Diffusion Festival Logo Revolution 1-31 May 2017 bullhorn Created with Sketch. Created with Sketch.


This fable reads that in antiquity a devastating drought threatened the city of Bhopal. The Begum of Bhopal called on her people to invoke the rain. The city’s Kinnars took out a procession from the masjid to the temple of a local goddess carrying saplings of millet on their heads. And as they danced, the rain gods obliged. Since then, every August, a procession of Kinnars travels from a mosque to a temple to invoke rain. 

Before we go further, let me address a point of etymology: the words Hijra and Kinnar both derive from Arabic, the former means ‘transitory’ and the latter ‘point of intersection’. These are two of the many names for traditional transgender communities in South Asia. 

Now to one of the scenes at hand: Rukshana Begum poses in a performative manner for the camera in response to an old painted backdrop I installed at Peer Gate, a busy street square in the old city of Bhopal. “Call me ‘Roxy’, my friends call me Roxy”, she says, slowly unfolding her colour coordinated umbrella and using it as a prop. Rukshana is part of the Budwara deyaar, one of two surviving gharanas (communes) where she lives with fellow Kinnars. These gharaanas were once centres of Hindustani classical music and dance. Today, the community has been forced to beg for money at weddings instead of dancing at them. Nevertheless, elements of performance and past acceptance shine through Roxy’s ghoomars, all in the hope of some precipitation. 

Artist Profile(s)

Akshay Mahajan