Bahuchara Mata

by Shaun Bartone

bahuchar-maa-08.jpgPart I.

As a Buddhist, I believe in deities. Or let’s say I have a certain relationship with deities that preceded becoming a Buddhist, and I see no reason to abandon those beliefs. I have had a relationship with Durga for over a decade.

Recently I have become acquainted with Bahuchara Mata, the goddess of the Hijras and ‘third gender’ people in India, and surrounding Hindu and Muslim cultures.

As a third gender person myself, I feel a particular affinity and devotion to Bahuchara Mata. Bahuchara is a Durga-like goddess, who wields weapons and a fierce expression.

She is depicted riding a rooster, which to me, as a westerner, is interesting because we associate roosters with masculine energy, literally, “the cock.”

She assists men who are impotent (no surprise there) and women who want to become pregnant.

Hijras are fully initiated into the cult of Bahuchara Mata by ritual castration, again, the locus of “the cock.”

Bahuchara Mata has become the patron goddess of “third genders”, the LGBTQ community in India, people with queer gender and sexual identities.

I feel a resonance with her as someone who is transitioning to becoming a masculine person, who by hormones and surgery is attempting, spiritually if not physically, to acquire “the cock”.

I feel very close to her now as I wait to be scheduled for chest surgery, surgical removal of my breasts.

In Indian culture, the breasts are the primary signifier of femaleness. The story of her cutting off her own breasts suggests that she neutered her own femininity as a means to prevent rape.

The following description is from Qualia Folk:

(http://www.qualiafolk.com/2011/12/08/bahuchara-mata/)

“The myths associated with Bahuchara Mata often depict gender transformation and bodily mutilation on ethical and spiritual grounds. Bahuchara became a deity as a result of having saved herself from being rapedthrough an extraordinary act of courage.

One myth describes how she became a deity when she cut off her breasts in order to avoid being sexually assaulted by bandits (alternate telling: she cut off one breast and handed it to her attackers).

In another version of the story, Bahuchara and her sisters were attacked as they were traveling to a fair by a man named Bapiya. Her sisters killed themselves, and as Bahuchara cut off her breasts, she cursed Bapiya with impotency. He begged for mercy, and she relented only if he would wear women’s clothing and worship her.”

“Not all legends associated with Bahuchara are about men being castrated or becoming women.

Among her many miracles is a tale of changing a princess, who had been disguised as a boy, into a prince with a fully functioning male body.”

[This video is a recording of the elaborate pooja conducted to honour Bahuchara Mata. After blessings are offered to the Goddess, a feminine person (possibly a Hijra?) is marked and honoured as a physical manifestation of the Goddess.]

Part II.

Bahuchara Mata
Deviputra
Queen of Charan
daughter of royal caste
poetess, warrior
mother goddess
emanation of Durga

Your weapons are sword
and scripture
trident and
mudra of protection

You are the fierce one
who rides the rooster
the cock
of potent fertility
should a man lack virility
he begs for your empowerment
a woman who wants to conceive
implores your help

Tritya pakriti
third gender
Goddess of the Hijra
they who serve you
revere your power

Bahuchara Mata
herself became a devi
when she cut off her own breasts
to stop the desecration of her body
and so became a goddess.

Bahuchara Mata~
I chant to the Devi
invoke her power
of transformation
for I too seek the cock
carved from ritual and magic
A fierce longing
to sever my own breasts
to end the desecration
of my identity
as Lady, Woman, Female
to obtain the rupakaya
of a masculine spirit being

As the cock crows at dawn
The Dai
mother-guru of the Hijras
knots the twine
around the cock and balls
of the devotee
she raises her blade
and with one skillful slice
the cock is severed
from the body.
the new Hijra
bleeds a river of release
blood smeared
all over her body
—menstruation.

Through ritual castration
the Hijra
cut themselves off
from the world of human flesh
and bind themselves to her
as spirit beings.
the scars
are the mark
of their devotion.

*  *  *  *  *  *
I am now
the same age my mother was
when she died of breast cancer
both breasts hacked off
to cut away the tumours
but the cancer
already spread to her bones.

I walked with my mother
through her last year of life.
When she came out of a coma
for those final few days,
it was only to say goodbye.

It was in my mother’s death
that I was reborn as third gender
butch, gender queer, female man
every week it was a new label
to frame some part of my identity
but the tumours
protruding from my chest
always bulged outside
the binding
of the squared circle

At 30 years old, I wanted them off
cancer magnets is what I called them.
Two small sacks of flesh
kept me chained to the wall
of heterosex

Now twenty-five years later,
I am walking, this time,
toward my own death.
I will undergo the knife
I will lay down and die
on the operating table
and if I should wake up
I will blink my eyes
and draw a breath
in the strange tale
of another man’s life.

*  *  *  *  *  *
Bahuchara Mata
surgeon, midwife
you accompany the devotee
on their march to the charnal grounds,
there you wield your ritual knife
of castration
of immolation
they will be sacrificed
blood poured out
in honour
of the Great Goddess
they will bear her scars for life.

the devotee
laid unconscious
on the charnal ground
descends
into the underworld
and if the Great Mother
is so inclined
they come back
to the world of the living
as one of her children.

the egoic self
is stripped, shattered
it is revealed as nothing
it is emptiness, shunyata
cut away by the knife
of Bahuchara Mata
flesh is fashioned
into a new identity
that is no more solid
than the old
the devotee
comes to understand
that no identity is real
or eternal

Bahuchara Mata
surgeon, midwife,
you deliver the devotee
to the feet of Kali Ma
in the furnace of cremation
they will wear the face of death
and emerge
through reincarnation
as another gender
they will die
cross over,
transition
transform
and be reborn

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