By Amara Das Wilhelm
Let me first offer my respectful obeisances unto my beloved
gurudeva, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Mindful of his
desire to see all classes of human society included within the
Vedic system of spiritual upliftment, I humbly attempt to write
this book. It is also my desire to help steer readers away from
the pitfalls of discrimination and hate based upon bodily distinctions,
so often the trap of mundane religionists.
In modern times, there has been much controversy concerning
the position and rights of gay and other third-gender groups
within society. Should they be feared and eliminated as a harmful,
corruptive force within our midst? Should they be ignored and
hidden away, being denied the basic rights and privileges that
other citizens enjoy? Or should they be welcomed as simply another
color within the rainbow of human variety? The answer to these
questions can be found in the ancient Vedic literatures of India,
which have thoroughly analyzed and recorded all aspects of human
behavior and knowledge since time immemorial.
After the Vedas were issued forth from Brahma at the beginning
of creation, Manu set aside the verses concerning civic virtues
and ethics, thus compiling the Dharma Shastra. Similarly, Brhaspati
set aside the verses concerning politics, economy, and prosperity
to compile the Artha Shastra. Nandi, the companion of Lord Siva,
set aside the verses concerning sense pleasure and sexuality,
thus compiling the Kama Shastra.1
The great sage, Vyasadeva, put this Kama Shastra into writing
approximately five thousand years ago along with all other Vedic
It was then subsequently divided into many parts and almost
lost until recompiled by the brahmana sage, Vatsyayana, during
the Gupta period or about 300 A.D.3
The result was the famed Kama Sutra or codes
of sensual pleasure. Although commonly presented to Westerners
in the format of an erotic sex manual, the actual unabridged
Kama Sutra gives us a rare glimpse into the sexual
understandings of ancient Vedic India.
Three Categories of Gender
Throughout Vedic literature, the sex or gender of the human
being is clearly divided into three separate categories according
to prakriti or nature. These are: pums-prakriti
or male, stri-prakriti or female, and tritiya-prakriti
or the third sex.4
These three genders are not determined by physical characteristics
alone but rather by an assessment of the entire being that includes
the gross (physical) body, the subtle (psychological) body,
and a unique consideration based upon social interaction (procreative
status). Generally the word sex refers to biological
sex and gender to psychological behavior and identity.
The term prakriti or nature, however, implies both aspects
together as one intricately woven and cohesive unit, and I will
therefore use the two words more or less interchangeably in
People of the third sex are analyzed in the Kama Sutra
and broken down into several categories that are still visible
today and generally referred to as gay males and lesbians. They
are typically characterized by a mixed male/female nature (i.e.
effeminate males or masculine females) that can often be recognized
within childhood and are identified by an inherent homosexual
orientation that manifests at puberty. The homosexual behavior
of these people is described in great detail within the eighth
and ninth chapters of the second part of the Kama Sutra.
While gay males and lesbians are the most prominent members
of this category, it also includes other types of people such
as transgenders and the intersexed.
The third sex is described as a natural mixing or combination
of the male and female natures to the point in which they can
no longer be categorized as male or female in the traditional
sense of the word. The example of mixing black and white paint
can be used, wherein the resulting color, gray, in all its many
shades, can no longer be considered either black or white although
it is simply a combination of both. People of the third sex
are mentioned throughout Vedic literature in different ways
due to their variety of manifestations. They were not expected
to behave like ordinary heterosexual men and women or to assume
their roles. In this way, the third-sex category served as an
important tool for the recognition and accommodation of such
persons within society.
People of the third sex are also classified under a larger
social category known as the neutral gender. Its
members are called napumsaka, or those who do not
engage in procreation. There are five different types
of napumsaka people: (1) children; (2) the elderly; (3)
the impotent; (4) the celibate, and (5) the third sex.5
They were all considered to be sexually neutral by Vedic definition
and were protected and believed to bring good luck. As a distinct
social category, members of the neutral gender did not engage
in sexual reproduction. This nonreproductive category played
an integral role in the balance of both human society and nature,
similar to the way in which asexual bees play out their own
particular roles in the operation of a hive. In Hinduism there
are no accidents or errors, and everything in nature has a purpose,
role, and reason for existence.
Vedic society was all encompassing, and each individual was
seen as an integral part of the greater whole. Thus all classes
of men were accommodated and engaged according to their nature.
Third-gender citizens were neither persecuted nor denied basic
rights. They were allowed to keep their own societies or town
quarters, live together within marriage and engage in all means
of livelihood. Gay men could either blend into society as ordinary
males or they could dress and behave as females, living as transvestites.
They are especially mentioned as being expert in dancing, singing
and acting, as barbers or hairstylists, masseurs, and house
servants. They were often used within the female sections of
royal palaces and also engaged in various types of prostitution.
Transvestites were invited to attend all birth, marriage, and
religious ceremonies as their presence was a symbol of good
luck and considered to be auspicious. This tradition still continues
in India even today.6
Lesbians were known as svairini or independent women
and were permitted to earn their own livelihood. They were not
expected to accept a husband. Citizens of the third sex represented
only a very small portion of the overall population, which most
estimates place at approximately 5 percent.7
They were not perceived to be a threat in any way and were considered
to be aloof from the ordinary attachments of procreation and
family life. In this way they were awarded their own particular
status and welcomed as a part of civilized Vedic society.
A Matter of Semantics
There is a strange being described within early British translations
of Vedic literature. These beings are comic, mythical creatures
that appear to have lost their relevance in modern times. They
are described as neither man nor woman, or sometimes as both
man and woman. They are compared to the gandharva or
fairy and are believed to be asexual or without sexual desire.
Even Arjuna, the eternal companion of Lord Krsna and the hero
of the Mahabharata, became one of these beings while
hiding during his last year of exile,8
according to the Lords plan. There, dressed as a woman,
he wore his hair in braids, behaved in a feminine manner, and
taught dancing and singing to young girls with no attraction
Welcome to the world of the so-called Vedic eunuch, a term
so archaic and disingenuous it provides a good lesson both in
semantics and social denial. First of all, there is no recorded
evidence of any system of male castration in ancient Vedic India.9
Castration among servants and slaves was only introduced into
medieval northern India with the arrival of foreign Islamic
rulers, sometime around the eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D.10
Even then, it was usually only homosexual males who endured
the dark and gruesome practice. The English word eunuch,
or castrated male, is Greek in origin11
and was commonly used to refer to both homosexuals and castrated
men during the Middle Ages. When the term homosexual
was first coined with the advent of modern psychiatry in the
late nineteenth century, British writers continued to cling
to the word eunuch, which was considered more polite
by Victorian standards. Thus they used the word loosely to describe
both homosexual and castrated men all over the world in regions
ranging from Greece, Persia, India, China, Polynesia, etc. During
the nineteenth century, when Great Britain was the major world
power and had subjugated India, homosexuality was considered
a sin so horrific it was not even to be mentioned, let alone
discussed. This resulted in the use of vague, inappropriate
terms to describe homosexual people such as eunuch, neuter,
impotent, asexual, hermaphrodite, etc. While these different
types of people exist to some degree and are included within
the third-gender category, they hardly would have made up its
mass. Rather, by behavior and as described in the Kama Shastra,
the so-called eunuchs of ancient India engaged almost exclusively
The avoidance of this fact has lead to an erroneous understanding
of the Vedic eunuch and his relevance to modern
times. Words used to describe gay and lesbian citizens in Sanskrit
were inaccurately translated to skirt homosexual issues and
impose puritan ethics upon Vedic literatures where they did
not otherwise exist. There are many examples of this, the most
common of which is the Sanskrit word napumsaka (literally,
not male), which is used to refer to a man who has
no taste for women and thus does not procreate. While this may
technically include diseased, old, or castrated men, it most
commonly refers to the gay or homosexual male, depending of
course upon the context and behavior of the character being
described. Other Sanskrit words for people of the third sex
include shandha (a man who behaves like a woman) and kliba
or panda (impotent with women). These words appear to be somewhat interchangeable
and, like most Sanskrit terms, have several different
meanings. Nevertheless, they are plainly used to describe homosexuals
and other types of third-sex people in Vedic texts. It is foolish
to assume that Sanskrit words like napumsaka, shandha,
and kliba only refer to castrated men or neuters, especially
when we consider that castration was not systematically practiced
in ancient India.
Another good example of inaccurate translating can be found
in the Sanskrit word referring to lesbians or svairini.
Literally meaning independent woman, this word was
commonly mistranslated by early British scholars as corrupt
And when mentioning maithunam pumsi, or simply
sexual union between males, the so-called scholars
have chosen as their translation the unnatural offense
with a male.14
Mistranslations such as these have only served to confuse and
cover the acknowledgement of gay and lesbian people within Vedic
literature, people who were nonetheless clearly recognized and
defined in the Kama Shastra. In many instances, such persons
were even demeaned or vilified by foreign commentators who did
not understand or accept the Vedic concept of a third gender.
We can only hope that future scholars and translators will be
more accurate and forthright in their work.
The Vedic literatures are comprised of voluminous Sanskrit
texts numbering in the thousands, and their priestly authors
were renowned for their detailed descriptions of all sciences,
both godly and mundane. To obtain a clear understanding of human
sexuality, behavior, and practice, one is advised to consult
the Kama Shastra, which thoroughly covers this field. It is
within these texts where the most information is found regarding
the third sex and its members, behavior, practices and roles
within society. A brief description will be given here, taken
mostly from the eighth and ninth chapters of the second part
of the Kama Sutra:
People of the third sex (tritiya-prakriti)
are of two kinds, according to whether their appearance is
masculine or feminine.15
(Kama Sutra 2.9.1)
Members of the third sex are first categorized according to
whether their physical characteristics are either male or female.
These are known as kliba, or gay males, and svairini,
or lesbians. Each of these categories is then divided into two,
depending upon whether their behavior is either masculine or
feminine. They are then further divided into many subcategories.
Homosexual people are the most prominent members of the third
sex. While appearing as ordinary males and females, their third-nature
identity is revealed by their exclusive romantic and sexual
attraction for persons of the same physical sex. Gay men experience
the attractions ordinarily felt by females, and lesbian women
experience the attractions ordinarily felt by males. Such people
commonly exhibit other types of cross-gender behavior,
but not always.
Under the heading of tritiya-prakriti, or people
of the third sex, the lesbian is first described in the chapter
of the Kama Sutra concerning aggressive behavior
in women (purushayita).16
The Sanskrit word svairini refers to an independent or
liberated woman who has refused a husband, earns her own livelihood,
and lives either alone or in marriage with another woman. Her
various types of homosexual behavior and practices are described
in great detail within this chapter.
Lesbians were more likely to marry and raise children than
their male counterparts and were readily accommodated both within
the third-gender community and ordinary society. Those who did
not produce children were sometimes known as nastriya
or not female. Women of the third sex were engaged
in all means of livelihood including trade, government, entertainment,
as courtesans or prostitutes, and as maidservants. Sometimes
they would live as renunciates and follow ascetic vows.
Gay Men (Kliba)
The word kliba can refer to any type of impotent man, but in this instance it is specifically used to
describe men who are completely impotent with women due to their homosexual nature. Gay men are thoroughly described in the chapter
of the Kama Sutra concerning oral sex (auparishtaka).17
Oral sex is not recommended for heterosexuals and is forbidden
to brahmanas (priests), but it is acknowledged as the natural
practice among those of the third sex who are not otherwise
engaged in celibacy. Homosexual men who take the passive role
in oral sex are specifically known in Sanskrit as mukhebhaga or asekya.
Gay men with feminine qualities are first described:
Those with a feminine appearance show it by their dress,
speech, laughter, behavior, gentleness, lack of courage, silliness,
patience, and modesty.18
(Kama Sutra 2.9.2)
Gay men with feminine qualities are the most recognizable members
of the third sex. For this reason, they have often kept their
own societies within all cultures of the world. They generally
keep long hair and arrange it in braids or in a womanly fashion.
Those who dress up as females are known as transvestites. Feminine
gay males were often professionally employed by aristocratic
women and commonly served within the royal palace. They are
proficient in the arts, entertainment, and most notably, dancing.
As mentioned earlier, their presence at marriage and religious
ceremonies was considered to invoke auspiciousness, and their
blessings were much sought after.
The masculine gay male is next described:
Those who like men but dissimulate the fact maintain a manly
appearance and earn their living as barbers or masseurs.19
(Kama Sutra 2.9.6)
The masculine gay male is not as easily recognizable and would
often blend into ordinary society, living either independently
or within marriage to another man. Some were known to become
professional male prostitutes who worked as masseurs. The technique
of these masseurs is described in much detail. While effeminate
gay men would keep smooth skin, apply makeup and sometimes
don breasts, the masculine gay male would keep bodily hairs,
grow moustaches or small beards, and maintain a muscular physique.
They would often wear shiny earrings. Gay men were talented
in many different ways and were engaged in all means of livelihood.
They often served as house attendants to wealthy vaishyas
(merchants) or as chamberlains and ministers to government officials.
Such men were renowned for their loyalty and devotion. Sometimes
gay men would live as renunciates and develop clairvoyant powers.
Those practicing celibacy were often used as pujaris
Gay males typically engaged in fraternal or casual love but
were sometimes known to marry one another:
There are also third-sex citizens, sometimes greatly attached
to each other and with complete faith in one another, who
get married (parigraha) together.20
(Kama Sutra 2.9.36)
There were eight different types of marriage according to the
Vedic system, and the homosexual marriage that occurred between
gay males or lesbians was classified under the gandharva
or celestial variety. This type of marriage was not recommended
for members of the brahmana community but often practiced by
heterosexual men and women belonging to the other classes. The
gandharva marriage is defined as a union of love and
cohabitation, recognized under common law, but without the need
of parental consent or religious ceremony.21
In the Jayamangala, an important twelfth-century commentary
on the Kama Sutra, it is stated: Citizens with
this kind of [homosexual] inclination, who renounce women and
can do without them willingly because they love each other,
get married together, bound by a deep and trusting friendship.
The Sanskrit word shandha refers to men who behave like women or whose manhood is completely destroyed (the word shandhi similarly applies to women). This can refer to many types of third-gender people but is perhaps most commonly used to describe those with complete transgender identity.
Such people do not identify with their physical sex but instead
consider themselves and live their lives as members of the opposite
sex. Male-to-female transgenders identify and live as women
whereas female-to-male transgenders identify and live as men.
They are also sometimes called transvestites or transsexuals
and differ from gay males and lesbians in that they do not usually
identify as homosexual and are less common.
It is possible that in ancient India, male-to-female transgenders
may have sometimes castrated themselves in order to become feminized.
More likely, however, since self-mutilation is greatly discouraged
in Vedic culture, men of the third sex who identified as women
would have tied their genitals up tightly against the groin with a kaupina,
a practice that is still common in southern India and also found
in various other world cultures. In a similar way, female-to-male
transgenders would have strapped their breasts tightly against
their torsos. Nowadays, however, such people often undergo hormone
treatment and transsexual operations, especially in the West.
Vedic culture allowed transgender people of the third sex to
live openly according to their gender identity, and this is
demonstrated in the Mahabharata story of Arjuna as Brihannala.
Castration was not a common
or accepted practice of ancient India, and mutilation of the
body is discouraged in Vedic texts and considered to be in the
mode of darkness.22
Its current illegal practice in northern India among the hijra
or eunuch class can be attributed to the former centuries of
Muslim rule that once encouraged the practice among servants
and slaves who were homosexual by nature. In South India, largely
spared from Islamic rule and influence, there is a third-gender
class similar to the hijra known as the jogappa,
but they do not practice castration.23
The abused hijra class of modern-day India is the sad
result of cruel social policies directed against people of the
third sex for almost a thousand years. Rejected by foreign overlords
who ridiculed and condemned any form of gender-variant behavior
as intrinsically evil and unnatural, these citizens were abandoned
as social outcastes. Homosexual and transgender males could
join the hijra class by castrating themselves but were
otherwise forced to marry women and pretend to live as ordinary
men. Unfortunately, this stifling social policy still remains
dominant in India today and has become accepted by most modern-day
The word napumsa can refer to any nonreproductive person
of the third sex. Sometimes it specifically implies people born with ambiguous genitalia (the intersexed). Such people
may be homosexual, heterosexual, or sexually undefined by nature,
and their degree of impotence can vary greatly. Those born without proper sex organs are called nisarga in Sanskrit and
typically have a chronic physical condition caused by the biological
combination of the male and female sexes known today as intersexuality.
This condition, formerly known as hermaphroditism,
leaves its members sexually dysfunctional, unusually formed,
or sterile. According to Vedic texts, people are born this way,
at least in some instances, due to past sinful activities.24
Nevertheless, such people were respected for their napumsaka
status and treated kindly by Vedic society. They were accepted
according to their nature and typically lived within the larger
third-gender community where they shared similar roles.
In modern biology, the study of intersexuality and its various
conditions is relatively new. The concept of the male and female
sexes combining on a biological level, however, was already
known by Vedic science many thousands of years ago and corresponds
with the tritiya-prakriti category. Most modern
researchers now suspect that biology, including genetic or inborn
hormonal factors, plays a significant role in determining not
only a persons physical sex but also their sexual orientation
and gender identity.25
Indeed, homosexuality and transgender identity may very well
be some of the most common forms of intersexuality we know,
and this would explain why Sanskrit words describing people
of the third sex are often used interchangeably and why homosexuals,
transgenders and the intersexed are classified together.
It is a commonly held myth among some people that the third
sex mentioned in Vedic texts refers only to the physically intersexed and not
to homosexuals. While this view is clearly contradicted in the
Kama Shastra, it is also important to note that intersex conditions are
much less common within nature than homosexuality. On average,
chronic intersexuality occurs in approximately one out of every
and transgender identity in about one out of every three thousand.
When this figure is compared to the estimated homosexual population
of 5 percent or one out of every twenty births, it makes only
one intersexed and twelve transgender persons for every 1,830 gays
and lesbians. This disparity clearly demonstrates the predominate
role of homosexuals within the third-sex category and indeed, Sanskrit lists of the third sex clearly include them among the various types cited.
The Kama Sutra thoroughly describes all types
of sexual behavior and practices between heterosexual or first-
and second-gender men and women. This is by far the major portion
of the text. Within these chapters, bisexuality is occasionally
mentioned. Apparently, in Vedic times, bisexuality was considered
to be more of a variation for men and women who were so inclined,
and not as a category of the third sex. Because bisexuals engaged
in the procreative act, they did not possess the napumsaka
nature of the third sex and other sexually neutral people. The
Sanskrit word kami indicates that such persons were especially
fond of lovemaking and that they displayed this fondness in
a variety of ways. Kami includes people who are simultaneously
attracted to both men and women or who engage in homosexuality
for reasons other than natural attraction. Those who periodically
switch back and forth between heterosexuality and homosexuality
are sometimes known in Sanskrit as paksha.
Bisexual feelings within heterosexual or homosexual people
usually occur at a rate of about 10 or 15 percent for either
These feelings may range from very mild ones that are easy to
ignore, on up to stronger ones that require satisfaction. Bisexuality
is a curious nature in that it can move back and forth, thus
involving the question of choice, which is normally not an issue
with heterosexuals or homosexuals. Heterosexuals often confuse
the homosexual nature with bisexuality, falsely considering
homosexuality to be merely a choice or tendency.
They are unaware that the vast majority of homosexuals, or roughly
90 percent, have absolutely no attraction, natural or otherwise,
for members of the opposite sex. Bisexuals themselves are often
uncertain about their own sexuality, especially during adolescence.
In one survey, 35 percent of all bisexual people reported to
have previously identified as gay or lesbian earlier in life.28
In any case, bisexuals were typically accommodated within ordinary
heterosexual society but would also frequent the third-gender
communities where they were similarly welcomed. Topics discussed
in the Kama Shastra pertaining to them include: men who visit
transvestites or masseurs working as prostitutes, men in the
company of lesbians, transvestites within the kings harem, women
of the harem satisfying themselves in lieu of the kings absence,
and male servants who practice homosexuality in their youth
but then later become inclined towards women.29
Bisexual women (kamini) are mentioned in the Srimad
Bhagavatam within the chapter describing heavenly realms
situated below the earth.30
In those beautiful regions, within celestial gardens and accompanied
by lesbians and nymphs (pumscali), bisexual women would
entice men with a cannabis beverage and enjoy sex to their full
Sexual Accommodation Versus Puritanism
In the Vedic system, different standards of behavior and sexual
conduct are prescribed for different classes of men.31
For example, the priestly order was held to high standards of
conduct, followed by the government officials. Merchants and
farmers were given more leniency, and ordinary workers and artisans,
who made up more than half of the population, were given more
leniency still. This contrasts greatly with most modern systems
whereby all citizens are expected to follow the same laws. The
advantage of the Vedic system is that it is able to accommodate
all varieties of men within society according to their different
It should be understood that the sexual behaviors described
in the Kama Shastra are intended for the Vedic citizen pursuing
worldly enjoyment, which is generally the aim of most people.
They are not intended for those engaged in vows, austerities,
and other penances that are recommended in the Vedas as a means
of attaining moksha or liberation from material bondage.
For this class of men (the spiritualists and brahmanas) only
celibacy is prescribed, even within marriage, and this is considered
to be the highest standard of conduct for those in the human
form of life. However, Vedic culture is all encompassing and
thus, while ultimately encouraging renunciation, also realistically
accommodates other standards of behavior among common men.
In modern times, laws are drawn which artificially attempt
to force all citizens to adopt standards of conduct that are
normally assigned to the priestly class. From the Vedic perspective,
however, sexual restraint is only effective when it is voluntary.
Laws were used to regulate vice by establishing
designated areas within the city or town and prohibiting it
elsewhere, such as in the brahmana or temple districts. Responsible
family life and celibacy were publicly encouraged and promoted
by the government, but at the same time other forms of sexual
behavior were acknowledged and accommodated accordingly. These
include a wide variety of activities such as prostitution, polygamy,
sexually explicit art, homosexual practices, the keeping of
concubines, courtesans, etc. Anyone familiar with Vedic literature
will be well aware that these activities were allotted a limited
space within its culture.32
They also continue to flourish even in modern times despite
centuries of prohibition. The puritanical concept of total prohibition
of vice is a failed, unrealistic system that causes widespread
hypocrisy, disrespect for law, and injustice for many citizens.
People of the third sex have especially suffered under this
The Third Sex and Scriptural Law
The sage Vatsyayana recognizes that sexual behavior varies from
country to country. People of the southern and western regions
tend to be more relaxed in their attitudes concerning sexual
variation. Adhorata (anal intercourse), for instance,
is particularly practiced by people in the southern regions.33
While acknowledged as being occasionally practiced by all three
sexes, it is not recommended for any of them, including members
of the third sex, and is of course forbidden to brahmanas. Its
practice is said to divert the life-airs downwards and cause
disease. Homosexual men who take the passive role in anal sex
are specifically known in Sanskrit as kumbhika.
Regarding scriptural law, there are no verses in the Dharma
Shastra that specifically prohibit sexual behavior among people
of the third sex. Two verses admonish sexual intercourse among
ordinary males (pums-prakriti), but the atonement
set is a mere ritual bathing and applies only to brahmanas or
those of the twice-born class:
A twice-born man who engages in intercourse with a male,
or with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in
the daytime, shall bathe, dressed in his clothes.34
Another verse states:
Striking a brahmana, smelling obnoxious items such as liquor,
cheating, and engaging in intercourse with a male are declared
to cause the loss of caste.35
This loss of caste was not permanent since it could be atoned
for, but it is generally accepted that unmarried brahmanas should
always practice celibacy. Even married brahmanas were discouraged
from having any sexual contact with their wives unless specifically
engaged to produce a child in accordance with the garbhadhana-samskara
There are similarly no laws in the Dharma Shastra prohibiting
sexual acts between women except for two that involve the violation
of young, unmarried girls (aged eight to twelve).37
In the Artha Shastra relatively minor fines are given as punishment
for homosexual acts committed by twice-born males or involving young, unmarried girls. The fines for men are approximately four times the fines for women and girls.38
It is also interesting to note that heterosexual crimes such
as adultery and the pollution of women are punished quite harshly
in the Dharma Shastra, usually by corporal punishment or death.
In comparison, the same texts take little issue with homosexual
behavior and seem to view it as rather harmless.
Other topics mentioned in the Dharma Shastra pertaining to
people of the third sex include: their excusal from ancestral
worship and oblations (sraddha); their omission from
family inheritance (unless they had progeny); the recommendation
that they, as well as women, should avoid offering food into
the sacrificial fire; and that ritualistic priests (smarta-brahmanas)
should not partake of such offerings.39
Most of these injunctions relate to the fact that people of
the third sex did not appease their forefathers and ancestral
gods by producing progeny and were therefore treated as ascetics.
Fire sacrifices and other ritualistic ceremonies are mostly
intended for householders and not for renunciates or people
of the neutral gender.
Sometimes, in the absence of women, heterosexual men engage
in homosexual behavior against their nature with other men.
This practice, known in Sanskrit as purushopasripta,
is condemned by Vedic literature. In the Srimad Bhagavatam
it is narrated that at the beginning of creation Lord Brahma
generated the godless class of men from his buttocks who then
forcibly approached him for sex.40
To appease them, Lord Brahma created twilight in the form of
a beautiful woman who completely captivated their lusty desires.
This point of the story is important to note because it clearly
demonstrates that the demons were not members of the third sex.
This type of apparent homosexual behavior between first-gender
males, as seen in prisons for instance where there are no females
available, is considered demoniac and is not for any sane
male in the ordinary course of life.41
It should not be confused with the natural homosexuality described
in the Kama Shastra and practiced by people belonging to the
third sex, acting according to their nature and with affection.
Men who indulge in all types of sexual intercourse without
restriction are known in Sanskrit as sarva-abhigama (SB 5.26.21). In a verse from
the Mahabharata, Lord Siva explains to Goddess Parvati
why some men are born with severe physical handicaps such as
blindness, chronic illness, or without proper sex organs (as
neuters). In his answer to the latter category, Lord Siva describes
the fate of heterosexual men who engage in unrestricted sex:
Those foolish males who have intercourse in the wombs of
lower-class women or animals (viyoni) are born again
A similar verse from the Narada Purana states
that first-gender males who have intercourse in non-wombs (ayoni)
take their next births as neuters after suffering in hell. The
idea is that heterosexual males (pums, purusa)
have the prescribed duty in life to marry women and produce
offspring, and any neglect of this duty is said to incur sin.
This is not, however, the duty of men belonging to the third
sex (napums) because they are impotent with women by
nature and therefore not expected to procreate. The Narada-smriti
(12.15) specifically states that homosexual men are incurable
and should not be married to women. Procreation was not their
prescribed duty or dharma under Vedic scriptural
It is said that a society can be judged by how it treats its
minorities and gentler classes. In Vedic civilization the cows,
the brahmanas, the women, and those belonging to the neutral
gender (children, the elderly, the impotent, the celibate, and the
third sex) were all offered protection as an important social
In modern times, however, everything is topsy-turvy and thus
these groups are now ridiculed, exploited, persecuted, and even
killed, often under government sanction.
In Vedic society, people were familiar with the third sex and
could normally recognize its characteristics within their offspring.
Since everyone was accommodated under the Vedic system, third-gender
youths could find their place within society according to their
nature and thus grow healthfully into adulthood. In modern society,
however, people are afraid to even discuss third-sex issues.
Parents deny that their children are gay and try to force them
to be straight. This causes psychological harm because
it is against the childs nature and creates friction and
the fear of disappointing the parents. In school, third-gender
children are ostracized by others and abused both verbally and
physically. During adolescence, when others are dating and learning
how to form relationships, third-gender youths are isolated
and forced to hide their nature out of fear or shame. Alienated
and confused in this way, they contemplate suicide, and it has
been found that the suicide rate for gay teens is four times
higher than that of their heterosexual peers.44
Those reaching adulthood are discriminated against in the workforce,
legally denied housing, scorned when they couple, and forbidden
the joys of marriage. Shunned by both their relatives and society
at large, people of the third sex are forced into self-denial,
often under the threat of criminal prosecution.
The most remarkable aspect of this gross mistreatment of third-sex
people in modern times is that it is all being done under the
banner of so-called morality and religion. These citizens are
rejected as immoral and undeserving of human rights solely on
the basis of their romantic and sexual nature, which many people
mistakenly consider to be merely a choice. This
type of social rejection and mistreatment is due to ignorance.
Not understanding the nature of the third sex, people become
suspicious and fearful of their differences. This produces bigotry,
which then festers into hatred and eventually violence. The
disrespect and persecution of the third sex is a clear sign
of Kali Yuga, or the modern era of irreligion
and hypocrisy described in Vedic literatures. Under the Vedic
system, these citizens were symbols of good luck. They were
protected and would bestow their blessings upon society. The
fact that they are now mistreated and oppressed can be seen
as an omen of bad times, and it is a poor measure of our humanity.
It is a common misconception among some that in Kali
Yuga there is an increase in the ratio of homosexual
Having researched this thoroughly, I have yet to find any Vedic
verse supporting this claim. Rather, in the Vayu Purana
it is stated, In the Kali Yuga there will
be more women than men.46
The foremost symptom of the Kali Yuga described
is the marked increase in promiscuity among people of all genders.
In the Bhagavad Gita it is stated that when irreligion is prominent,
women become exploited and produce unwanted progeny, which then
destroy the family tradition and become harmful to society at
While homosexual promiscuity can lead to disease for those involved,
heterosexual promiscuity is ensued by disease, adultery, unwanted
children, contraception, divorce, broken families, abortion,
and so many social problems that directly affect the lives of
other members of society. For this reason, the Dharma Shastra
and other Vedic literatures strictly enforced the institution
of marriage among heterosexual couples for the maintenance of
the social structure. Homosexuality, on the other hand, was
not taken as seriously under Vedic law and was not considered
to be a social threat.
As a natural gender, the third sex has maintained a relatively
fixed presence within human society since time immemorial, despite
varying social policies. Indeed, its members will exist wherever
there are males and females themselves, and this will be true
regardless of any fear, rejection, or hate that we may project
upon and cause them to suffer. For our own good, therefore,
and by following the Vedic example of social morality and acceptance,
we should respect and treat all living entities equally, without
consideration of gender.
Maharaja Viratas Example
The perfect example concerning the proper treatment of third-sex
people can be found in the behavior of Maharaja Virata. This
great king was the ruler of the Matsya province in India during
the time of Lord Krsna, or just over five thousand years ago.
When Arjuna went to approach the king for shelter, he had assumed
the form and nature of a male-to-female transgender, a member
of the third sex. Donned in a womans blouse and draped
in red silk, he wore numerous ivory bangles, golden earrings,
and necklaces made of coral and pearls. His hair was long and
braided, and he entered the royal palace with the gait of a
broad-hipped woman. According to the Mahabharata, his
feminine attire hid his glory, and at the same time it did not.
He appeared just like the full moon when eclipsed by the planet
This portrayal of Arjunas dress and behavior is very
interesting because it clearly reveals his third-sex status.
It is the same behavior found in the Kama Shastra describing
male-to-female transgenders who dressed up and lived as women.
Most English translations use the archaic and evasive word eunuch
to describe Arjuna, but it should be noted that the castration
of heterosexual men does not cause them to adopt the psychological
nature of females and behave in such a womanly fashion.
himself as a professional dancer and musician trained by gandharvas,
Arjuna explained that he was expert in singing, hair decoration,
and all the fine arts
that a woman should know. At first, Maharaja Virata
could not believe that Arjuna was actually a half woman. He
had never seen such a person who was simultaneously so stout
and strong yet feminine in behavior. He suspected that Arjuna
was a great archer and even offered his kingdom to him, but
Arjuna would not relent, saying, My lord, the only
string that I can twang is the string of the vina. After
exhibiting his skills before the court, Arjuna was tested
by beautiful women to ensure that he was actually third-sexed
and thus free from any lust for females. (Had he been merely
a eunuch or neuter, the men of the palace could have examined
him for testicles.) The king was surprised yet pleased with
of speaking and agreed that he should live among the palace
women and instruct them in singing and dancing. In this
way, Arjuna introduced himself as Brihannala48 and
soon became a great favorite within their chambers. Maharaja
Virata instructed his daughter, Uttara: Brihannala seems
to be a high-born person. She does not seem to be an ordinary
dancer. Treat her with the respect due to a queen. Take her
to your apartments.
It is important to note that the king addressed Brihannala
as a female, accepting her transgender status. He did not ridicule
or belittle her, and he most certainly did not have her sent
away or arrested. He also did not suggest that Brihannala change
her dress and behave as an ordinary male. Rather, he accepted
her nature as it was and offered her shelter and employment
within his royal palace. This kindness and respect offered
by Maharaja Virata to Arjuna in his transgender form of Brihannala
is exemplary and should be followed by all government officials
and leaders of society.49
The Third Sex and Vedic Astrology
In Vedic astrology, the nine planets are each assigned to one
of the three genders. The Sun, Jupiter, and Mars are assigned
to the masculine gender; the Moon, Venus, and Rahu are assigned
to the feminine gender; and Mercury, Saturn, and Ketu are assigned
to the third or neutral gender.50
These last three planets, labeled napumsaka, are considered
to be sexually neutral and hermaphroditic (possessing
both male and female properties) by their influence. This neutrality
refers to the fact that their natures are aloof from the business
of procreating life as compared to the male and female planets.
For instance, Mercury governs children, who have not yet entered
puberty and do not become sexually aroused. Saturn governs the impotent
and elderly, who are by nature restricted from sexual reproduction.
Ketu, on the other hand, specifically concerns those who are
sexually fit but have no interest in the act of sexual procreation.
These include the celibate and people of the third sex.
Ancient scriptures on Vedic astrology emphasize Mercury as most indicative of the third gender although some texts stress Saturn or Ketu.51
Mercury refers to gender-variant people who are clever and multi-talented in the various arts and sciences. They are good managers, young in spirit and highly competent in their fields. Saturn, on the other hand, refers to those who are less fortunate in life, solitary and disparaged by society for their impotence. The planet Ketu is viewed as a moksha karaka, or indicator for enlightenment, and its third-gender natives often become psychics, ascetics, monks, nuns, and so on.
Some of the more common indicators of female homosexuality in Vedic astrology include having a masculine ascendant and Moon sign, or Venus in the sign of Virgo.52 For men, having Mars or Saturn in the seventh house is a common indicator.53 There are also twenty-seven nakshatras or stars that
are important in Vedic astrology. Of these, Mrgashira, Mula,
and Satabhisa are assigned to the third or neutral gender.54
According to Vedic science, the intrinsic nature or sex of
the living entity is determined at the moment of conception,
not at birth, and for this reason a persons conception
or adhana chart determines whether they are male, female, or third
sex. This is related in the Dharma Shastra:
A male child is produced by a greater quantity of male seed,
a female child by the prevalence of the female; if both are
equal, a third-sex child (napumsa) or boy and girl
twins are produced; if either are weak or deficient in quantity,
a failure of conception results.55
This verse is very significant because it specifically states
that the third sex is biologically determined during the earliest
moments of conception, a statement also confirmed in Sanskrit
medical texts such as the Sushruta Samhita. In
other words, people of the third sex are born that way, as a
fact of nature. They do not become third sex later
on due to external reasons or causes.
Reproductive Balance and Nature
The mechanisms of biological variation from the normal male
and female construct always involve alterations in the standard
developmental plan. This is not to say, however, that such alterations
are biological errors or mistakes of
nature or God. People commonly assume that every member of human
society should be directly involved in the process of sexual
reproduction, but we can observe that throughout nature this
is quite often not the case. In many highly socialized species,
nonreproductive members play unique and important roles. For
instance, in a bee colony, the queen alone is the reproductive
female while worker bees are all third sex or nonreproductive
and sterile. In many mammalian social units, one alpha
male will typically dominate all of the other males until
they either leave the group or submit to him and stop trying
to mate with his harem. The remaining males essentially become
eunuchs and a part of his harem so to speak, enjoying
his protection. When these submissive males are examined, they
are found to have experienced an actual lowering of their own
testosterone levels, and their very survival may depend on this.
Such individual and group mechanisms found within nature are
specifically orchestrated to sustain the species most effectively.
In addition to the sterile and nonreproductive creatures found
in nature, many animals also display homosexual behavior and
same-sex pairing. This aspect of animal behavior has been well
documented in a wide range of species. In some varieties of
birds, for instance, the occurrence of same-sex pairing dramatically
increases from its normal baseline under pressures related to
overcrowding or environmental duress. Because these same-sex
pairs do not reproduce, the population increase is slowed or
even reduced without massive starvation or die-off. At the same
time, the individual animals instincts to pair, nest,
and mate are all taken care of. Is this type of same-sex pairing
with the animal kingdom a mistake, or is it simply
a natural adaptation of the species to sustain itself in the
most effective way possible?
Within the microcosm, specific mechanisms that account for
sterility and homosexual behavior in animals may appear to be
disorders, defects, or errors,
but if we step back from the proximal causes and view the reproductive
health of the species as a whole, and how it changes under different
conditions over time in various local and regional environments,
then we can see how the nonreproductive third sex
actually plays an important role in the wider scheme of things.
Nature or God does not prohibit such apparent errors because
in fact they are not errors at all. In the larger picture, these
variations serve a purpose whether we, as humans, are aware
of it or not. Human beings are not animals, but our bodies are
made of the same elements and obey all of the same basic rules
of chemistry and biology. We should stop thinking of our species
as being somehow categorically beyond the laws of nature and
God. There are reasons and mechanisms for everything in nature,
and by understanding them properly we can learn to address human
variance with intelligence instead of fear. The Vedic recognition
of a nonreproductive third gender within human society
indicates that ancient India was cognizant of this subtle but
significant aspect of biology.
In direct contrast to the three-gender system found in nature
is the rigid, artificially imposed two-gender one
commonly seen in many of todays cultures. In societies
where only reproductive males and females are acknowledged and
valued, there is no room for a nonreproductive third sex. People
who do not produce offspring are viewed as failures and delegated
to the lowest ranks of human society. Homosexuals and transgenders
are pressured to assume heterosexual roles against their nature
and intersex babies are forcibly assigned male or female identities
through ghastly corrective surgeries. Such artificial
attempts to negate the third sex against the arrangement of
nature and God can be devastating for the individuals involved.
In conclusion, it is not necessary for each and every member
of human society to engage in sexual reproduction. Human worth
is not measured only in terms of fertility. While homosexual
and intersex conditions affect a persons reproduction
and socialization in species like man, they dont usually
affect the individuals viability. Nonprocreative persons
account for a vast number of otherwise healthy, functional individuals
who should be encouraged to engage themselves constructively
in ways appropriate for them. In Vedic culture, people of the
third sex traditionally contributed to society in a variety
of useful ways. They utilized their extra time in cultivating
the finer arts, sciences, and spirituality and were involved
as a part of the extended family by serving and caring for others.
The Vedic social system did not neglect or exclude people of
the third sex, but rather it accepted and engaged them according
to their nature.
Celibacy and Spiritual Life
The practice of celibacy, or voluntary restraint from sexual
activity, is an important and much-revered aspect of spiritual
life within Vedic religion.56
Its practice is said to conserve the stamina of the body, strengthen
mental resolve, and direct the life-airs upward. It also helps
to minimize bodily and worldly demands in order to fully immerse
oneself in spiritual rapture. Celibacy is prescribed for the
priestly class, the elderly, and for those engaged in study.
It is highly recommended for sincere souls who are truly eager
to make advancement in spiritual life. According to Vedic tradition,
the practice of celibacy does not necessarily have to be lifelong.
It may also be practiced within limited frames of time such
as one year, one month, one fortnight, etc., according to ones
vow, and much benefit can still be reaped.
One of the advantages for people of the third sex is that the
practice of celibacy often comes easily for them. This is due
to their lack of attraction for the opposite sex and the subsequent
urge to couple, produce offspring, and engage in family life.
It can be observed that the ratio of gay and lesbian people
living within temples and monasteries is generally higher than
it is within the ordinary population. Many cultures of the world
specifically encourage and train their third-gender children
to enter into the priestly order.
From a practical point of view, however, it is important to
note that most people will not be interested or able to engage
themselves in strict, lifelong celibacy, especially during youth.57
Such people should not be unnecessarily discouraged or rejected.
Those who desire spiritual advancement are advised to avoid
sexual indulgence as far as possible, according to their ability.
For members of the third sex, this may be accomplished in various
ways such as minimizing sexual conduct, committing to a single
partner, refraining from practices such as adhorata,
It is the duty of the brahmanas to encourage and engage all
members of society in the many spiritual practices recommended
in the Vedas. This includes people of the third sex. No one
is to be excluded or discouraged from these practices because
of class, character, social standing, gender, race, etc. These
practices gradually purify the heart and remove all bad, unwanted
qualities. Their importance exceeds and corrects all personal
disqualifications. They promote spiritual upliftment for society
as a whole and awaken true love for God in His multitude of
forms such as Krsna, Rama, Vishnu, Narayana, etc. These practices
include: the chanting of the holy names of God, reading important
scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam,
hearing from self-realized souls, accepting a bona fide spiritual
master or guru, viewing the temple Deity, offering gifts and
service to the temple Deity, watering the Tulasi plant, visiting
holy places of pilgrimage, bathing in sacred rivers like the
Ganges, observing festivals connected with the Lord, offering
prayers to the Lord, always remembering the Lord, and considering
the Lord to be ones best friend or most dearly beloved.
The Appearance of Lord Caitanya
Lord Caitanya is revealed as an avatar (incarnation) of God
in the Vedic scriptures, and He appeared in this world in Mayapura,
India, in 1486 A.D.58
His mission was to deliver the downtrodden souls of the Kali
Yuga by introducing the chanting of the holy names of
God or Hare Krsna. Although appearing in a male
form, He displayed the highest sentiments of love for God by
accepting the mood of the supreme Goddess, known as Radhika.
This divine combination of supreme God and supreme Goddess in
the form of Lord Caitanya is considered to be among the most
confidential teachings of Vedic literature.59
As He appeared in this world, apparently just like an ordinary
child, the full moon was rising above the plains of the sacred
Ganges River, accompanied by Ketu, in the form of a lunar eclipse.
In all places, the holy names of God were resounded again and
again. The following day, according to custom, all of the area
residents crowded around to see the newborn child. Sages and
rishis were aware that a great event had just taken place. Many
residents brought precious gifts and the father, Jagannatha
Misra, also gave profusely in charity to the brahmanas and the
poor. Not least among the guests were the dancers of the third-gender
community known as the nartaka,60
who happily performed before the Lord. These dancers were especially
used for religious occasions. Historically, people of the third
sex have always played a prominent role in the arts and entertainment,
not just in India but also around the world. All of these transvestites
from the napumsaka or gay community were devotees of
the Lord, and they prayed to God to bless the child and grant
Him a long life, as was the custom. Jagannatha Misra then gave
them some precious jewelry and beautiful silks, and they continued
with their dancing and singing of Hare Krsna.61
The nartaka dancers are also mentioned in the Srimad
Bhagavatam during the pastime of Lord Krsnas entrance
into Dvaraka. There, along with the dramatic actors, artists,
poets, and prostitutes, these dancers enthusiastically performed
their art as an offering to the Lord. In reply, the almighty
Lord greeted everyone present by bowing His head, exchanging
greetings, embracing, shaking hands, looking and smiling, giving
assurances and awarding benediction, even to the lowest in rank.62
These stories, and others such as the year spent by Arjuna
as a transvestite during exile, are significant because they
demonstrate that not only were people of the third sex present
hundreds and even thousands of years ago, but they were present
within the Lords transcendental pastimes as well. It shows
that from the Vedic perspective, God does not discriminate against
gays but on the contrary welcomes their service and devotion,
just as He does for all.
Another important point to note is that people of the third
sex were utilized to bestow blessings. Blessings can only be
bestowed by people who are auspicious, yet transvestites were
well known for their homosexual behavior and often served as
prostitutes. The answer to this apparent anomaly is that since
they belonged to the third gender, transvestites were considered
sexually neutral. In Vedic literature, the strongest bond within
this material world is said to be the attraction between man
and woman. Combined, they create so many attachments such as
home, property, children, grandchildren, etc., all of which
entangle the living entity in samsara, the cycle of repeated
birth and death that is perpetuated through the procreative
process. People of the third sex were considered to be aloof
from this attachment, particularly gay males. They typically
did not engage in procreation or family life, and this was a
special quality that made their status unique within civilized
The traditionally rigid male and female roles as we know them
today are consistently broken and altered throughout the Vedic
literatures by humans, demigods, and even the supreme Lord Himself.
Lord Siva has a very popular half-man, half-woman form known
Crossdressing is quite common among Lord Krsnas most
intimate cowherd boyfriends, the priya-narma-sakhas,
who act as go-betweens in His loving affairs with Sri Radha
An important ritual at the Jagannatha Temple in Orissa involves
a sequence in which a young man dressed in female attire seduces
Baladeva, the elder brother of Lord Krsna
These countless stories and pastimes are far too numerous to
mention herein, but their lighthearted and flexible approach
to both gender and gender roles is admirable and well worth
It is important that we appreciate a world filled with variety.
There will never be just one race, one gender, one color, one
sound, or one anything. The Vedas describe this material world
as a reflection of an infinitely beautiful, perfect, and eternal
spiritual world that has even more variety than we can imagine.
We are all a part of this variegatedness, and we all have our
own unique role to play. It is therefore pointless to argue
over who is higher, lower, more important, less important, etc.
You may ask someone, Why are you gay? and that
someone may reply, Why are you a man or a woman?
In the material world, we are all trying to enjoy in so many
ways, and that may be one answer. Spiritually, however, we all
have our own individual, intrinsic nature, and part of that
nature is that we all serve God (Krsna) in the mood of a particular
gender. That loving mood is eternal and full of unlimited bliss.
(From the book, “Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex.”)
Additional Vedic References
Vedic Third-Gender Types and Terms
The following is a summary of ten important facts presented
in this book according to the Vedic understanding, accompanied
by their corresponding myths or common misconceptions that have
arisen in recent years.
- Fact-There are three categories of sex according
to the Vedas: male, female and mixed (the third sex).
Myth-There are only two categories of sex: male and female.
- Fact-Third-sex citizens had a role to play in
Myth-Third-sex citizens were not
allowed to participate in Vedic society.
- Fact- The term Vedic eunuch most commonly
refers to the gay or homosexual male.
Myth-The Vedic eunuch was an asexual,
castrated male no longer relevant to modern society.
- Fact- The third sex is a natural order that has always
and will always be with us, generally at a ratio of 5 percent
of the population.
Myth- Homosexuality is a modern-day occurrence
that is dangerously on the rise and could overtake us if not
- Fact- The third sex or nature is an inherent quality
that its members are born with.
Myth- Everyone is born heterosexual,
but some of us are corrupted and decide or choose to become
- Fact- Gender, in and of itself, plays no role in determining
whether a person is good or bad.
Myth- People of the third sex are by
nature sinful, immoral, and corrupted persons.
- Fact- Promiscuity in general is a major symptom of the
age of Kali.
Myth- Kali Yuga is marked by an increase
in the number of homosexuals.
- Fact- Vedic society accommodated a wide variety of sexual
conduct that was regulated by the government.
Myth- All members of Vedic society were
forced by law to follow strict brahminical standards of sexual
- Fact- Third-gender people were considered to be aloof
from and unimportant to matters concerning procreation and
Myth- Homosexuals pose a serious threat
to the order and tradition of family life.
- Fact- People of the third sex were given all of the basic
rights and privileges afforded to other citizens.
Myth- Homosexuals should be denied
certain rights in order to keep them in check and protect
society from corruption.
The following conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva dasa was tape-recorded in San Francisco on April 5, 1967:
Tape Transcript (No. 67-002)
SP: (Srila Prabhupada) Jagannatha Misra is father. He was
money and cloth and gold and silver
they were coming
was also distributing to poor man, some dancers. In India there
is a system
what do you call the eunuchs? Those who are
neither male or female? What do you call them? What is their
HD: (Hayagriva dasa) A combination of both?
HD: Male and female? Hermaphrodite.
SP: Eunuchs? What is the eunuch?
HD: Eunuch. A eunuch is a
SP: Tell me that.
someone whos been castrated.
SP: Oh. That is called a eunuch.
SP: Rather, by nature, neither man nor woman.
HD: Oh. This is also called asexual. That is to say, no sex.
SP: No sex?
HD: Hermaphrodite means they have the physical characteristics
of both man and woman.
SP: Oh? At the same time?
HD: At the same time.
SP: I do not know exactly, but such people, they have their
own society, and their means of livelihood is that whenever
there is some good occasion
marriage or childbirth, like
that, so, they go there and pray to God that this child may
be very long-living. In this way they make some prayer and get
HD: These people. Now, I dont understand
SP: Yes. Saci-devi is the mother of Lord Caitanya. She is sitting
with the child. And everyone is greeting and visiting, and everyone
is saying, Oh! Look how nice a child He is!
HD: And these asexual people?
SP: They are dancing.
HD: They are dancing.
SP: Yes. They are chanting Hare Krsna. Like that. So. Hare Krsna
dancing is going there and visitors are coming and presenting
very nice things. Yes.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder
of the Hare Krsna movement of the Western world, rarely discussed
gay or third-gender issues but mentions it here in a conversation
with one of his disciples. He is referring to the transvestite
dancers and their societies that still exist in India even today.
He is obviously trying to find a more appropriate word for the
outdated term eunuch, which he had used in his writings
when referring to people of the third sex. He also acknowledges
herein that he does not exactly know the nature of these people.
As was proper for a sannyasi, His Divine Grace avoided discussing
sexual topics except in regard to their renunciation. He did,
however, recognize the Kama Shastra as the science of
sex but gave it little regard in comparison to other more
important scriptures. He rarely discussed homosexuality, and
the few times he did were always in context as to how it applied
to heterosexual men and women.
Despite this, and more importantly, was Srila Prabhupadas
shining example of conduct in dealing with his third-sex disciples
and friends. He always gave them full support, encouragement,
and love. He never rejected anyone as a candidate for Krsna
consciousness. His warm friendships with openly gay people such
as Allen Ginsberg set an example that we would all do well to
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Swami, A.C. Bhaktivedanta (Prabhupada). Srimad Bhagavatam.
Singapore: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1987.
--------. Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Herts, England: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1996.
--------. Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. Botany, Australia:
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1998.
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Book Trust, 1988.
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Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1996.
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Book Trust, 1982.
Swidler, Arlene. Homosexuality and World Religions.
Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International.
Vanita, Ruth. Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India, 2005.
Vanita, Ruth and Saleem Kidwai. Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History.
New York, NY: Palgrave, 2001.
Vatsyayana. Kamasutra. New Delhi: R. & K. Publishing
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New York, NY: Warner Books, 1983.
1 Alain Danielou,
The Complete Kama Sutra 1.1.58.
2 Among scholars,
there is some diversity of opinion as to the date of compilation
of the Vedas by Srila Vyasadeva. According to the scriptures
themselves, they were compiled just prior to the beginning of
the Kali Yuga, or a little over five thousand
years ago. See His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupadas
Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.8, purport.
3 Alain Danielou,
The Complete Kama Sutra 1.1.13, 14 and p. 4.
4 There are
many examples of these three divisions of gender in Vedic literature.
See Srimad Bhagavatam by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada (4.17.26, 8.3.24, 4.28.61,and 10.1, notes);
The Complete Kama Sutra by Alain Danielou (2.9.1); Beneath
a Vedic Sky by William R. Levacy (p. 363) and The Laws
of Manu by G. Buhler (p. 84, Manusmriti 3.49).
5 These five
types of people are assigned to the neutral gender according
to all Vedic astrological texts. This is based upon their non-procreative
6 Alain Danielou,
The Complete Kama Sutra p. 10.
7 There is
some diversity of opinion as to the exact percentage of gays
within modern society, what to speak of within ancient India.
Although the Kinsey studies are often cited as documenting that
10 percent of the U.S. population is gay, most research with
probability samples now place that figure at 3 to 6 percent,
with somewhat fewer females (N. California Community Research
Group, University of California at Davis.) As far as ancient
India is concerned, it can at least be observed that out of
the thirty-six chapters of the Kama Sutra, two
are devoted to addressing homosexuality, which is just over
5 percent of the text.
8 Kamala Subramaniam,
Mahabharata, pp. 260261.
9 Arvind Sharma,
Homosexuality and Hinduism, p. 48. The limited
practice of castration in India raises another point significant
for the rest of the discussion, namely, whether rendering a
word such as kliba as eunuch regularly is correct
10 Ruth Vanita
and Saleem Kidwai, Same-Sex Love in India, p. 109.
New World Dictionary of the American Language, p. 211. [<Gr.
eune, bed + echein, have]
12 See part
2, chapter 9 of The Complete Kama Sutra by Alain Danielou.
Danielou, The Complete Kama Sutra, p. 6.
Sharma, Homosexuality and Hinduism, p. 51.
Danielou, The Complete Kama Sutra 2.9.1.
as a form of penance is condemned by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-Gita
As It Is 17.19, and by Lord Siva in Krsna: The Supreme
Personality of Godhead, Volume II pp. 425427 by His
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Nanda, Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India, p.
25 The American
Psychological Association, Public Interest Report (revised
version, July, 1998).
26 This average
is based on statistics provided by the Intersex Society of North
America, taken from an article by Brown University professor,
Anne Fausto-Sterling, reviewing medical statistics from 19551998.
estimates are somewhat unclear due to the wide range of bisexual
feelings themselves. The Kinsey study reported that 15 to 25
percent of women and 33 to 46 percent of men reported experiencing
at least some degree of same-sex attraction during their lives.
28 This survey
was conducted by Dr. Ron C. Fox, a psychotherapist from San
29 This latter
example is given in Jayamangala by Yashodhara (The
Complete Kama Sutra, p. 191.)
30 His Divine
Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam
of this can be found throughout Vedic literature, especially
in the Dharma Shastra such as Manusmriti, Manu-samhita,
are many examples throughout Vedic literature. See Srimad
Bhagavatam, 1.11.19, and Krsna: The Supreme Personality
of Godhead, chapter 48 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada for examples concerning prostitution and sexually
Danielou, The Complete Kama Sutra 2.6.49.
34 G. Buhler,
trans., The Laws of Manu, p. 466 (Manusmriti 11.175.)
p. 444. (Manusmriti 11.68.)
36 See His
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupadas Srimad
Bhagavatam 1.4.25, purport.
37 G. Buhler,
trans., The Laws of Manu p. 466. (Manusmriti,
Sharma, Homosexuality and Hinduism, p. 58.
39 G. Buhler,
trans., The Laws of Manu (Manusmriti 3.150, 9.201
and 203, 4.205 and 206) respectively.
40 His Divine
Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam
43 The following
verses support the principle of protecting people of the third
gender, although neuters, the celibate and the third sex are
not specifically mentioned. See His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupadas Srimad Bhagavatam 1.14.41 and
1.8.5, purport. There is also the example of Maharaja Virata,
which is described later.
American Journal of Public Health (June 2001). In research
conducted by George Washington University, the Center for Applied
Behavioral and Evaluation Research in Washington, D.C., and
the Massachusetts Department of Education, gay students were
about four times as likely to have attempted suicide as straight
students (36.1 percent versus 9.4 percent), and reported threats
or assaults almost five times more often (28.3 percent versus
Bhagavatam 12.3.37 is often cited as a reference to homosexuality
in Kali Yuga, but this verse refers to married men who
have intimate association with the sisters and brothers of their
wivesa clear reference to bisexuality and not homosexuality.
46 D. R.
Patil, Cultural History from the Vayu Purana, p. 75.
47 His Divine
Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-Gita
As It Is 1.4043.
48 The name
Brihannala can comically be translated as big
49 This narration
of Maharaja Viratas example is adapted from Kamala Subramaniams
Mahabharata and Krishna Dharmas Mahabharata:
The Greatest Spiritual Epic of All Time.
50 See William
R. Levacys, Beneath a Vedic Sky, p. 363, and also
B. V. Ramans Astrology for Beginners, p. 6, where
the third gender is listed as hermaphrodite.
51 B.V. Raman,
Astrology for Beginners, p. 7 and William R. Levacy,
Beneath a Vedic Sky, p. 363.
R. Levacy, Beneath a Vedic Sky, pp. 6263.
53 James T. Braha, Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer, pp. 148 and 152.
54 William R. Levacy, Beneath a Vedic Sky, pp. 202203.
56 His Divine
Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-Gita
As It Is 8.11.
58 See His
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupadas Teachings
of Lord Caitanya or Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
59 This is
elaborately explained in His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupadas Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila
chapter 4 entitled The Confidential Reasons for the Appearance
of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
60 60 Ibid.
1.13.106. The purport also offers a short description of the
Adi-lila Chapter 13 entitled The Advent of Lord Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu. There is also an audiotape by His Divine Grace
on this pastime produced by The Bhaktivedanta Tape Ministry
entitled Outline of Lord Caitanya Play, Part One, Tape
no. 67002, San Francisco, April 5, 1967.
62 His Divine
Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam
Pattanaik, The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales
from Hindu Lore, p. 125. This book contains a treasure trove
of stories demonstrating just how mutable sex and gender identity
are within Vedic/Hindu texts.
64 His Divine
Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, The Nectar of
Devotion, pp. 332 and 387388.
Nanda, Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India, p.