Thiruvananthapuram: As part of the traditional ritual at the famed Kottankulangara Devi temple at Chavara in Kollam, thousands of men dress up as women on last two days of a festival that ends in the wee hours of Sunday this year.
Legend has it that if men dress up as women on the last two days of the 19-day long annual temple festival, the local deity gets appeased and fulfils wishes.
Over the years, the number of men who arrive with their relatives and friends have increased and crossed the 10,000-mark.
This particular event is called “Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku”.
According to the most popular story, the tradition was started by a group of boys who used to rear cows who would playfully dress up as girls and offer flowers and a coconut dish called ‘kottan’ to a stone. One day the goddess 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 began.
The stone is regarded as the deity. There is also a belief that the stone has been growing in size over the years.
Now that this ritual has become hugely popular, the festival attracts people of various faiths and a large number of them come from outside Kerala.
Sheldon, a youth from Tamil Nadu, was spotted at the temple in the wee hours of Saturday. Asked what brought him here, he said, “I have been hearing about this ritual for a few years now and was wanting to come and finally I have made it. After dressing up as a woman, I felt I have accomplished something which I have been planning for a while.”
Even though the most auspicious time for taking part in the ritual is between 2 a.m and 5 a.m, owing to a huge rush, one can see a stream of men dressed up and decked up in typical Kerala saree carrying the lamp at dusk.
Men dressing up as women or girls have to carry lamps, which are available for rent, but have to get their own attire. But in case, someone needs help, there are beauticians for assistance.
The lamp is a peculiarity of this temple and is seen here only. The lamps
are mounted on a long wooden rod and rise to the waist.
When the festival concludes early on Sunday, thousands of people would return filled with hope and happiness.
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