|Photo © Ayush Ranka- All Rights Reserved|
And so begins a three part article in the India Ink section of The New York Times, which is accompanied by the photographs of Ayush Ranka, an independent photojournalist based in Bangalore.
"Religious festivals in India are typically explosive affairs, but few pack the surreal punch of Koovagam."
Ayush just attended the Koovagam Festival and returned with a photo essay (33 photographs) of this annual religious festival for hijras, India’s male-to-female transgendered people.
The festival celebrates the myth of Lord Krishna taking female form in order to marry Aravan, a warrior who fought the Mahabharata War. It is in Koovagam, a small village in Tamil Nadu, that a large number of transgendered people come to worship Aravan, and celebrate the night when Krishna took the form of a woman to become his wife, and then weep in mourning at the news of his death.
Hijras have a long recorded history in the Indian subcontinent, and their culture draws upon the traditions of several religions. However, their goodess is Bahuchara Mata with a temple in Western Gujarat.
Ayush Ranka was selected as one of the top ten short-listed photographers of the Redux Scholarship for the 2009 Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, and his clients include New York Times, Volvo, UVEX (Germany), Azim Premji Foundation, GQ (India), Financial Times Magazine, Harvard Business Review and Femina Magazine.