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Saturday, September 19, 2015

An Unique Celebration

Contributed by Rupali...

At the Vaibhav Mitra Mandal, aartis and poojas have been performed by sex workers and eunuchs since it began celebrating Ganeshotsav in 1968. All castes and religions enthusiastically take part in the celebrations. The Ganapati temple of the mandal stands at a place that was a garbage dump once.

“There was a garbage dump in Budhwar Peth that we cleared to build the Ganapati and Renuka Devi temple,” said Prakash Kuchekar, president of the mandal. “Our tradition has never changed in the past four decades.”

One of the better-known Ganapati mandals in the city, it is the only place where aartis and poojas are performed exclusively by sex workers and hijras.

“Of the total 450 hijras and 1,500 sex workers as members, we have people who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian and others,” Mallika Shaikh, a hijra from the area. “There are no barriers of caste, region or even sex.” B Penna Gabriel, who runs Ashirwad, an NGO that works for hijras in Budhwar Peth, said hijras were living like outcastes even after 63 years of Independence and that the Ganeshotsav helped them get over the hurt. 

“Ganeshotsav is the time when we are treated like equals at this mandal and we get to forget our problems and enjoy the festival just like anyone else,” Gabriel said. The proceeds collected from the mandal go towards the education and upbringing of children of sex workers.  “If any hijras or sex workers fall sick, then some of the money collected is given to them for treatment. but the main purpose of this Ganapati manddal is to make people give us a place in the mainstream of society,” said Ranuka Korvi, a woman member of the mandal. 

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