Their proud voice emanating  from the Anklet of Pattini....

Paththini is the most dearest Goddess to the people within the Sinhala Buddhist culture. Known as the goddess of the women, Pattini worship is common in male community as well with utmost respect.

She is the goddess of motherhood, and therefore all worship her and invoke blessings for fertility and conception. There is a deity in mythology associated with weather, yet Patini Devi is commonly honoured and prayed for seasonal rain. It is said in the folklore that she was born of various ways, such as fire, wind, Mango fruit, tears of the Cobra, Nuga (Banyan) leaves, Demata flowers and the water. However, they all portray her greatness; the universal justice. According to the legend, she had ploughed the Andungiri rock by her foot and fed the God Shakra who came disguised as an old mendicant. 

Some of the ritual activities of the Sinhalese Pattini devotees can be identified as almsgiving for mothers (known as Ammāwarungē Dānaya), Ginimadu and Gammadu (a Traditional dance ritual), An Keliya and Olinda Keliya (a traditional game). Temples such as Nawagamuwa Pattini Temple, Kaduwela Rankadu Pattini Temple, Korathota Pattini Temple are ancient and famous Pattini Temples, while there are various other Pattini temples locally.

According to Hindu religious beliefs, Pattini is one of the incarnations of Parvathi, the wife of God Shiva. There is no doubt that Parvati had entrusted her power to Pattini, the mother who protects the universe, who also appears as Goddess Durgā or Kāli against the injustice. She appears as “Kannagi” in Indian culture who does not think twice to be the “Durgā” against injustice. 

The relationship between transgender people and religion varies considerably around the world. It is not the case with Hindu culture, although transgender communities are alien to Sinhala Buddhist, Christian Catholic and Islamic cultures. It is because ‘A transgender person’ is believed to be a combination of Shiva and Pārvati; “Ardhanārēshwara” in Hindu culture.

Transgender people have the biological sex by birth as well as the mind how they understand themselves about their personas. Even though they are being slandered as persons who are born in a wrong body, it is clear that they have a strong spirit due to the possession of hybrid sexuality and the mentality. The above elaborative commentary on Pattini and transgenderism is written as a threshold to a discussion on an injustice occurred against a group of transgender people we met last week and our opportunity to hear their voices. 

It was the procession pertaining to the annual Gammadu feast of the Korathota Pattini Temple. The organizers had tried their best to decorate the procession with elephants, upcountry and low country dance, such as Thelme, Lee-Keli, Boru-Kakul and whip-men. We were also given the opportunity to watch the procession.  We noted that parade announcement made prior to the event day, detailing the order of it including its dancers, elephants, had  immensely awakened public enthusiasm to a greater extent to watch the procession.The audience was overjoyed to learn that this daytime procession included horse and peacock dancing too. 

The procession gradually approached its final part. There came a group of men and women dazzled us with the beautiful dancing they made to the tune of the Papare band , waving their tender hands and finger tips gently and swaying their slender waists. This reminds us the deities mentioned in the ‘Guththila Kawaya’, who said to have descended from heaven to earth dancing to the (rhythm violin musical code Guththila’s Vena Nada).  there was a festive Papare Band (A group of people who play basic western instruments including drums, trumpets) dancing of a group for of men and women waving their gentle finder tips and the waists ). While all the traditional dancers were resting their feet, the audience was amused with their rhythmic way of dancing and choreography; soon the audience started cheering and whistling. In fact,  their performance of  dance is a combination of rhythms with four gestures, and it acted like a  bridge connecting the entire parade with the audience.

This performance was spectacular; "How can I describe the dance of the deities?” Yet, some of the villagers said that they can dance so beautifully and vigorously because they are “Ponnayās”. Indeed it is a degrading term used in Sri Lanka to call transgender persons. In the praises after the procession, the beauty and the vividness of the dances are noted by the villagers, but they also mentioned that the dancing was beautiful because of the Ponnayās. Towards the end of the procession, the dancers and the organizers scattered across the streets, while the doors of the village houses were shut for the transgender dancers, believing that the men in the houses will get spoiled by them. Eventually, these dancers got a space from a backyard of a house only to barely cover from rain, sit and lay their race packet on the floor to eat. We insisted ice water for them for their hard work.

The village women’s bewilderment  was being unable to find out whether they were men or women. According to them, the procession could have been excellent if it was possible to observe their gender. But that was not possible. Most dancers were transgender. When we expressed our regrets regarding the injustice and inconvenience happened to them, they said that they are getting familiar with them. According to them, this procession is good, as at least they have been given a meal. But that is not our question. If you want to slander or marginalize these people, Why on earth these so-called Ponna or Napunsaka are invited to perform? why did you invite Ponna or Napunsaka persons to  dance in a procession devoted to Pattini? After the rain we could see that they were leaving the procession, dancing more intensely. This shows their strength to endure such insults.

The Gammadu ritual at the Rankdu Pattini Temple was celebrated on the same day. In the end, the participants of the ritual are supposed to be blessed by the clergy of the Pattini Temple. People were rallied on either side of the road, and were blessed by the clergy. But at that moment, he was not in male attire. He was wearing a beautiful Sari with decorative jewellery and hanging long hair on shoulders. He was wearing perfect makeup, eyebrows done, and lips coated with lipstick. He walked in a gentle demeanor as if a woman was walking, holding an Anklet in one hand. As the devotees said this was the Goddess Pattini and the same was announced by loudspeakers.

The head of the clergy had become the Pattini, the Goddess of motherhood and fidelity. But people did not speak against or insult him; instead, they worshipped him. 

Now we have a question to ask ourselves. That is, why we worship the head of the clergy who manipulates as a different person, while we insult, and discriminate people who are transgender. The Pathinni Temple procession is itself a ritual, and dancing in the procession itself is considered as an honour or a blessing. However, it should be borne in mind that the society who insult transgenders are insulting the Goddess Pattini who appears against injustice. The head of the clergy performed a ritual by dressing of the opposite sex even a slight moment. Nevertheless, he is highly honored and respected in the society. The society that thrashed transgender persons are blessed by the clergy who cross-dresses. The reason may be that they are aware of the fact that the clergy is an ordinary, heterosexual person and transgender people are different from it. We have genes to treat differently for different individuals as a society.

Recent news in the media revealed the assassination of a man who cross-dressed as a woman in Dambulla. It should be noted that the manner in which the media presented the news of a transgender person, violating all sorts of media and other societal ethics. It is regrettable that some so-called web media attempted to justify the killing by presenting the facts such as the person who was murdered had previously been arrested by the police. Also, some of the photographs revealed of the deceased young person's past life emphasize the lack of concerns about self-legitimacy as well as the bankruptcy of media institutions. In order to “sell” the news, they used the marketing technique of adding salts and spices to the curry; which is the different identity of an ordinary person. There is no need to illustrate how we, as a society and as individual units of this society, possess poor mentalities.

People with different  gender identities, such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and trans-sexuality were not recognized; so such acts were classified as a crime under British rules. While making it a crime by the Article 365 and 365 A of the Penal Code in Sri Lanka, they did the same in India Article 377. By the year 2000, the British had accepted the rights of various sexual identities and now they have been granted all kinds of social privileges. Their society was not deteriorated by giving rights. By development, they mean the development of the social democracy. One of the reasons may be because they do not bother about sexual identities of others. The population is also not controlled by giving homo sexual rights. There is no increase of STDs or social breakdowns. Instead, these countries have reached the pinnacle,the of human development indicator levels with human dignity and respect.

In line with these precedents, the Supreme Court of India recently issued a historic ruling declaring that the person's sexual orientation or the sexual orientation is a matter of their privacy and that any act against them would be a detriment to a person's privacy. The bench consisted of 9 judges, in the end, declared that violation of a person’s privacy is violating their personal dignity and values. According to the Indian Constitution, the right of personal freedom guaranteed by law, and the thousands of people living in India enjoy the protection of the law. According to the Indian Supreme Court, sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. In the near future, India will leap forward to safeguard same sex rights. On that day, the community with different sexual identities, including those who have fought and died, will celebrate their rights with dignity.
Sadly, we will be yet exaggerating the culture inherited from India, discriminating transgender communities, enjoying their dances while de-humanzing them..!  India Zindabad!

- Thushara Manoj

- Translated by Kaushalya Ariyarathne

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