Former reality TV star, transgender activist, and now, demigod. Those were the words Laxmi Narayan Tripathi uses to describe herself. Earlier this month, she and her followers became the first transgender group to bathe in secret waters during an Indian religious festival at the holy Ganges and Yamuna rivers. It's a privilege that's been traditionally reserved for select Hindu priests almost all of whom are men.
>> This was the time that every second was so important for me and of my existence. But Tripathi says she's merely being allowed back into a space where she belongs. In India transgenders are called Hijras and were worshiped as demigods for thousands of years. It wasn't until the British came along and classified them as criminals that they faced increased persecution.
Today they still face incredible hardship in conservative India with many forced into sex work. Tripathi also had a difficult childhood scarred with abuse by a close relative.>> I choose not to remember the prejudice because it is very easy to remember the prejudice and be a tragedy queen.
I rather think what are the good things which has happened to me and be a flamboyant rainbow.>> Tripathi got her big break on a reality TV show and became a national celebrity. She went on to become a petitioner in a landmark ruling in India's top court which in 2014 officially recognized transgender people as a third gender.
A year later, she founded her religious group and campaigned to have hijras represented at the sacred bath.>> If she wasn't here in India and if she hadn't come out as transgender, then probably there wouldn't have been anything for us today. To us, she's even more important than God.
Around 150 million pilgrims are expected to take part in the religious festival which runs until March. Tripathi says she'll stay until the end to bless those who come to her