Bahuchara mata is a Hindu goddess of fertility with origins in Gujarat and worshipped largely by the transgender community, widely known as hijra in many parts of India. Her temple is located in Becharaji town in the district of Mehsana in Gujarat. One of the popular myths that sur- round her is that she is worshipped by the people of the Brahmin caste, Charan in Gujarat. The women of the Charan community are regarded as divine goddesses. The narrative of the myth goes like this: Bahuchara was travelling with her sisters when a thief named Bapiya attacked them. Bahuchara cursed the thief with impotency, while severing her breasts and self-immolating herself as a symbol of casting away her feminity. Bapiya could free himself from curse of impotency if he worshipped the mata by taking on the role of a woman by dressing and acting like one. In another myth, there was a king who prayed to Bahuchara Mata for a son, but he was born an impotent. The goddess Bahuchara mata appeared to the prince named Jetho and ordered him to sever his genitals, dress himself with women’s clothes, and become her devotee. The myths of Bahuchara involve some form of change in gender which explains her popularity with the hijra community. Many heterosexual men who worship in her temple also wear women’s clothing to seek her blessings. The hijras believe that the blessing of the goddess gives them the power to bless and curse people and in her name they bless the newborn infants and couples on their wedding. The hijras also seek alms at the temple of Bahuchara Mata and in return bless the devotees who visit the temple.
By Susan Deborah Selvaraj, 2018