How did Lord Ayyappa come to be? Should allusions of homoeroticism and homosexuality in Hindu mythology be considered reason to repeal Section 377? Read on to know about how this tweet war coinciding with special dates of the Section 377 judgement has a story to tell.
With the recent Supreme Court judgement around Section 377, a tweet by Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravishankar on the 11th of December 2013 is back in the limelight. Let us first understand key points surrounding this before arriving at a plausible truth.
The original tweet reads from Sri Sri reads-
This has sparked off a huge furore among the Twitterati. Amit Malviya, now in-charge of BJP’s national information and technology had initially replied to it on 14th December 2013 stating that-
Quite recently, an anti-RSS, anti-Modi user by the name NamodinBringerofAcheDin replied to both tweets. In his tweet, he crudely implied that RSS Member and Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse and Sarvarkar were themselves Homosexuals. The tweet is attached here-
Curiously enough, after reading the excerpts highlighted in the “evidence” in the book titled “Freedom at Midnight ”, it was felt that some digging up was merited. On further enquiry into the nature of this book, it was realised the book is totally a westerner’s perspective of India’s freedom struggle. In addition to this, his usage of certain descriptive key words such as”loser” when it comes to referring to members of the RSS is biased. Not only this, the author provides no legitimate proof of his claims, just like NamodinBringerof AcheDin. It is interesting to note that this user created their account on May 2018- quite recently. This particular tweet was posted on 10th July 2018, after the Supreme Court commencement of hearing of the pleas challenging the constitutionality of section 377.
Next, what is the mythological story behind how Lord Ayyappa came to be?
According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Ayyappa was a creation resulting from the fusion of energies between Shiva and Vishnu, in the form of Mohini- also called Hari-hara putra or son of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara(Shiva). He was made with the intent of destroying the demon Mahishi who could be vanquished only by the child of Shiva and Vishnu. A biological impossibility of this situation resulted in Vishnu adapting his female form, Mohini. Thus the Lord Ayyappa was conceived.
LGBT themes have always been a part of Indian mythology and folklore. As author Kavita Kane puts it in her article on “LGBT Themes in Hindu Mythology” in the Indian Express-
Hindu mythology, through evolved heroes and instances, has displayed elements of gender variance and non-heterosexual sexuality. When we see it in the context of the current laws against homosexuality, based on colonial laws, it shows that it resisted sexual norms and the commonly perceived gender binary. Spoken more subtly than directly, changes of sex, homoerotic encounters, and intersex or third gender characters are very often found in the epics, the Puranas and regional folklore.
While the reproductive connection between man and woman has always been honoured, homosexuality and LGBT themes have been documented through ancient literature and folk tales, art and performing arts alike. Essentially because gender is often seen as an idea, a belief, a conviction, the sweep and scale of which can be seen through the diverse characters, each extraordinary and unusual.
Mohini is the only female avtaar of Vishnu, who exhibits gender variability, in one case even becoming pregnant (Vishnu as Mohini and the Preserver even procreates with Shiva, the designated Destroyer to give birth to Lord Ayyappa). Each time Vishnu, in his role as the protector of the universe, took the feminine form of the divine enchantress Mohini, the world got saved. Vishnu becomes Mohini when gender-adaptability (here it’s not masculinity but femininity) is called for, to solve a problem. Beyond the role of the saviour, the implications in dual-genderism and fluid sexuality is more analogical, wherein in each person lies in the male and the female.
Focusing on one line of this supremely interesting read, we can put to bed the apparent controversy surrounding this issue-
Essentially because gender is often seen as an idea, a belief, a conviction, the sweep and scale of which can be seen through the diverse characters, each extraordinary and unusual.
Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1861, introduced during the British rule of India criminalized sexual activities "against the order of nature", including homosexual activities.
Interestingly enough, the original tweet by Sri Sri on 11th December 2011 came in light of the Supreme Court judgement passed that day which overturned the reading down of the section by the Delhi High Court in July 2009 with respect to sex between consenting adults. That judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India (SC) on 11 December 2013 with the Court holding that amending or repealing section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary. On 6 February 2016, the final hearing of the curative petition submitted by the Naz Foundation and others came for hearing in the SC. The three-member bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur said that all the 8 curative petitions submitted will be reviewed afresh by a five-member constitutional bench.
After the landmark Puttuswamy Judgement or the Right to Privacy Judgement in 2017, the issue of repealing this archaic Victorian-era Indian law is back to the fore now in 2018. In January 2018, a three-member SC bench heard a petition filed by five people asking the SC to revisit the Naz Foundation judgment. The case was referred to a larger bench and help was sought from the Union government. On 10 July 2018, a five-member constitutional bench of the SC commenced hearing of the pleas challenging the constitutionality of section 377.
All this being said and done, at the end of the day, it is nonsensical to try to fuse mythology and 21st century society, especially look at mythology to justify/ refute prevailing strange laws. Section 377 was a Victorian-era law, not an Ayyappa-era law. We can surely learn a lot from mythology, but it is not advisable to preach mythical instances in order to justify the repealing of this Draconian law and arrive at solutions. Instead the focus should be on the current society’s unique, time-specific, real challenges. It is easy to get carried away and distracted by the constant background noise of tweets and retweets, but at the end of the day, we must preserve our rationality and not confuse mythological stories and real life.
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