Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a former reality TV star. She now heads the Kinnar akhada, the first transgender group to bathe at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers on the first day of the Kumbh festival.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a former reality TV star (she appeared on Bigg Boss). At the Kumbh Mela however she is busy blessing a constant stream of pilgrims. (Text by Reuters)
Stealing the show
Laxmi literally stole the show on January 15, the first day of the Kumbh, as she and her Kinnar Akhada became the first transgender group to bathe in the sacred waters of the Sangam (where the Ganga and Yamuna meet) traditionally reserved for select Hindu priests, almost all of whom are men.
Bullied at school
Born in 1979 in Thane, a suburb of India's financial capital Mumbai, Tripathi had a difficult childhood scarred with abuse by a close relative. A sickly child who was bullied at school for being feminine, she says she gained confidence after learning Bharatanatyam.
(Photograph:Zee News Network)
Tripathi got her break in 2011, when she appeared on reality TV show "Bigg Boss" and became famous throughout the country.
She went on to become a petitioner in a landmark ruling in India's top court, which in 2014 officially recognised transgender people as a third gender.
A year later, she founded her religious group — the Kinnar Akhada — and began a campaign to have hijras represented at the first royal bath of the Kumbh Mela.
Social support system
Many were supportive of Tripathi — both ordinary worshippers who said transgenders were no different from themselves and transgenders who owe much to her for paving the way for them in society.
Around 150 million pilgrims are expected to take part in the religious festival which runs until March. Tripathi plans to stay in her tent until the end of the festival to meet and greet visitors.