Hundreds of men decked up in sarees turn up every year at a temple festival in Kollam, Kerala.

Features Friday, March 27, 2015 - 05:30
Haritha John| March 26, 2015| 1.45 pm IST In Kollam district of Kerala, thousands throng the Kottankulangara Devi Temple to celebrate 'Chamayavilakku', a unique festival at this time of the year. As the saree clad figures, decked in heavy jewellery and elaborate makeup take part in the late night procession, the scene to an outsider could seem like just another ritual performed by women in the innumerable temples in the country every day. Only here, the worshippers happen to be men. Each year the distinct ritual attracts hundreds of men from the state and across the country who cross-dress to take part in it. The sight of men carrying lamps in their hands against the dark sky is to an extent alluring. These men come here to wish and pray for- a job, good health, a suitable life partner, the well-being of their family and much more. Green rooms are set up in the temple premises for devotees to dress up. “I have been participating in this ritual for the last three years and it is a representation of my devotion to the deity. I have received all the blessings I had prayed for,” Sankar, who hails from Hyderabad, tells The News Minute. One of the myths surrounding the ritual is that once a group of cow herd boys dressed up as girls and offered flowers to a stone nearby. Some of the boys began to feel that the stone was radiating a divine presence. The stone later came to be called Kottan, around which a temple was built, and the ritual of men cross dressing started. Another myth is that one day when someone threw a coconut on the stone, it started bleeding and people thought it had divine powers. The stone is now considered the temple deity, and some say that the stone has been growing in size over the years. “The number of devotees is increasing with each passing year. Last year it was around 4,000 and this year it crossed more than 5,500,” Dileep, a temple official, told The News Minute. All photos taken by Jayamohan Thambi Tweet
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