Hinduism and Tribal Religions

Living Edition
| Editors: Jeffery D. Long, Rita D. Sherma, Pankaj Jain, Madhu Khanna

Aravan (Mythical Character)

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1036-5_829-1



Aravan is a character in the Indian epic, Mahabharata and is also known as Iravan, Iravat, and Iravant. He is worshipped by the male-to-female transgenders in India. In the Tamil version of the Mahabharata, Aravan is the son born of the union between Arjuna, one of the Pandavas and Ulupi, the Naga (snake deity) princess, while the Pandavas were sojourning in the north-eastern India on their exile. Though Aravan finds mention in the Mahabharata, the versions of his story are different in the northern and southern parts of India. The Koovagam temple in Villupuram is one of the chief temples of Aravan in India. According to Hiltebeitel, Aravan is revered as a deity in two southern Indian Hindu cults: the Kuttantavarcult (dedicated exclusively to Aravan) and the cult of Draupadi (Aravan’s stepmother and common wife of the Pandavas). Aravan is also known as Kuttantavar in South India, originating from the legend of Kuttantavar killing the demon...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.
    Hiltebeitel A (1995) Dying before the Mahābhārata war: martial and transsexual body-building for Aravāṉ. J Asian Stud 54(2):447–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Monier-Williams (2008[1899]) Monier Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary. Universität zu Köln, University of Cologne, Germany, p 168Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hiltebeitel A (1988) The cult of Draupadī, Mythologies: from Gingee to Kurukṣetra, vol 1. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hiltebeitel A (1998) Hair like snakes and mustached brides: crossed gender in an Indian folk cult. In: Miller BD, Hiltebeitel A (eds) Hair: its power and meaning in Asian cultures. State University of New York Press, Albany, pp 143–176Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hiltebeitel A (1991) Aravan’s battlefield sacrifice to Kali. In: The cult of Draupadi, On Hindu ritual and the goddess, vol 2. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sivanarayanan A (2004) Translating tamil dalit poetry. World Lit Today 78(2):56–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Santhanam K (2001, August 17) Symbol of sacrifice. The HinduGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Somasundaram O (2009) Transgenderism: facts and fictions. Indian J Psychiatry 51(1):73–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Vanita R (2005) Is the spirit gendered?: fluid gender, sex change, and same-sex marriage. In: Love’s rite. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp 71–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Nanda S (1999) Neither man nor woman. Wadsworth Publishing Company, CanadaGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishM. E. S. College of Arts & CommerceZuarinagar-GoaIndia