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But these days, there is another attraction of an entirely different variety.
Alongside the main rituals, a group of Aravanis organize a series of town hall meetings and music and dance talent contests for the transgender community.
The occasion is the Kuthandavar-Aravan Mela or Koovagam, from which this village draws its name—a centuries-old, annual religious festival that pays tribute to the temple’s renowned patron, Lord Aravan.
Each year, a symbolic marriage takes place between Aravan and thousands of his devotees.
By World Policy Journal Every May, the town of Koovagam in South India hosts a festival that celebrates sexuality through music, dance, and competition.
The event celebrates sexuality through religious rituals and beauty pageants.
And, following a series of performance-based competitions, a “Miss Koovagam” is crowned in a place where South Asia’s historically validated ideals of gender and sexual ambiguity The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has not fared well since the colonial-era law known as Section 377 criminalized “unnatural” forms of sexual expression in 1861.
In a frustratingly complex political era, the “third gender” identity has been formally recognized, yet homosexuality and bi-sexuality continue to be labeled a products of “western corruption.” In this context, Koovagam has become more than just an important refuge for the transgender community to celebrate its identity, but also a significant tool for the restoration of LGBT equality as a whole.The festival stands as a cultural icon of India’s inclusive past, a beacon of equality in the political present, and a symbol of the community’s hopes for a better future.