India is a rich land of many cultures and rituals. There are certain festivals that simply define its vast culture and one such is the celebration of a festival where men dress like women and offer their prayers to the Goddess of that temple!
This is a unique festival that falls on the 10th and 11th days of the Malayalam month - Meenam and is known as Chamayavilakku. This festival is held at the Kottankulangara Sree Devi Temple, Chavara, near Kollam, Kerala.
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During this festival, thousands of men, irrespective of their religious faith, dress up as women and offer prayers to the Goddess Bhagavathy, who is the deity of the temple. She is believed to be a 'Swayam Bhoo'(Self originated) goddess.
This famous temple is the only temple in Kerala having no roof for the sanctum sanctorum.
So, find out more about this unique festival.
How Is It Celebrated...
About 4000 people visit the temple to pray to the deity wearing half-saris, kasavu saris, and bright-coloured chudidars with matching jewellery, loud makeup and hairdos, complete with jasmine flowers - to celebrate this 2-day festival.
It is believed that by dressing up as a woman and offering prayers while holding the Chamayavilakku that is a five-wicked lamp, the goddess Bhagavathy is said to forgive the man's sins. There is no age limit to participate in the ritual.
It's Festive Time For Transgenders...
This is a much-awaited event for the transgenders in the community, as on these two days, they get their freedom to dress as women and travel in buses without much stigma.
A Source Revealed...
"It is a festival where people of every caste and religion come together and is attended by 95% of the Trans people. Just like how Attukal Pongala is for women, this festival has turned to be the largest congregation of TG community in Kerala. I have been observing the ritual for the past 22 years without any break. I follow a strict vritham every year prior to the festival."
More About It
Over the last couple of years, this unique festival is said to have seen an increased presence of the homosexual and transgender communities from various parts of India like Kerala, Karnataka and even Maharashtra.