A festival in Kerala calls for men to disguise as women and carry lamps as a prayer offering to Bhagavathy (Devi) at Kottankulangara temple in Chavara near Kollam in Kerala.
'Kottankulangara Chamayavillaku', the unique festival is celebrated for 19 long days during March -April every year.
Men clad in female attires like sarees, churidars and skirts along with make up gather at the temple, holding a lamp with five lights on a long wooden rod.
The practice is expressed as a grateful gesture for blessings bestowed through wishes gratified and also to seek the grace of the Goddess.
Trisha a participant in the festival said : "This is the first time that I have come here... I was facing some problems -job problems, study problems, but I got the opportunity now. I am very comfortable here, it's very nice. My friends are also very happy. The atmosphere is very inspiring...this is beyond our imagination," said a jubilant Trisha, a participant in the local festivities.
There are many beliefs that talk about the stories involved with the temple and the unique worship. The most popular one is that a group of cowherds dressed as girls, offered flowers and a dish called 'kottan' made of coconut to a stone playfully. It is believed that Goddess Bhagavathy materialized herself before one of the boys subsequently which marked the origin of this peculiar ritual.
The local residents believe that the stone is growing in size with the lapse of time.
The worship probably denotes the camouflaged fact of the same unifying essence in everyone irrespective of sex difference.