Asian Ethnology 81 1&2 | article From the Margins to Demigod The Establishment of the Kinnar Akhara in India

Daniela Bevilacqua

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LGBT+ Sanskritization religious feminism hijṛā Kinnar akhāṛā

This article introduces the Kinnar Akhara, a recently established transgender religious organization that stems from the hijṛā tradition, a religiously syncretic subculture of transgender individuals in India. The Kinnar Akhara was established in 2015 by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender activist and at the time a hijṛā leader, together with other hijṛās. Their purpose was to legitimize the presence of hijṛās (now labeled kinnars) and that of transgender people among the Indian population. To obtain this, they evoked a past Hindu religious identity, challenging the male-dominated and change-resistant patriarchal world of the akhāṛās, while also questioning the Islamic legacy of the hijṛā traditions. The article analyzes the Kinnar Akhara as a form of selective Sanskritization of the hijṛā tradition and as a form of religious feminism. It further highlights the complexity of this religious movement, which harnesses local and global dynamics and challenges cultural and social structures.