pandavas. â€œEven the great Parashurama could not overpower him in a duel. So long as he holds a weapon in his hand he is invincible.â€ â€œThen we must make him lower his bow,â€ said Krishna. â€œHe will never lower his bow before any armed man.â€ â€œWhat about an armed woman?â€ â€œA woman? On the battlefield?â€ sneered the Pandavas, forgetting they themselves worshipped Durga, the goddess of war and victory. â€œBut it is against dharma to let women hold weapons and step on the battlefield.â€ â€œWho said so?â€ asked Krishna. â€œBhisma says so. Dharma says so.â€ â€œDharma also says that old men should retire and make way for the next generation so that the earthâ€™s resources are not exploited by too many generations. But Bhisma did the very opposite. He renounced his right to marry, so that his old father could resume the householderâ€™s life,â€ argued Krishna. â€œHe was being an obedient son.â€ â€œHe was indulging his old father at the cost of the earth. That vow spiraled events that has led to this war. It is time to be rid of him, by force or cunning, if necessary. We must find someone before whom the old patriarch will lower his bow. If not a woman, then someone who is not quite a man.â€ â€œWhat about Shikhandi!â€ said Dhristadhyumna. â€œHe is my elder brother. He was born a woman. But my father, Draupada, was told by the Rishis that he would one day become a man. Though born with female genital organs, Shikhandi was raised a son, taught warfare and statecraft. He was even given a wife. On his wedding night, the wife, daughter of king Hiranyavarna of Dasharna, was horrified to discover that her husband was actually a woman. My father tried to explain that actually Shikhandi was a man with a female body and that Rishis had told him he would someday acquire a male body. The woman refused to listen. She screamed and ran to her father and her father raised an army and threatened to destroy our city. A distraught Shikhandi went to the forest, holding himself responsible for the crisis, intent on killing himself. There he met a Yaksha called Sthunakarna who took pity on him and gave him his manhood for one night. With the Yakshaâ€™s manhood, Shikhandi made love to a concubine sent by his father-in-law and proved he was no woman. The wife was therefore forced to return. Now, it so happened, that Kubera, king of the Yakshas, was furious with what Sthunakarna had done and so cursed Sthunakarna that he would not get his manhood back so long as Shikhandi was alive. As a result what was supposed to be with him for one night has remained with him till this moment. My elder brother, Shikhandi, born with a female body, has a Yakshaâ€™s manhood right now. What is he, Krishna? Man or woman?â€ Krishna knew things were more complex. Shikhandi, may have been raised as a man and may have acquired a manhood later in life, but in his previous life, he was a woman called Amba, whose life Bhisma had ruined. Bhisma had abducted her along with her sisters and forced them to marry, not him, but his weakling of a brother, Vichitravirya (a name that means â€˜queer masculinityâ€™ or â€˜odd manlinessâ€™). When she begged Bhisma to let her marry the man she loved, he let her go. But the lover refused to marry Amba, now soiled by contact with another man (Bhisma). Distraught she returned, only to have Vichitravirya turn her away, and Bhisma shrugging helplessly. â€œWhen you have taken the vow of never being with a woman, what gave you the right to abduct me,â€ she yelled. Bhisma ignored her. Amba begged Parashurama, the great warrior, to kill Bhisma but he failed. Exasperated, irritated, she prayed to Shiva. â€œMake me the cause of his death,â€ she begged. Shiva blessed her â€“ it would be so, but only in her next life. Amba immediately leapt into a pyre eager to accelerate the process. â€œI think, Shikhandi should ride into the battlefield on my chariot. Let Arjuna stand behind him,â€ said Krishna. The tenth day dawned. The chariot rolled out. Behind Krishna stood the strange creature, neither man nor woman, or perhaps both, or neither, and behind him, Arjuna. â€œYou bring a woman into this battlefield, before me,â€ roared Bhisma seeing Shikhandi. â€œThis is adharma. I refuse to fight.â€ Krishna retorted in his calm melodious voice, â€œYou see her as a woman because she was born with a female body. You see her as a woman because in her heart she is Amba. But I see her as a man because that is how her father raised her. I see her as a man because she has a Yakshaâ€™s manhood with which he has consummated his marriage. Whose point of view is right, Bhisma?â€ â€œMine,â€ said Bhisma. â€œYou are always right, are you not, Bhisma? When you allowed your old father to remarry, when you abducted brides for your weak brother, when you clung to future generation after future generation like a leech, trying to set things right. There is always a logic you find to justify your point of view. So now, Shikhandi is a woman â€“ an unworthy opponent. Thatâ€™s your view, not Shikhandiâ€™s view. He wishes to fight you.â€ â€œI will not fight this woman,â€ so saying Bhisma lowered his bow without even looking towards Shikhandi. â€œShoot him now, Shikhandi. Shoot him, now, Arjuna,â€ said Krishna, â€œShoot hundreds of arrows so that they puncture every inch of this old manâ€™s flesh. Pin him to the ground, immobilize him so that he can no longer immobilize the war.â€ â€œBut he is like a father to me,â€ argued Arjuna. â€œThis war is not about fathers or sons. This is not even about men or women, Arjuna. This is about dharma. And dharma is about empathy. Empathy is about inclusion. Even now, he excludes Shikhandiâ€™s feelings â€“ all he cares about is his version of the law. Shoot him now. Rid the world of this old school of thought so that a new world can be reconstructed.â€ And so Arjuna released a volley of arrows. Hundreds of arrows punctured every limb of Bhismaâ€™s body, his hands, his legs, his trunk, his thighs, till the grandsire fell like a giant Banyan tree in the middle of a forest. It is said that the earth would not accept him for he had lived too long â€“ over four generations instead of just two. It is said the sky would not accept him because he had not fathered children and repaid his debt to ancestors. So he remained suspended mid-air by Arjunaâ€™s arrows.