Hinduism LGBTQ and Hinduism
by
Ruth Vanita, Kashish Dua
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0255

Introduction

This entry deals with the period from the late 20th century to the present, during which LGBTQ movements developed. For earlier periods, including Hindu scriptures, legal, medical, and erotic treatises, literature, and art, see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article Homoeroticism in Hinduism. The majority of LGBTQ Hindus live in India and Nepal; there are also many, belonging to various ethnicities, in other countries. Some LGBTQ Hindus identify as such; many do not use these terms. Several traditional M-to-F transgender communities use Indian-language terms (hijṛā, aravani, etc.). From 1994 onward, a series of petitions demanded the abolition of the anti-sodomy law (Section 377 Indian Penal Code) introduced by the British in 1861. The law prohibited certain sex acts but was applied almost exclusively to same-sex relations. Hindus were divided on the issue. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, who espouse various versions of Hindu nationalism, were divided on decriminalization up to 2013, as were all major political parties; thus, BJP Home Minister Rajnath Singh supported criminalization while BJP Finance Minister Arun Jaitley opposed it. In 2016, Dattatreya Hosabale, senior leader of the BJP’s ally, the Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the world’s largest volunteer organization, stated that homosexuality should be decriminalized. In 2018, the BJP government decided not to defend the law, which the Congress Party government had earlier defended; the Supreme Court then overturned it. Nepal decriminalized homosexuality in 2007. In 2014, the Supreme Court declared transgender people a third gender, gave them the right to self-identify their gender, and directed the government to give them reservations in educational institutions and jobs. Most Hindus are familiar with the concept of the third gender, which appears in ancient texts; therefore there was not much Hindu opposition to this judgment. The debate on equal rights for LGBTQ continues, around such questions as marriage equality. In 2021, several lawsuits were filed, asking for marriage equality, including amendment of Hindu marriage law. Over the last two decades, many middle- and upper-class Hindu weddings have taken place in India and other countries, including among celebrities. From 1987 onward, hundreds of same-sex weddings, mostly between young, low-income, non-English-speaking Hindu women who had no connection to any movement, have been reported in the Indian press. LGBTQ activists, Hindus and others, are divided on these questions and on whether Hinduism is a help or hindrance to equality. Pro-BJP Hindu LGBTQ activists like Row Kavi face opposition both from left-wing queer activists and from extreme right-wing Hindus. Row Kavi’s group, Rainbow Hindus, was shut down by extreme right-wing Hindus, and in 2020, left-wing activists compelled him to distance himself from Humsafar, the major LGBTQ organization he founded in 1994. Conversely, extreme-right BJP leader Subramanian Swamy reiterated in 2020 that homosexuality is a genetic disorder.

General Overviews

Devi 1977 was a pioneering attempt to study Indian homosexuals’ lives in social and religious contexts. The author interviewed an important Hindu priest who highlights Hinduism’s view of gender and sexuality as fluid, and all attachments as results of former lifetimes. Trikone, published 1986–2014 from San Francisco, was an LGBT magazine for South Asians, founded by gay male couple Ashok Jethanandani and Arvind Kumar (Arvind’s mother, a Hindu guru, presided over their wedding). Several issues contained articles about aspects of Hinduism; a special issue in 1996 was the first to examine the relationship between Hinduism and homosexuality. Vanita and Kidwai 2000 is a groundbreaking, scholarly overview of attitudes to LGBT in Hindu texts, and provides translations of texts written in a dozen languages, classical and modern, over a period of more than 2,000 years. Vanita’s introductions to ancient and medieval materials in the Sanskritic tradition examine various Hindu approaches, and the introduction to modern materials looks at modern Hindus’ reception of these approaches, ranging from embarrassment to delight, and also at the modern movement’s reception of and debates around Hindu ideas. Johnson 2020 offers a brief, nonscholarly introduction to Indic religions’, including Hinduism’s, approach to LGBTQ. Saria 2021 studies religious syncretism in hijṛās’ lives in rural Odisha, eastern India. In cities, hijṛās are often either Hindu or Muslim with some hybrid practices; in rural areas, this hybridity may be more pronounced. Balaji 2017 focuses on how the Internet is transforming Hindu and homosexual networks, and considers the overlap between them. Wilhelm 2003 was an attempt, from the theological viewpoint of one exclusive Hindu sect (Gaudiya Vaishnava, organized as ISKCON and popularly known as Hare Krishna), to conceptualize all non-heterosexual sexualities and gender variants as a “third sex.” The sect, which has grown exponentially worldwide in recent years, has increasingly come around to accepting Wilhelm’s view, which, however, is not accepted by many Hindus who view themselves as gay or lesbian women and men, and not as a third sex.

  • Balaji, Murali, ed. Digital Hinduism: Dharma and Discourse in the Age of New Media. Minneapolis: Lexington Books, 2017.

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    A useful introduction by the editor places in context an essay, “Creating Spaces for Progressive Voices in Hinduism: My Experience with the Queer Hindu Blogosphere,” by Shikhandi (a pseudonym), an American gay Hindu blogger. The essay highlights the significance of cyberspace for the negotiation of LGBTQ Hindu identities and discusses the author’s experience of some LGBTQ people’s Hinduphobia and some Hindus’ homophobia.

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  • Devi, Shakuntala. The World of Homosexuals. Delhi: Vikas Publishing, 1977.

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    This pioneering book, arguing for decriminalization of homosexuality, was written by a world-record-holding woman mathematician who was married to a homosexual man. The book is the first to contain interviews with gay and bisexual Hindu men; it also contains an important interview Devi conducted with the head priest of a major Hindu temple, Srirangam, in South India.

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  • Johnson, Jerry, ed. I Am Divine, So Are You: How Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism Affirm the Dignity of Queer Identities and Sexualities. Introduction by Devdutt Pattanaik. New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2020.

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    Popular introduction to Indic religions’ views of LGBTQ issues. This book is nonscholarly (for example, it wrongly translates napuṃsaka as “queer”) but is useful for the general reader. The appendix outlines a procedure (which the authors term “non-authoritative”) to conduct a same-sex wedding based on Indic religious, mainly Hindu, rituals.

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  • Saria, Vaibhav. Hijras, Lovers, Brothers: Surviving Sex and Poverty in Rural India. New York: Fordham University Press, 2021.

    DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823294701.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Ethnographic study based on two years spent with a group of hijṛās (traditional Indian community of M-to-F transgender people). Explores the syncretism between Hinduism and Islam in the lives of hijṛās in rural Odisha, a state in eastern India.

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  • Special Issue: Hinduism and Homosexuality. Trikone Magazine 11.3 (July 1996).

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    Pioneering attempt to explore the connection between LGBTQ and Hinduism. Includes coming-out stories by Hindus in India and other countries, analyses of Hindu texts, and interviews with Hindu gurus.

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  • Vanita, Ruth, and Saleem Kidwai. Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History. New Delhi: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2000.

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    Extracts from and analyses of ancient and medieval Hindu devotional, medical, literary, legal, and erotic treatises. Showcases Hindu views of gender variance and same-sex desire. The introduction to modern materials analyzes how modern homophobia, introduced during British rule, changed dominant Hindu attitudes. Modern translations of ancient texts, such as the Kamasutra, reveal increasingly censorious attitudes toward same-sex sexualities. An updated edition appeared from Penguin India in 2008.

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  • Wilhelm, Amara Das. Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2003.

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    The author, a white American Hindu priest of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) and founder of GALVA-108 (Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association), argues that all LGBT people constitute a third sex. Although the argument is dubious, applying more to transgender than to other groups, the book is important because it has influenced ISKCON, an increasingly powerful Hindu organization worldwide, to change its initially hostile view of LGBTQ people.

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Religious Organizations and Teachers

Individual Hindu traditions have internal hierarchies but there is no one hierarchy or universally accepted teacher. Individual priests decide whether to officiate at same-sex weddings and religious teachers are deeply divided about LGBTQ issues, even within each organization. The rapidly expanding, global Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is open to LGBTQ devotees. In 2019, two men got married at BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in New Jersey, the largest Hindu temple in the United States. Bhakti Tirtha and Dasi 2003 and Goswami 2005 trace progress toward acceptance within ISKCON. However, Swami Avimukteshwaranand, disciple of Swaroopanand Saraswati of Dwarka in western India, who is very critical of both the BJP and the RSS, declared (TNN 2019) that laws banning homosexuality and adultery, which have been overturned, should be reinstated. Swaroopanand denounced ISKCON as a money-laundering outfit. Conversely, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati views homosexual desire as no different from other desire; in this, she is in step with major gurus like Swami Chinmayananda (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article Homoeroticism in Hinduism). The author of Row Kavi 1999, the pioneering gay activist who was the first Indian man to come out in the media (in 1986) and who founded Bombay Dost, India’s first LGBT magazine, in 1990 as well as the major LGBTQ organization Humsafar Trust in 1994, recounts his experience of Ramakrishna Mission monks encouraging him to accept his sexuality. Vanita 2014 discusses the diametrically opposed views of two Hindu gurus with huge followings, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev, on the question of decriminalizing same-sex sexualities. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke to the author of Ring 2016 in more detail, calling for the anti-sodomy law (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) to be overturned because “Love is beyond gender. And attraction is only a reflection of love.” GALVA-108 is an older group that is now on social media; newer groups on social media include Queer Hindu Alliance, LGBT Hindu Satsang (a closed group on Facebook), and Transgender Vaishnava Association. Reuters 2019 reports on transgender leader Laxmi, who has become a Hindu guru, and Kanodia 2016 examines hijṛās’ worship of Mother Goddess Bahuchara Mata.

Political Organizations, Activists, Perspectives

This section focuses on LGBTQ activists who integrate their Hindu views and practice with their political advocacy or conversely, declare their opposition to Hinduism, as well as on Hindu advocacy organizations that state a position on LGBTQ issues. Hunt 2012 provides an overview of the terrain, within which political activists’ and theorists’ varying ideologies lead them to adopt different views of Hinduism and its textual perspectives on same-sex sexuality. Times Now 2015, a Newshour debate, showcases the divisions among Hindu leaders and activists with regard to LGBTQ. Arnab Goswami, popular and controversial Hindu host of this talk show, takes a range of political positions and refuses to label himself, but is labeled right-wing by many. Here, he forthrightly states his support for LGBTQ rights and criticizes the BJP government for having voted in the UN against same-sex partner rights for UN employees, thus allying itself with dictatorships. On this show, extreme right-wing Hindu activist Ajay Gautam, a spokesperson for Swami Swaroopananda (see TNN 2019 in Religious Organizations and Teachers), who founded a fringe group, “Hum Hindu,” in 2015, opposes Goswami. Gautam states that LGBTQ are sick and are criminals. This results in right-wing, left-wing, and centrist activists all battling Gautam together. Gohil (whom the authors of Gaffney and Lewis 2021 interview about his life and work) has been criticized for praising the BJP’s support of transgender empowerment and falsely accused of joining the BJP. Kang 2015, by a Dalit gay man, argues that challenging caste requires challenging the foundation of Hindu society, and Upadhyay 2020 claims that Hinduism is inherently violent, Brahmanical, and casteist. Kang and Upadhyay represent a small but influential group of academics who view Hinduism as synonymous with right-wing extremism and as irredeemably flawed by casteism, sexism, and homophobia that is sometimes explicit and sometimes disguised as queer positivity. Ambekar 2019, general secretary of the RSS, declares that the RSS has always combated caste discrimination and untouchability and supports decriminalization of homosexuality, but is opposed to live-in heterosexual relationships as well as to same-sex marriage. In a 2019 interview with The Hindu, Ambekar added that same-sex marriage “can be discussed in future.” Gujarat-based gay Hindu activist Ankit Bhuptani, who is pro-BJP, told the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) that Hindu opposition to homosexuality arises from ignorance rather than homophobia (see Bhuptani 2021). Balaji 2021 argues that because of Hinduism’s inclusiveness, Hindu Americans can lead in embracing LGBTQ. The HAF Policy Brief cited in this section is one attempt to do this.

Marriage Equality

Same-sex Hindu weddings (often performed by priests), mostly between low-income, non-English-speaking young women, have been reported in the Indian press since 1987 and continue in the early 21st century. The author of Vanita 2005 documents hundreds of these weddings and also joint suicides, envisioned as marriages by couples who are forcibly separated. She examines same-sex unions in premodern texts, such as the 14th-century Hindu narratives that she excavated, which show two co-widows producing the hero Bhagiratha from their divinely blessed sexual intercourse. From the 1990s, middle-class professionals also began to marry by Hindu rites. Chhibber 2004 reports on the earliest such weddings. SIFY 2015 describes a typical 21st-century same-sex Hindu wedding. Gaurav 2020 recounts Dr. Mehta’s speech (that went viral) at his son’s wedding to a man. Mehta’s son-in-law and son went on to file a petition in the Delhi High Court for recognition of their marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act. Press Trust of India 2021 reports on this and other petitions filed for marriage equality, including one to amend the Hindu Marriage Act. The author of Pant 2019 describes how she won a lawsuit in Nepal to obtain a resident visa for her American wife. Several hijṛās have gotten married by Hindu rites; Jetubhai 2013 records some. In 2019, Madras High Court recognized the marriage of a man and a transwoman as valid under the Hindu Marriage Act. Jetubhai 2013 lists recent LGBTQ weddings like these. Malik 2004 interviews Hindu teachers about same-sex marriage; Vanita 2005 also records the views of Hindu gurus and priests. Roy 2013 considers same-sex parenting in the context of Advani and Tarr, who married in 1993 and had children by surrogacy in India, shortly before the Indian government prohibited gay men from availing of this procedure. Modi 2021 addresses an aspect of Hindu conjugality, the north Indian festival of Karva Chauth, when married women fast for a day for their husbands’ longevity. They spend the day dressing up and shopping, and do no housework. More recently, several queer activists and theorists have denounced LGBTQ couples who adopt this ritual. In 2021, traditional Indian business-house Dabur put out a video advertisement for a bleaching cream, which depicted a lesbian couple performing the Karva Chauth ritual for each other. While many Hindus praised the depiction, some homophobic Hindus (such as a BJP minister in the state of Madhya Pradesh) and several queer activists attacked it, but for different reasons. Dabur was forced to withdraw the advertisement.

Autobiography

The coming-out story is one of the staples of LGBTQ creativity. Among many memoirs by gay and bisexual men and transwomen, a few draw on, seek out, or struggle with Hindu identity. Project Bolo (Project Speak Out) 2011 by Humsafar Trust was a pioneering series of interviews with twenty LGBTQ persons, most of them Hindu. Rangayan 2011 is an interview with Manvendra Singh Gohil, a Hindu prince who came out in 2006 and has morphed into an LGBTQ activist. His Lakshya Trust works on HIV awareness and for LGBTQ rights; for many years, it has presided over non-heterosexual marriages in Vadodara, a small town in Gujarat. The prince also opened his palace as a refuge for LGBTQ people during Covid. Kunwar 2020 is the first memoir by a Nepali gay man. Educated in the United States, Niranjan has returned to live in Nepal. Nepal, the only Hindu-majority country apart from India, legalized homosexuality in 2007 and also instituted regulations against discrimination. Hindu concepts and practices appear in Niranjan’s memoir. Revathi and Geetha 2010, Vidya 2014, and Laxmi and Pande 2016 are hijṛā memoirs that document struggles for equality and against violence, but take different approaches to Hinduism. While Laxmi discovers the richness of Hindu narrative and doctrine as a personal and political resource, Vidya rejects Hinduism because of caste oppression. The author of Shraya 2013, who grew up in Canada, explores his Hindu identity in tandem with his mother, while the author of Mohabir 2021 must excavate it from his loving grandmother’s songs and stories, in opposition to his domineering father, a convert to Christianity, who tears up Mohabir’s mother’s Ramayana, and, in Mohabir’s words, “hated himself . . . He would rather have silence than Sanskrit; hell than Hindi” (p. 93). Likewise, Mohabir finds some support for his homosexuality from his mother, but his father denounces it as an “abomination” and his extended family disowns him. Conversely, on a visit to Indian villages to search for his relatives, Mohabir must hide both his sexuality and the reality of his mixed-caste parentage.

  • Kunwar, Niranjan. Between Queens and the Cities: A Memoir. Kathmandu, Nepal: FinePrint Books, 2020.

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    This memoir by a Nepali Hindu gay man states, “we exist outside religion, outside society and culture”; however, several Hindu elements appear, for example, he remembers how his grandmother’s stories from the Hindu epics gave him a sense of possibility, since characters changed form or became different through reincarnation, and also recounts how people explain a boy’s femininity as remnants of a former lifetime.

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  • Laxmi, with Pooja Pande. Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life. New Delhi: Penguin, 2016.

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    This follow-up to her memoir Me Hijra, Me Laxmi, recounts the author’s relationships with various men, including gay activists Ashok Row Kavi and Manvendra Singh Gohil, her father, and her male lovers. Contemplating gender, she links her transgender identity to Hindu stories of indeterminate gender, as indicated in her dedication: “Vishnu is Mohini and Mohini Vishnu. This book is dedicated to our gods and goddesses. Because they get it.”

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  • Mohabir, Rajiv. Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir. New York: Restless Books, 2021.

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    An Indian whose parents migrated from the Caribbean to the United States and then converted to Christianity, Mohabir explores two aspects of his identity of which his father strongly disapproves—his Hindu ancestry and his homosexuality. “Antiman” is a Caribbean slur for gay men.

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  • Rangayan, Sridhar. “Project Bolo: Manvendra Singh Gohil.” 2011.

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    The Hindu prince of Rajpipla in western India narrates his struggles and how yoga brings him peace. After his marriage to a princess and subsequent divorce, his family publicly disowned him when he came out in 2006, and locals burnt his effigy at the Hindu festival Holi. He gained acceptance after his appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is now a well-known campaigner for LGBTQ rights.

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  • Revathi, A., with V. Geetha. The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story. India: Penguin, 2010.

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    The author grew up as a boy in a Tamil village that was presided over by Goddess Namakkal (the same Goddess who inspired mathematician A. K. Ramanujan). Recounts her struggles for acceptance, and also the significance of Hindu rites performed at weddings and deaths of aravanis.

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  • Shraya, Vivek. “Holy Mother, My Mother.” 2013.

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    Short documentary by a bisexual Canadian of Indian origin, who came out as transgender in 2016. Interweaves Navaratri Goddess celebrations in various parts of India with Shraya’s mother Shemeena’s experience of mothering a bisexual, as she draws inspiration from Hindu symbols of motherhood, such as cows and Goddesses.

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  • Vidya, Living Smile. I Am Vidya: A Transgender’s Journey. New Delhi: Rupa Publications, 2014.

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    Autobiography of a Dalit transwoman that became the basis for a Kannada film, Naana Avanala . . . Avalu (I Am Not He . . . I Am She). Born Hindu, she is antagonistic to Hinduism because of the oppression of Dalits. She applied to migrate to Switzerland, claiming she was unsafe in India; the application was refused. She works in theater and is a Dalit and transgender activist.

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The Arts

Hindu fiction, poetry, visual and performing arts, and devotional literature have celebrated LGBT lives for millennia (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article Homoeroticism in Hinduism). From the 20th century onward, literature, art, and cinema by both Indians and non-Indians depict the imbrication of Hindu philosophy and practice with LGBTQ lives. Several British men recorded their experiences of being homosexual in India and enjoying the hospitality of homosexually inclined Hindu princes. Guha 2021 examines the rarely acknowledged Hindu underpinnings of a novel by British-American novelist Christopher Isherwood, a gay man who was a Vedanta practitioner, co-translated the Gita, and wrote the authorized biography of Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna. The pioneering author of Namjoshi 1985 was perhaps the first to directly engage with lesbianism and Hindu worldviews, in two novels and many fables and poems. More recently, Indians and expatriate Indians, including the authors of Suri 2013, Mazumdar 2019, Kolmannskog 2019, and Pal 2019, draw on Hindu narrative, devotion, and practice to create works of fiction. Indian mainstream cinema has long celebrated romantic friendship between men as central to life, often drawing on famous friendships in Hindu texts, and has also acknowledged hijṛās. Mehta 1998 was a pioneering if flawed English-language film that focused on lesbianism, and provoked ire both for this and for its almost uniformly negative depiction of Hinduism, especialy the figure of the pativratā, devoted wife. Mansukhani 2008, criticized by some LGBTQ activists for its story about two straight men faking gayness, was welcomed by others for introducing the topic into the mainstream, for depicting several openly gay men, and for an iconic scene and song about a Hindu mother’s journey to acceptance. Kewaliya 2020 is a landmark film that narrates the story of a Hindu gay couple, deploying the language and conventions of Bombay cinematic comedy while making a forthright statement about LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. Several LGBTQ dancers have been working in the field of classical dance. Ravikumar 2019 documents the life and struggles of Nataraj, a transgender dancer who has combated discrimination at many levels and achieved success and renown.

  • Guha, Keshava. “The Art of Resistance: Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man Is Celebration of Individuality.” Scroll.In, 1 November 2021.

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    Keshava points out that “the great Hindu novel in English,” was written by a gay Englishman, and that its climax is “the most direct distillation of Vedanta in the history of English-language fiction.”

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  • Kewaliya, Hitesh, dir. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. 2020.

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    A mainstream Bombay romantic comedy about a Hindu gay male couple’s struggles with orthodox family members. Cites the Hindu concepts of marriage as a union of two spirits and of the spirit as beyond gender. Contains the first Bombay film depiction of a Hindu wedding between men; one character tells the others to watch closely as they will see many more such weddings in the future.

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  • Kolmannskog, Vikram. Lord of the Senses. London: Team Angelica, 2019.

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    In this short-story collection by an Indo-Norwegian gay Hindu who is involved with the Indian LGBTQ movement, the title story and another story, “Growing up Queer,” engage with homosexuality and Hindu devotion.

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  • Mansukhani, Tarun, dir. Dostana. 2008.

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    Produced by gay celebrity film-maker Karan Johar, this is the first mainstream Bombay film to depict gay male characters sympathetically (in addition to the two straight protagonists posing as gay). In a moving sequence, it depicts a Hindu mother coming to terms with what appears to be her son’s homosexuality, and blessing his apparent partner in traditional Hindu style.

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  • Mazumdar, Saikat. The Scent of God. New Delhi: Simon & Schuster, 2019.

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    Narrated by adolescent Anirvan, who explores his spiritual as well as his homosexual inclinations in a Hindu monastic boarding school, where celibacy is the norm and male-male intimacy all-pervasive.

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  • Mehta, Deepa, dir. Fire. 1998.

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    English-language film, made by an Indo-Canadian woman. Depicts a lesbian relationship between two sisters-in-law living in a middle-class Hindu household in Delhi. The film sparked a public debate on homosexuality. Hindu organizations Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal attacked cinemas screening it; however, the BJP central government refused to ban it. LGBTQ activists demonstrated in defense of the film.

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  • Namjoshi, Suniti. The Conversations of Cow. London: The Women’s Press, 1985.

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    Brilliant and hilarious magical realist novel, in which protagonist Suniti, an Indian Hindu lesbian beef-eating, feminist immigrant to the West, interacts with Bhadravati, a Goddess who morphs into a cow, a lesbian, and a white man. Draws on and plays with many Hindu concepts and practices, especially that of all things as divine.

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  • Pal, Sudipto. “The Boy Who Kept Karvachauth.” Delhi: Juggernaut Books, 2019.

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    Short story about a boy who faces violence for observing the north Indian Hindu Karva Chauth fast (kept by married women for their husbands) for his male lover. The lover is afraid to support him publicly but joins the ritual privately. Available online for purchase.

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  • Ravikumar, Aruna. “On the Pinnacle of Success.” The Hans India, 17 February 2019.

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    Article about the struggles and achievements of Dr. Narthaki Nataraj, transgender Bharata Natyam dancer, who in 2019 became the first transgender woman to be awarded the national award, the Padma Shri, and her life-companion, Shakthi Baskar, also a transgender woman. Dr. Nataraj lobbied the Tamil Nadu government to replace the term aravani with thirunangai (supreme woman). She describes how she draws inspiration from Hindu narratives of devotion.

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  • Suri, Manil. The City of Devi. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

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    This novel tells the story of a bisexual man, his wife, and his male lover, interweaving it with stories of the Hindu Gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi (the Goddess).

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