In plays, even during the early years of this century, it was quite common to see men cross dressing as women, enacting the female roles, sometimes with comic hilarity. However, in Indian mythological tales, gods and goddesses engaged in transvestitism (dressing as someone of the other gender) or expressing trans-sexuality (transformation into a person of the opposite gender) is hardly a laughing matter. According to Wendy Doniger, in Hindu mythology the transformation of the gods and goddesses into other genders is ‘often lethal than fecund’.
Here is one such tale. Set in Tirupati it is about an act of Goddess Gangamma who exacts revenge in her transvestite form. Her devotees continue to enact the ritual at the temple even today. In ancient times, near Tirupati there lived a wicked local warrior and landowner by the name Palegadu. He considered it his right to rape every virgin girl the night before her wedding. He spread absolute terror and took pride in his power over hapless villagers.
One day he happened to set his eyes on Gangamma. She was drying her hair after her bath and he felt a wave of lust rise within him. Gangamma was furious at his amorous advances and decided to teach him the lesson of his life.