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Pre-modern, pre-Section 377 Queer Ramayana shows sages desiring Rama’s body

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Odia poet Upendra Bhanja’s retelling was cast aside by the middle class who grew up with the same morality that made Section 377 possible.

TheQ debate on Section 377 is hopefully coming to a resolution, and significant Right-wing influencers are showing a favourable response as well.

So, what better way to inspect this newfound tolerance than to shine the light on and scrutinise instances of non-normative sexual acts in celebrated Hindu texts, especially one that has come to epitomise the Hindutva ideology – the Ramayana. Or better still, the Queer Ramayana.

The pre-modern Odia retelling of the Ramayana composed by the king-poet Upendra Bhanja and titled Baidehisa Bilasa, written in the ornate courtly fashion, paints a fascinating account of the desires of Rama and Sita that went beyond the ‘natural order’. Although popular in his time, the late 17th or early 18th century text was cast aside by the late 19th century middle class who grew up with the same morality that had made Section 377 possible.

When the sages desired Rama

In the narration of the Dandakaranya episode (Canto 21), the exiled Rama and Sita are wandering through the forest when a group of sages glance at them. The sages question their own celibacy as they look desirously at Rama (surprisingly not at Sita, which would have been heterosexually........

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