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Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku;Asianet News

Once a year, at the temple in Kottankulangara in Kerala, at Chavara,

near Kollam, hundreds of men dress up as women and worship the
Goddess Bhagavathy with lamps. This unique ritual is called Chamaya
Vilakku (make-up lamp), and the men come to the temple as a women
bride at night in a long procession with lighted lamps in their hands. The
ritual occurs during March-April each year.

The story goes that a group of cowherds found a rock in the forest that
oozed blood. They realised it was a rock containing the power of the
Goddess. When one of them touched it, he burst into flames and was
reduced to ashes. Clearly only a woman could pick it up for the Goddess
preferred priestesses over priests. But as there was no woman in the
vicinity, and the boys felt such a powerful stone should not go
unattended for long, they dressed in complete women attire like a female
bride and approached it. This time, no one got hurt. The Goddess blessed
and fulfilled all the wishes of the men expressing their best of feminine

A devotee, Satish Kumar said, "All devotees have come here to
participate in the festival as our wishes get fulfilled. So, lot of devotees
take part in the festival and the numbers are increasing every year
because of the fruitful results."
The cross-dressing is part of traditional ritual festivities, where men
decked up in women's bridal attire with bangles, anklets, mehndi,

makeup, jewellery whatever they can do to look most beautiful as a

women in attempt to please the temple goddess for their wish
fulfillment.The more they look and sacrifice themselves femininely the

more they get blessed.

Another devotee from Mumbai, Girish Kumar said, "I wish to let the
goddess cure my mom from PCOD and intestinal cancer.I`ve read that
the goddess bless the man being feminine so i decided if my mom got
cured i`ll remain for a whole of month in a year as a female and worship
her.A devotee M Venkaiah said, "My aim is to succeed in life and get
prosperity for the whole world and everyone else."

The men also carry large lit lamps and take strolls of the temple while
offering prayers to the deity.Some even undergo their hair naturally
lengthened ,ears and nose pierced,eyebrows arched and some even
undertook breast implants to become more feminine to sacrifice herself
in front of temple diety.
This year, the event witnessed more than 6,000 men performing the
cross-dressing traditional ritual.
The cross-dressed devotees in colourful traditional Kerala drape and
jewellery crowded the temple premises and walked with large lamps.

Attractive decoration of the temple and the traditional music playing in

the background created a spiritual aura.
Men of all ages and from different parts of the country forsake gender
bias and became part of this unique ritual.
According to the legend, that a group of boys, all cowherds, would
playfully dress up as girls and offer flowers and a coconut dish "kottan"
to a stone they considered as a goddess. It is believed that one day the
goddess appeared before one of the boys.
Subsequently, a temple was built and the ritual of cross-dressing as a
real women became a part of traditional ritual festivities.
The festival has been attracting people from various faiths and religions
all over the world.
The most auspicious time for taking part in the ritual is between 2 a.m.
and 5 a.m. However, some devotees arrive much earlier in order to offer
prayers in a peaceful manner.