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Kerala men dress up as women to offer prayers in Kottankulangara temple
by KS Ashik

     Kollam (Kerala): In a bizarre festival in Kerala, men dress up as women and carry lamps to offer prayers at the temple. Popularly known as 'Kottankulangara Chamayavillakku', the festival is held at the Kottankulangara temple in Chavara, near Kollam. The men pay their obeisance to the Goddess Bhagavathy, the deity of the temple. The 19-day long festival occurs during March-April each year. The last two days of the festival witness hundreds of men wearing sarees, churidars and skirts with heavy make-up. Fulfilling the festival tradition, they carry a lamp having five lights mounted on a long wooden rod. The men come to the revered temple to seek blessings and express gratitude to the goddess for the favours received. "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 stories about the origin of the festival but the most popular version says that 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. On a fateful day, Goddess Bhagavathy appeared before one of the boys. Subsequently, a temple came up and the ritual of men dressing up as women to offer prayers to the goddess got under way. According to the local residents, the stone, regarded as the temple deity has been growing in size over the years.
-Mar 26, 2009

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