The transgender Indian community — called hijras — have been a part of Indian society and culture since ancient times, but they remain largely on its margins, as beggars, street performers or sex workers. Although India's Supreme Court officially recognized transgender people as a third gender in 2014, they are continuing to fight for acceptance, jobs and education.
The hijras gathered Friday on the banks of the Shipra River to celebrate one of India's biggest holy festivals — the Kumbh Mela. Millions of Hindu saints, holy men, seers and ordinary pilgrims will come for a month of worship, including a ritual river bath to purify body and soul.
In India's society, people we might consider transgender have existed across societies for as long as the societies themselves have existed, but in South Asia they have formed distinct communities with histories and mythologies that go back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. With greater access to information, some hijras have opted to identify as transgender.
Here's a look at how hijras celebrated at the Kumbh Mela:
Max Bearak contributed to this post.