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Noted Indian transgender activist shakes up Hindu festival

PRAYAGRAJ, India (AP) – Indian transgender activist and Bollywood TV star Laxmi Narayan Tripathi has shaken up the male-dominated monastic orders that run the Hindu Kumbh Mela festival underway in northern India that’s expected to draw as many as 150 million pilgrims.

The Kumbh takes place every three years at one of four sites Hindus consider sacred. It’s a series of ritual bathings led by 13 all-male Hindu monastic orders.

Though Hinduism’s ancient Vedas scriptures describe transgender people as integral, for centuries they have been marginalized, forced to leave their family homes as children and often sold into sex trafficking.

Tripathi is capitalizing on the ruling Hindu nationalist party’s emphasis on India’s Hindu roots to claim a place for transgender people among the nation’s religious elite.

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