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Cases of Gender Change in Ancient India
There are a few references in where some

(1) Ilaa / Sudyumn
His or her story comes in Bhaagvat Puraan, 9/1. Since at first she was a woman, that is why we will use "she" for her. In Vaivaswat Manvantar, first Vaivaswat Manu did not have any child, so he asked Vashishth Jee to do a yagya so that he can have a son. Vashishth Jee did that but Manu's wife Shraddhaa requested Vashishth Jee for a daughter, so a daughter was born from that Yagya. Manu was not happy with that girl, so he asked Vashishth Jee to get a son to him. Vashishth Jee then changed that girl (Ilaa) into a man and then he was named as Sudyumn.

Once he was wandering for hunting that he enetered a forest. As soon as he entered the forest with his soldiers that all got converted into women. they were all very surprised to see this, but could not do anything. Later they came to know that that forest belonged to Shiv and Paarvatee Jee. And since they played there, they had made a rule that whoever man will enter the forest, will become a female, that is why when Sudyumn entered the forest with his soldiers, they all turned onto women. Now all wandered in that forest as women.

By chance there lived Chandramaa's son Budh in an Aashram. Once he saw Sudyumn and got attracted to her. he married her and had a son named Pururavaa. From him starts the Chandra Vansh on Prithvi. Later when Manu did  not find his son, Vashishth Jee came to know the real situation of Sudyumn. Vashishth Jee prayed Shiv Jee and he permitted Sudyumn to be man for one month and woman for another month.

(2) Ambaa
Ambaa immolates herself to change her gender. This story comes from Mahaabhaarat. King Shaantanu had two sons from Satyavatee - Chitraangad and Vichitraveerya. Chitraangad was killed in a battle with a Gandharv, and for Vichitraveerya Bheeshm brought three Princesses from Kaashee - Ambaa, Ambikaa and Ambaalikaa. Ambikaa and Ambaalikaa accepted Vichitraveeya as their husband, but Ambaa loved Shaalv Kumaar, so she did not accept him as her husband. Vichitraveerya returned her with respect. But Shaalv Kumaar also did not accept her so she came back to Hastinaapur and asked to marry Bheeshm on ythe ground that she was brought there when she wanted to choose her husband so she wanted to use her that right and wanted Bheeshm as her husband. Bheeshm tried to convince her that he was not brought her for himself as he was already bound to his vow, he brought her for his half brother, but she did not listen to him and cursed him - "You have insulted me that is why, even I will have to take as many births as possible but I will be the cause of your death."

She tried several means to influence Bheeshm to marry her but nothing worked, so she prayed Shiv Jee, and Shiv Jee blessed her that she will be able to kill Bheeshm. "But how? I am a woman, how will I be able to kill him as women cannot go in the battlefield." Shiv Jee said - "In next birth you will be born as a girl and gain the manhood. You will remember everything of your past life and then you will be able to kill Bheeshm." The same thing happened. Ambaa immolated herself after this and was born as a daughter in Drupad's house as Shikhandinee.
[Read further  Shikhandee below]

(3) Shikhandee
Drupad also had a boon from Shiv Jee that first he would have a daughter, then she will become a man. So he brought her up as a  boy and married her to a girl. The girl ran away to her father's house saying that she was cheated by being married to a girl. But patient Drupad asked her father to send anybody to check his daughter. Now Shikhandinee was in a flux, so she ran away from the palace. In a forest a cursed yaksh was going from skyway, he gave his own manhood to her for one year and went away. Taking the manhoof that Yaksh, Shikhandinee came back to the palace, passed the test and became Shikhndee. Later she was able to help Arjun killing Bheeshm.

(4) Arjun
This story comes in Mahaabhaarat, Van Parv. When Paandav had lost the second Dice game, they went to forest for 13 years, including 1 year to pass as incognito. When they were living in forest, Vyaas Jee advised Yudhishthir to get ready for the war, and for that he advised him to send Arjun to obtain Divine weapons. He first sent Arjun to Shiv Jee to get his Paashhupat Astra. He did that but Shiv Jee advised him to go to Indra, Arjun's father to get Divine weapons from his first. So he went to Swarg to his father.There he got all kinds of Divine weapons. Indra taught him music and dance also to prepare him to pass the one year exile incognito.

Once Urvashee saw his dance and got attracted to him and proposed for her love. Arjun clearly refused it saying that since she was the wife of Pururavaa, his ancestor, he considered her as his mother and that is why he could not even think of making love to her. This filled Urvashee with rage and she cursed him that he should be an eunuch all his life.

Arjun got scared. he immediately went to his father Indra and told everything. Indra called Urvashee and told her that she had no right to behave with him in such a way, because she was an Apsaraa and Apsaraa lived in Heaven. Urvashee said - "He has insulted me, so he should be punished. You yourself may decide his punishment." Then Indra limited his term of punishment for one year and that also he could use it any time at his will. Later he used that curse when he had to pass the year incognito in Viraat's palace as Brihannalaa teaching music and dance to the royal women and girls.

(5) Bhangashwan
Once the King Bhangaaswan went for hunting. Indra thought this time was appropriate for his revenge so he misguided the King from his path. The King could not know the direction and lost his way in that thick forest. King was tired of wandering here and there, that he came to a beautiful pond filled with clean and clear water. He got relieved to see it. He entered the pond to take bath and as he came out of the pond, he was surprised to see that he was turned into a woman. Even he started behaving like a woman. The King was so embarrassed to see himself like this. he could not dare to go back to his kingdom.

Anyway he returned to his capital. People were very surprised to see him in his changed form. He handed over his kingdom to his sons and left for the forest. In the forest he started living with a saint as his wife and gave birth to 100 sons. When they had grown up, he sent them tol his kingdom living with their brothers. Indra again took the revenge of his insult, so both of that King's sons - his sons when he was king and his sons when he was the wife of the saint, started quarreling and all died in that quarrel.

When the King came to know about the death of his 200 sons, he went to Indra and said to him - I never insulted you knowingly, it was just a slip of memory." Indra got convinced by his statement and asked him if he wanted to be male again, but surprisingly the King did not want to become male again. Indra got surprised to hear his "No" and asked the reason. The King said - "O Dev Raaj, whatever pleasure I have experienced in sex as a woman was unparallel. A man cannot experience such heavenly enjoyment as a woman does. I do not want to lose this, so I choose to remain a woman throughout my life than to regain my manhood."
[MBH, Anushaasan Parv

(6) Saamb
This story comes in Bhaaagvat Puraan, 11/1,  and Vishnu Puraan, 5/14. Once Some Rishi came and stayed near Dwaarakaa. Some Yadu Princes also happened to come there and saw them staying there. So they thought to cut a joke with them. They prepared Jaambvatee's son Saamb as a woman with pregnancy, took him to those Rishi and asked them - "Hey Braahman, This beautiful woman is pregnant and wishes to know that whether she will give birgth to a boy or a girl? You know everything. She has a strong desire to have a son." The Rishi looked at Saamb appeared in the form of a woman, they said - "She will give birth to a Moosal (pestle) which will destroy your whole Kul (Vansh or family)." Rishi indeed knew everything.

Hearing this all the boys got frightened. They immediately opened the stomachof saamb and found a Moosal in his stomach. They ran towards Ugrasen's (Kans' father) court. They told him everything and showed the iron Moosal to him. Hearing this all who were sitting there also got frightened since everybody knew that Braahman's curse could not be untrue. Immediately Ugrasen crushed that Moosal and threw its powder into the sea. Later the same happened as the Rishi forecast.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 5/27/04
Updated on 06/28/13