E.Y. Harburg says, “Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.” Songs in the trans-women community help them greatly to express their feelings and thoughts. The songs are highly emotional and they are used as a strong weapon to express their grief and agony that they face in this world and the society that they live in. Other than these songs, they use devotional songs to express their love for their deity. Most of the songs don’t have a written manuscript, but they are passed on through oral tradition.

                             Trans-women don’t particularly follow a religion, but the most famous deity that they worship is the Hindu goddess ‘Kali’ whom they call as ‘Matha’. Their devotional songs usually are set in the pattern of worshipping the goddess Kali, with an exquisite description. Kali is considered to be the divine mother, who has the capability of fighting against all forms of evil, and also providing her devotees with the eternal happiness of heaven, referred to as Moksha. She is also considered to be the mother of the Universe.     

                           Trans-women worship her because she is a god in the feminine form, and some of their songs are in the form of worshipping her for her greatness. Their devotional songs are in the type of a bhajan, where they glorify Kali. One such Hindi song which is prevalent among the trans-women is “Jai Jai Santoshi mata Jai Jai maa”.  

                  Oh! My mighty mother

                   I pray to you, I worship you, I will perform pooja.                       

                     The meaning that the song conveys is that the devotee would glorify the mighty mother, and therefore the devotee would pray to her and also perform pooja to the goddess. Another bhajan in Hindi that they sing is “Ambe Mataerae”. Mother Ambe, sixteen types of jewelries

                    And cosmetics adore you.

                    Diamonds adore you

                    Ankle bells adore you.

                  This song adores the goddess by describing her decoration. The devotee says that sixteen types of jewelries adore the goddess, and along with them are diamonds and ankle bells. While goddess kali is known much for her elaborate decoration, this song is set in the pattern where the devotee adores her decoration. This could also be related to the nature of trans-women who get fantasized by decorations and ornaments greatly, which enable them to replicate the feminine gender.  

                            Apart from devotional songs, the trans-women community also has songs which are sung during the Koothandavar temple festival, describing their mate, ‘Aravan’, revered as the ‘Koothandavar’. These songs are mostly in Tamil, since the festival is closer to the Tamil culture and tradition. One such song is, “Chithirai maasa paruvathula”.  

                    During the month of Chitra (a Tamil month)

As they create the rich Koothandavar,

And come for the rally,

Look at the beauty of Koothandavar

The rich son who is coming.

Come and let us tie thaali (the yellow thread, which symbolizes marriage)

After waiting in penance for him.

During the month of Chitra

As they create the rich Koothandavar,

See that we are all waiting in penance for him.

We tie the thaali the previous day

And the next day, we take the form of widowhood.

As we wait in penance for him,

We are in chaste purity.

During the month of Chitra

As they create the rich koothandavar

Come and see our rich son.

See all the beautiful women

Who are enticed by his beauty.

During the month of Chitra,

As they create the rich Koothandavar.

                         This song is sung during the great rally at Kovaagam, where the structure of Koothandavar is taken throughout the village in a chariot. As he is taken in a rally, villagers along with transgenders gather together as group and start singing songs. These song talk about the tradition of the Koothandavar temple festival where the trans-women tie the thaali and then remove it the very next day, and attain widowhood. It describes the beauty of koothandavar, as beautiful women pause for a while and stare at him. This song also glorifies Koothandavar, or Aravan, as being very beautiful, and therefore the beautiful women are enticed by his beauty, but still, Koothandavar belongs only to the trans-women, since they are the ones who are going to marry him. The song also emphasizes that they wait in penance to marry Koothandavar, and this shows their eagerness to be accepted as woman through the marriage. It is usually considered that when a woman gets married, she becomes accomplished, and therefore her life gets a purpose, when she gets married. If a woman isn’t married, she is considered to be a person of fault. Therefore, the good reputation of a woman lies in her marriage. This is the reason for trans-women waiting in eagerness to get married to Aravan.  

                   Another song that they sing in the Koothandavar temple festival is, “Thanannam thanaenam”, a song in a folk pattern, which again talks about the rich beauty of the Kovakam festival.

Thanannam Thanaenam (3) Thananaanae (2)

During the month of Chitra,

We create our Koothandavar

And see that the bugs are flying

Beautifully in this garden.

See that the colourful Quills are flying.

The Crane is flying; The Quill is flying

And as the beautiful dress of wheat is flying high

See the groups who have gathered as clusters to sing

In the south street

Where the chariot runs.

Look at the Elephant

Look at the troop of Elephants

Look at our troops coming

Look at our Koothandavar

Coming dancing over the Elephant.  

Look at the Horse

Look at the group of Horses

Look at our Koothandavar

Who comes jumping over the Horse.

Where did we see this poor son?

We saw him at the southern streets

Where the chariot runs

In the village of Kovaagam.

He says that all the vehicles or camphor

Doesn’t belong to him

Look at our hero, the holy man

In this blazing palace.

Look at our hero, the holy man

Carrying the crowing Cock

And leading the two horned Ram,

Who chops the goat and makes the feast.

We tie the thaali on Thursday

And cut it off on Wednesday

There are crores of instances in the world

Where a woman ties and removes her thaali

This is a man tying and removing a thaali

Look at our hero, the holy man.

                        This is also a song which is sung when the structure of the Koothandavar is taken around in a chariot as a rally, before he is dismantled, thereby representing the death of the Aravan. This song emphasis the holiness of Aravan, and also mentions all the valor of Koothandavar. The song says that Koothandavar is dancing over the elephants and jumping over the horses. While both the elephants and horses were being used in the army during ancient times, it shows how courageous he was. It also mentions how the marriage doesn’t last for more than two days, while they tie the thaali on Tuesday, and remove it on the very next day, Wednesday.

                        Apart from these songs, there are songs which they use to lament after they remove their garland of flowers, and break their bangles in the process of attaining their widowhood. After the elaborate festival celebration, they start weeping bitterly, and at those times, they sing songs of lament. One such song is, “Nambi vanthaen unnaiyum”.

The God who gave me life,

I trusted you and came.

I removed my thaali,

Broke my bangles.

I stand here with no more life,

Koothandava, How did you

Decide to leave me?

                    When they lament, they cry that their husband, the Aravan had passed away. Therefore, they weep for their husband, and mourn for several days for his death. Most of the trans-women don’t express their grief against the god, by at some instances, some trans-women starts rebelling against god. They sing songs rebelling against the god, saying that god has forgotten them. One such song is, “Sondhamum illa, Bandhamum illa”.

Neither relatives nor bond remained,

Neither the mother who bore, nor the father remained.

All that remained was jokes,

There is a heart which longs for love.

Not even a single soul came forward to talk,

Was it my fault that I was born

God, did you lose your sight.

                        This song shows their grief and agony that they suffer in their natural surroundings. Apart from these songs, the trans-women also sing songs, which talk about their past life, and the pain that they go through because of this transformation. One such song, which talks about the way they are treated by the society is, “Pethava maela kuthamilla.”

The one who bore has no fault,

The father did nothing wrong,

There is none to adjust

To live like others.

In public, many will walk in,

To make speeches on philosophy.

But, in silenced loneliness,

They perform unclean acts.

The shame that we face are many,

And we have to bear with all of them.

Assuredly, to bear all this,

The God should be our aid.

                          This song talks about the struggle of their life, but they don’t blame either their mother or their father. But, talks of how people would voluntarily come forward to make long speeches about philosophy and provided advices, but in contrast to their philosophies, they don’t behave well in silenced loneliness. This specifically mentions about their experience as prostitutes. The song concludes by saying that only God could be their aid, to support them and help them bear all the shame that is imposed on them. Another song that talks about their situation in the society is, “Thirunangai endru solli.”

You called me ‘Thirunangai’ – and

Made me stand in the streets

You called me ‘Aravani’ – and

Made me wander across villages, – and

To tie the ‘thaali’ once a year – and

Remove it the very next day.

Aravan, would you find

Justice here?

Roaming and wandering,

Lifting hands to beg for alms from others, also

Being destroyed without awarness,

By the morons in darkness,

And therefore carrying the disease HIV

In the body.

How many more days

Would I live like this?

What did I ask of this world?

Did I ask for worship claiming to be a diving birth?

Is it wrong to ask for acceptance as a human being?

I want to see you as a brother and a father

The cruelty of the call for bed is enough.

Let me live as a human being.

I will be educated, I will go for job,

I will be just.

I will be a mother to show love

I will be a relative to help.

Oh Earth! Would you accept me?

                                This song is of a modernistic approach, where the trans-women are fighting for their rights to education and working in jobs. While the song starts from their tradition, talking about their festival of Koovagam, the song continues talking about their profession as prostitutes, and also begging in streets. It expresses their agony over the world which is neglecting to accept them as human beings. In general, trans-women are treated so badly, since they relate themselves to the profession of prostitution. But, this song tells that it was the society which pushed them into the profession and also that they yearn to come out of the bondage of such profession which is demeaning them. “Annan thambi varisaiyilae” is a very different song that gives a very different reason for their transformation. Though, this song is not sung by many trans-women, some enjoy singing this song.

In the row of elder and younger brothers,

I was born as a boy,

But my mother who fed me with her loving milk,

Being disappointed for not having a baby girl,

Made me grow long hair, decorated it with flower garland,

Also applied kajal to my eyes.

Why rear me up as a girl, Kannama?

Who was the one who instilled femininity

Into me, while I was a man?

While the world and the society sees me

As a woman everyday,

Who threw me into such a situation?

Being a male physically,

But a woman mentally,

Does the world know the agony I go through?

Enough of all my burdens.

Now, leave me as I want t establish my path.

In the middle of the streets,

I stand like a hard tree,

And there are many like me.

I plead sincerely,

Please allow us to live as human beings.

                            This song is highly related to the practice of Tamil mothers, who love decorating their baby boy as a girl, to make themselves  feel better, while worrying about not having a baby girl. This song blames the mother as the reason for the transformation, saying that it was her, who instilled the idea of being feminine into the boy.

                         Though the songs that they sing are a part of their entertainment, their songs have a deep plea to the society, which denies them their basic right to live as a human being, which they deserve. They place it in the form of request to the society. These songs represent their culture, and they pass on these songs to their future generations.