KOOVAGAM: For foreign journalists and tourists, the Koovagam festival reflects aspects of a sub-culture that finds little mention in the foreign press.
Michael, a musician from Cape Town, South Africa, says that he has never witnessed anything like this before. Seated on a tiny rock outside the temple and waiting for his photo journalist wife Nikki Rickson, he said, “My wife has been researching the ‘aravanis’ for the past few weeks. Here at the festival, we are looking at the positive aspect that is humanity.”
Alexander Kim, a Fulbright Scholar, came here after a few transgender friends in Kolkata invited her. “I have worked on gender issues in Columbia. The transgenders are open and nice and not judgemental. I understood the importance of this ceremony and its lineage,” she says.
Nicolas, a tourist from France, dabs sweat off his face after capturing a series of shots of transgenders walking out of the Koothandavar temple with the ‘thali’. He came to Koovagam after a few people in Puducherry advised him that it was the grandest festival for transgenders in the country. He says, “For an amateur photographer like me, this is an opputunity to capture some beautiful pictures and also get to know about a culture that I had not known before.”