Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You


Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin India
(Pp 179, ISBN 978 93 830748 4 6, Rs 218)

In an era where the LGBT community still strives to be accepted in the society, Devdutt Pattanaik’s book ‘Shikhandi and other tales they don’t tell you’ comes as a revelation. The introduction gives an insight into instances of queerness in countries such as China and Egypt. It’s also been spoken and written about in Indian literature too.

The book traces how this tabooed subject goes back to Indian oral and written traditions through lesser-known tales of transgenders, transvestites and queerness. Also how transforming oneself from a man to woman and vice-versa became legendary. For instance, Arjuna was cursed to turn a eunuch for a year. This led to him turning Brihanala at Virata’s kingdom while in hiding.

Some stories are true to their mythical nature. Sample this, King Bhagiratha was born by fusing two bhagas (vulvas) or beautiful Urvashi came to life from a painting of a beautiful woman. The book ends with how Lord Rama gladly offered a special place to eunuchs in his kingdom sending out a deeper message to today’s world.

Backed by the historical evidence and including the queerness point of view, Pattanaik makes the reader ruminate over the stories in this spellbinding compilation

–Janani Rajeswari S

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