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How ancient India did not consider homosexuality as ‘unnatural’

Indian mythology has several stories of alternate sexual choices.

Homosexuality has never been considered as a crime in Hindu culture. Indian mythology has several stories of alternate sexual choices or even of men turning into women or vice-versa.

Shiva and Parvati- Ardhanarishvara

The supreme god of Shaivism, Shiva has often been held as the ultimate embodiment of masculinity, but as far back as the Kushan era, there have also been depictions of Shiva in the Ardhanarishvara form, an androgynous composite of Shiva and his wife, Parvati. The form originated when Parvati, desiring to share Shiva’s experiences, asked for their forms to literally be joined.

“What is being said is that if the inner masculine and feminine meet, you are in a perpetual state of ecstasy,” explains Hindu scholar Sadhguru. Most often, the Ardhanarishvara is depicted with the female form of Parvati on the left and the masculine attributes of Shiva on the right.

Gopisvara Mahadeva

Once while in deep meditation on Mount Kailash, Lord Shiva heard the sweet sound of Krishna playing his divine flute. He followed that transcendental sound until he came to Vrindavan, where Krishna was getting ready to start the Maha Raas – Lila with his gopis. Shiva was stopped by Yogamaya, who told him, “No males except Krishna are allowed entry”. He bathed in the Yamuna river as Yogmaya suggested and became a gopi so that he can participate in raas-leela with Krishna.

Vishnu as Mohini

A major deity of the religion regarded as protector of the world, Vishnu is clearly depicted in the faith as gender-fluid. This major Hindu deity frequently took on the female avatar of Mohini. Vishnu even procreated with Shiva in the form of Mohini, resulting in the birth of Ayyappa, a major figure still worshipped by millions who make pilgrimages to shrines in India. The avtar Mohini frequently gets describes as an enchantress who maddens lovers.

Another tale is that of Aravan, the son of Arjuna and Ulupi, who had to be sacrificed to ensure the Pandavas’ victory in the war. However, Aravan did not want to die unmarried. As no woman wanted to marry a man who would die the next day, Krishna took his female form, Mohini, became Aravan’s wife, spent the night with him and then mourned for him next morning – as his widow – when he was killed.

Shikhandini as Shikhandi

This warrior in the Kurukshetra war in most versions of the Mahabharata was female at birth but changed gender later in life. Born Shikhandini, the girl in one version of the story was raised as a male by King Drupada. The king even had her married to the princess of Dasharna. Upon complaints from the new bride, Shikhandini fled into the forest and met a Yaksha and exchanged genders. Now taking the name Shikhandi, he remained a man until his death at the battle of Mahabharat and killed Bhishma. In some other versions, Shikhandi is a male but transgender, due to Shiva’s boon that Amba (Shikhandini’s previous birth) will remember all the details of her past life

Arjuna as Brihannala

A protagonist in the Mahabharata, Arjuna spent a year in exile, cursed by a rejected Urvashi to live as a eunuch. But on the request of King Indra, that sentence was reduced and Arjuna lived just a year as a woman, taking the name Brihannala and teaching princesses to dance.

The Kama Sutra

In the chapter 9 of Kama Sutra, which in addition to offering instruction on fellatio makes clear that this skill can also be used acceptably in homosexual interactions. It’s even been cited by the Human Rights Campaign. Of note, the Kama Sutra existed as a religious text celebrating the union of individuals in sexual interaction. Historians believe the Kama Sutra to have been composed between 400 BCE and 200 CE.

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