Is Aravani or Chakka same as Hijra?

An Indian friend of mine sent me an article about “HINJRA”. It was about a transgender subject so I thought it was misspelled. When I told her about it, she said that everybody in her family refers to Hijra as HINJRA. I checked the word on the internet and learned that there are various words to mean Hijra, which is usually translated into English as eunuch, or hermaphrodite.


  • hijre, hizra, hinjida, hinjda
  • aravani, or aruvani, aravanni,
  • pavaiyaa, khusra, jankha, jagappa,
  • khwaaja sira, khwaja saraa
  • napunsaka, napunsakudu, kojja,kojja, maada, ali, kinnar
  • ombodhu, chhakka, bambaiya, kannada

It shows that Hijra is rooted very deep in India for thousands of years. Also, people refrain from publicly talking about the delicate subject (which attracts strong interest), so dialects and derivatized words remained unchanged.

I am still not too certain about some of the words, because people often mix up transgendered people with transvestites, or feminine men. The word Chakka is always used in a derogatory manner and Kinnar is not.  It is not easy for foreigners like me to judge if one of the above words are appropriate, so it is better to avoid using such words if you are not absolutely sure. Many of the above words are considered derogatory nowadays and it has become general tendency to refer to them as “transgendered” or “third gender”. However, without a doubt HIJRA is the most clear and common terminology. (Do not call your transgendered friend as Hijra, though, as it is considered abusive.)

The following youtube video is titled “Koovagam Hijra Festival 2014”. It is one of the most important religious festivals for aravanis.

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