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Where beauty knows no boundaries

A.V. Ragunathan

Beauty pageant, highlight of Koovagam Koothandavar festival

Photo:C_Venkatachalapathy

The winner and runners up in the Miss Koovagam title at Villupuram on Tuesday.

VILLUPURAM: The annual Koovagam Koothandavar festival, an exclusive event for the third gender or the transgenders, reached its crescendo with the staging of a beauty pageant here on Tuesday.

Over 50 contestants vied for the “Miss Koovagam” title and of them 11 were short-listed on the basis of their demeanour, disposition and dressing sense. They enhanced their appearance with bright coloured sarees with matching accessories, accentuated make-up and careful hair-do.

Most of them acted as their own beauticians and coiffeurs so as to avoid garishness and excessive rouging and also to cut on cost. More than the looks what clinched the title was the apt reply to queries posed by the jury regarding HIV, its symptom and curative aspects.

Therefore, for Ramya of Madurai it was a hard won title and a deserving one at that. The first runner-up was Bhoomika of Bangalore and the second runner-up Rakasiya of Chennai. They also pocketed a cash prize of Rs 5,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 3,000 respectively.

Prior to the contest, scores of Aravanis did the cat-walking, danced to recorded music and live orchestra. Some of them exhibited their skills in classical dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi.

It is the ambition of the Aravanis all over the country, and even abroad, to come over here to be part of the festivities. For them, to be with their kind is an exhilarating experience.

However, they complain that exploiting the situation, the hoteliers and lodge owners have jacked up the tariff unreasonably, by charging Rs 3,000 a day for a room which otherwise would fetch only Rs 600 a day in rent.

The fete culminates with the ritual of symbolically getting married to Aravan, worshipped as Koothandavar on Tuesday night and becoming widows on Wednesday morning, upon the death of Aravan in the battlefield.

In the epic Mahabharata Aravan has been portrayed as a warrior who volunteered to sacrifice his life before the commencement of the war (such a ritual is believed to bring victory) between the Pandavas and the Kauvaras.

However, he had a desire to lead a married life at least for a day and therefore Lord Krishna obliged him by assuming the role of a woman. Therefore, the Koovagam event is a re-enactment of the episode, with a message on the significance of sacrifice.

Hence, for the Aravanis it is both an emotionally fulfilling and a draining experience. For them, a year is too long a period to wait for another get-together

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