Bahuchara Mata is the incarnation of the Mother aspect of Shakti. She is represented as a woman carrying a sword in her bottom left hand, a text of scriptures in her top left hand, the abhay hasta mudra (“showering of blessings”) in her bottom right hand, and a trident in her top right hand who is seated on a rooster, symbolising innocence and subjugation of male power. Even though she is considered to be the patroness of the transgender community, she is also worshipped by women who desire to conceive, or men who are unable to procreate effectively as they seek the blessings of the Goddess to overcome their shortcomings and get back to normalcy (she is the giver of virya or semen to men. She has given potency as a boon to many who were impotent).She is appeased by selfless devotion and stands for non-violence and innocence. Some ardent male devotees go as far as castrating themselves and take to cross dressing to prove their selfless devotion to the Goddess. However, this is a misinterpreted belief and she never asked her followers to castrate, the trans community also believes that to become on of them you have to be born as a person with deformed genetalia.
Bahuchara’s primary temple, which was built by Sankhal Raj in 1152 CE is located in Becharaji town in Mehsana District of Gujrat. The temple is very important as it is one of the Sidha Shakti Piths. It is believed that Sati’s hands had fallen at this place.
She is believed to have been born in the ‘Charan’ caste of people who are renowned for their honor and commitment to truth. Legend states that once when she was traveling in a caravan along with her sisters, a bandit named ‘Bapiya’ attempted to molest her modesty. However, Bahuchara Devi cut off her breast in an attempt to deter the bandit. She took this step to defend her honor and cursed the bandit with impotency. She asked him to atone for his sin by dressing and behaving like a woman.
Many other stories that surround Bahuchara Mata include –
Arjuna in Mahabharata
After the 12 years of exile, the Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi had to spend an additional year in exile, incognito. Arjuna’s disguise was that of the third gender. Arjuna is supposed to have visited Bahucharaji. It is here that he hid his weapons in a thorny tree called the Sami tree in nearby Dedana village and became what is known as a ‘Brihannala’, a professional dancer and musician trained by ‘gandharvas’ or celestial beings. He transforms himself into a ‘kliba’ at Bahucharaji. On every Dasara day this tree is worshipped, and the ritual is known as ‘Sami-pujan’.
Shikhandi in Mahabharata
Sikhandi was the son of King Drupad and was Princess Amba in his previous birth. He was not a man in the sense of having masculinity. He in despair to attain masculinity to take part in Kurukshetra, as he had to fulfil his wow of killing Bhishma. Dejected, he came to Bahucharaji. In this region lived a Yaksha by the name of Mangal. When the Yaksha saw Sikhandi, who was miserable and crying and pitiful, he asked him what was wrong. Sikhandi told him his story and how he wanted to be a man and avenge the insult heaped on him in his previous birth. Hearing all this, the Yaksha took pity on Sikhandi and decided to trade genders with Sikhandi, till he achieved his objective. It is said that from that day onwards, this place got its importance as a place where lost masculinity can be gained.
Princess Tejpal becoming a Prince
Raja Vajsingh unfortunately was not blessed with a child. When this princess conceived and a child was born in the middle of the night it was a girl child. The queen decided to keep this a secret and conveyed to the king through her maid that she had delivered a boy. The queen always dressed the child, named Tejpal, in male costumes and took all the ladies around in confidence and sustained this secret till the child was married. After marriage, it didn’t take the princess too long to learn that Tejpal was not a man. The princess was very unhappy and returned to her mother’s home. On enquiring she told her mother the truth and the news reached the king. The king decided to find out the truth for himself and sent an invitation to Tejpal, to visit them. When the food was being laid the king of Patan suggested that Tejpal took a royal bath with a rubbing by his choicest of men.
Tejpal was worried at the thought of a bath in the presence of men and when he was forcibly being taken for a bath, he removed his sword and fled on his mare to a dense forest on the outskirts of Patan. Unknown to Tejpal, a bitch had followed him. When they reached the middle of the forest it was evening. Tired and thirsty, Tejpal stopped near a lake (Mansarovar). The bitch jumped into the lake to quench its thirst and came out as a dog. Surprised, Tejpal sent his mare into the water and soon it came out as a horse. He then took off his clothes and jumped into the lake. When he came out all signs of being female had disappeared and he had got a moustache! Tejpal was truly a man now!
Next morning he left the place after he had made a mark on a tree where he constructed a temple and installed an idol in honour of Bahuchara Mata. This Varakhdi tree today is a major place of reverence.
When Bahuchara was Married
Bahuchara was given in marriage to a prince who never spent time with her. Instead, he would go to the jungle every night on his white horse. One night Bahuchara decided to follow her husband and find out why he never came to her. To keep up with his riding pace, she took a rooster and followed her husband into the jungle. There she discovered that her husband would change into a women’s dress and spent the whole night in the jungle behaving like a woman. Bahuchara confronted him; if he was not interested in women, then why did he marry her? The prince begged her forgiveness and said his parents had forced him into marriage so that he could father children. Bahuchara declared that she would forgive him if he and others like him worshipped her as a goddess, dressed as women. From that day onwards transgender people worshipped Bahuchara Mata.
Another important lore concerns a king who prayed before Bahuchara Mata to bless him with a son. Bahuchara complied, but the prince Jetho, who was born to the king, was impotent. One night Bahuchara appeared to Jetho in a dream and ordered him to cut off his genitals, wear women’s clothes and become her servant. Bahuchara Mata identified impotent men and commanded them to do the same. If they refused, she punished them by arranging that during their next seven births they would be born impotent.