A number of myths abound in the region of Becharaji, which is associated with the eunuchs; prominent among them are that of the myths of Arjuna and Sikhandi of Mahabharata. Let us go through them briefly.
The Myth of Arjuna
After the 12 years of exile, as per the rule, the Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi had to spend an additional year in exile but incognito without detection. At this time, a long pending curse on Arjuna came of help. Arjuna in an earlier episode in Mahabharata was cursed for refusing the amorous advances of by Urvashi. She had cursed him to become a ‘kliba’, one of the third sex. For the thirteenth year, this was the best disguise for Arjuna.
It is said that before the Pandavas proceeded towards the kingdom of Virata, Arjuna is supposed to have visited Bahurcharaji. It is here that he hides his weapons and becomes 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, before proceeding for the Kingdom of Virata. Before he left for Virata’s kingdom, Arujuna is supposed to have hidden his weapons in a thorny tree called the Sami tree in nearby Dedana village. As a part of the ritual, on every Dasherra day this tree is worshipped, and the ritual is known as ‘Sami-pujan’. It is said that this tree remains green all-round the year and does not either increase or decrease in its size.
Virata was a kingdom ruled by the Matsya king by the name Virata. Its capital was Virata Nagari, modern Bairat in the Jaipur district of Rajasthan.
The Myth of Sikhandi
|An artist's impression of Sikhandi|
The story of Sikhandi is well known and we will not delve in the myth which binds together some of the main characters of Mahabharata, viz. Bhishmapitamah, Princess Amba, King Salya, etc. What is of significance here is that Shikhandi was the son of King Drupad and was Princess Amba in his previous birth.
As per the local lore, Sikhandi was not a man in the sense of having masculinity. So Sikhandi is supposed to be moving around in despair to attain masculinity to take part in the famous war of Kurukshetra, as he had to fulfil his wow of killing Bhishma. When after all the efforts failed, he was dejected and came to Bahucharaji. The lore goes on to say that in this region stayed a Yaksha by the name of Mangal. When the Yaksha saw Sikhandi, who was miserable and crying and pitiful, he asked her what was wrong. Sikhandi told him his story and how it was a desire to be a man and avenge the insult heaped onto him from his previous birth.
Hearing all this, the Yaksha took pity on Sikhandi and decided to trade genders with Sikhandi, till he achieves his imminent objective. The lore goes on with more twists and turns and adding to the already complicated issue, which we will omit here.
It is said that from that day onwards, this place gets its importance of a place where lost masculinity can be gained.
Though there is no empirical evidence to prove the veracity of either of the above mentioned episodes, but the popular local belief and the presence of the eunuchs in the region is enough to strengthen the belief system. Also the proximity of Virata and Panchala from Gujarat lends some credence to the association in some form or the other.
The fact that Lord Krishna had such an influence in the region and a follower of his in Arjun makes the myth highly believable for the local populace. It also gains currency in the fact that Mahabharata is an epic of India and the locale had a share of prominence in the great epic!