Sakhi sect's participation in Maha Kumbh: A way to Moksha that transcends gender
In the ongoing Mahakumbh at Allahabad, one can find the sadhus belonging to Sakhi Sect of Krishna devotees - the men who dress up like Radha as 'lovers' or 'female friends' of Lord Krishna - as a reminder of the of sacred mythology of divine love of Radharani for Krishna as a way to Moksha. Decked in Choli and Saree or Lahnga along with make-up, the Sakhi Sect male devotees can be seen chanting bhajans and singing devotional songs to please Krishna on the ghats of river Ganges in a quest for Moksha.
According to Vithal C Nadkarni, in the sakhi-bekhis cult, the male members typically dress themselves as women to reinforce their identity as sakhis or girlfriends of Krishna and to attain a state of spiritual-high or divine love known as sakhi-bhava.
Furthermore, these devotees are deemed as 'sadhus' who cross-dress in private and adopt a less conspicuous nomadic lifestyle
and generally worship Radha and celebrate Radha-ashtami along with singing the devotional songs dedicated to Lord Krishna.
Often willing men are made the Sakhi sect sadhus under the guidance of a guru. They first undergo some rituals, master spiritual practices, understand the concept of divine love and learn devotional songs to graduate as sakhis. Only after a few years of striving, the guru declares the aspirant a sadhu and gives him the woman’s dress as per the scriptures and other things like ornaments. The sakhis are supposed to refrain from the materialistic world and live a life of austerities.
From a spiritual point of view, ultimate reality is dissolution of life into divine love like that of Radha and Krishna. The cross-dressed sakhis sing devotional songs unmindful of the public opinion or glare since it is a state of being in divine love. They just want to be with their beloved Lord Krishna and nothing else. "Nirvana that transcends gender is a typical feature of sacred Indic mythology," as Vithal C Nadkarni puts it.