India’s Largest Transgender Festival took place in Koovagam on May 1st and 2nd. Koovagam is a yearly religious festival for hijras, India’s male-to-female transgendered people. Every year, Hijras from all over India flock to town of Villupuram, which is the nearest town to Koovagam with air-conditioned hotels. The festival celebrates the myth of Lord Krishna taking female form in order to marry Aravan (also called Iravan), a warrior who fought the Mahabharata War with the five Pandava brothers against their rivals, the Kauravas. Aravan volunteers to be sacrificed in order to ensure the Pandava brothers’ success on the battlefield, but wishes to marry and spend a night with a woman before he dies.
Two beauty pageants, one in the morning and one at night (winners from both are crowned “Miss Koovagam”) are held on the day preceding Koovagam’s formal opening and religious ceremony. During the pageant, contestants from all over India lip-sync and perform dance routines to classical Hindi music, golden-era Bollywood songs, or contemporary Tamil songs.
Harini from Thiruvannamalai, who won the beauty pageant was crowned with a Tiara.