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At this Kerala temple, thousands of men dress up as women to get deity’s blessings

Written by on March 27, 2024

Cross-dressing is generally not received well, but at the Kottankulangara Devi temple at Chavara near here, it’s different — hundreds of men cutting across religions dress up like women as part of a traditional ritual to please the deity and get their wishes fulfilled. Incidentally, this is the only temple in Kerala with no roof over the sanctum-sanctorum.

Top Temples in Chavara - Spiritual Journeys and Divine Experiences -  Justdial

Previously only the locals would participate in this ritual at the temple about 80 km from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram but things have changed. On Saturday night, not just Keralites but men from outside the state and even foreigners from New Zealand and London joined the festival.

Men Dress up as Women to offer Prayers in Kerala Temple to get blessed with  Job & Wealth

Although the most auspicious time for taking part in the ritual is between 2 am and 5 am, due to the huge rush, as dusk descends one can see a stream of “women” carrying lamps making a beeline for the temple.

This Kerala Temple Has Got Hundreds Of Men Dressed Up As Women In A Popular  Ritual

The lamps are also available for rent. They perform a parikrama around the temple. While some leave after it, others stay back till 6 a.m. and then leave the temple premises with happiness writ large on their faces.

The Kerala temple where thousands of men dress up like women every year |  Times of India Travel

Folklore has it that the goddess appeared before one of the boys, and subsequently a temple came up and the ritual of cross-dressing to offer prayers to the goddess got underway. This stone has now come to be regarded as the temple’s deity, and some say the stone has been growing in size over the years.

Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku Date And Rituals

A make-up man whose team has been dressing up men into women said, he has been doing this job for over a decade. “Yesterday, I had 20 clients… I take around 45 minutes. While one of us does the makeup, another team works to fix the ladies’ hair and yet another group dresses them up in either saree or traditional Kerala salwar-kameez or Kerala skirt and blouse. “People are quite serious about it and no one makes fun of a man dressed as a woman as this is a ritual,” he said.

Kottankulangara Devi Temple ritual 2021- Impeccable male to female makeup  transformation 😍 - YouTube

While their female family members dress up some of the devotees, there are now a good number of beauticians and makeup artists around the temple who charge between Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 for decking up the faithful.

നയനമനോഹരം, വശ്യസുന്ദരം; അഴകിലലിഞ്ഞ് പുരുഷാംഗനമാർ, ഭക്തിസാന്ദ്രമായി  കൊറ്റൻകുളങ്ങര - Chamayavilakku festival

In the 19-day-long temple festival, it is on the last two days that this ritual named Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku takes place, according to the president of the temple committee G Hari Kumar, who said that this time over 5,000 people — both men and boys — turned up dressed as women or girls for the prayers. Around the same number of people came to watch the fest.

Kottankulangara Devi Temple Thiruvabharna Procession 2024 - YouTube

There are several stories about the Origin of the festival but the most popular version says a group of boys who used to herd cows would playfully dress up as girls and offer flowers and a coconut dish called “kottan” to a stone.

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