On Friday, a proposal to review Section 377 of the Indian Constitution was voted down by lawmakers. As everyone knows, Section 377, which makes "unnatural sex" – that is, sex "against the order of nature" – unlawful, was instituted during the colonial period. Since some arguments against the repealing of Section 377 hark back to the statement "it's not our culture", it is valuable to look closely at the ancient epics of India.
The video above, based on writings by mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik, who is recognised as an authority on Indian mythology, was put up on a YouTube channel named Epified. Pattanaik has even written a book too on the subject of queer identities, named Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don't Tell You.
A review of the book on Gaylaxy Mag says, "Devdutt contends that most queer themes in Hindu mythology deal with gender variance, with biology and costumes being interchanged. Queerness seeks to question what constitutes male and female, and same-sex love largely speaks of the minds of the people involved. The thought of shifting, fluid and porous boundaries is what is communicated through the tales, rather than the physicality of the characters."
While queerness is not always celebrated in these texts, Hindu gods are given the licence to move back and forth between genders, as in the case of Vishnu and Mohini. Then there's Krishna, who cross-dresses. A story told in the video above, a folk narrative from Koovagam in Tamil Nadu, is about the sacrifice of Arjuna’s son Aravan to help the Pandavas win the war. Aravan refused to die a virgin, and as no woman was willing to marry a man doomed to die in a day, Krishna’s help was sought. Krishna turned into a woman, married Aravan, spent a night with him, and, when he was finally beheaded, mourned for him as a widow might.