Discovering the sacred feminine

Chamayavilakku ritual at Kottankulangara Sri Bhagavathy Temple held

March 26, 2018 09:21 am | Updated 06:25 pm IST - KOLLAM

 Men dressed up as women offer prayers as part of the Chamayavilakku festival at Kottankulangara Devi Temple in Kollam on Sunday.

Men dressed up as women offer prayers as part of the Chamayavilakku festival at Kottankulangara Devi Temple in Kollam on Sunday.

Thousands of devotees thronged Kottankulangara Sri Bhagavathy Temple here on Sunday, the concluding day of the famed Chamayavilakku festival.

As part of the unique temple ritual, men dolled up as women offer prayers to the presiding deity, holding traditional lamps with five wicks. The ritual conducted in two days have identical procedures going on till midnight on both the days. “This year, we have been witnessing a huge rush of devotees since Chamayavilakku falls on Saturday and Sunday,” said a temple official.

On Saturday

Even before Saturday, the temple premises came alive with a string of studios and green rooms to transform the male devotees into damsels.

There were also stalls offering every accessory on hire including wigs and lamps for the participants. Though a local festival, hundreds of men from various parts turned up at the temple, cross-dressing to seek the blessings of the goddess.

As part of the festival, devotees stand in long lines from temple gate to Kunjalummoodu holding the lamp for the ceremonial arrival of deity (Ezhunnallathu), which happens around 2 a.m. It was the devotees of Chavara and Puthukkad karas who jointly hosted the festival on Saturday, and on Sunday, it was the turn of Kulangara Bhagam and Kottakkakam.


According to the temple legend, a bunch of cowherds tried to break a coconut by hitting it on a stone, which suddenly started bleeding.

It was found by astrologers that the stone contained divine energy of Vanadurga and the locals were instructed to build a temple around it.

It is believed that the first poojas of the temple were conducted by the cowboys wearing the clothes of women, which eventually led to the unusual custom.


Chamayavilakku is also a much-anticipated event for the members of transgender community, as it offers them an opportunity to celebrate their real identity. During the past few years, there has been a steady inflow of trans persons not just from Kerala, but all parts of the country.

Celebrity make-up artist Renju Renjimar says the community members wait for the festival all the year.

“I have been attending the festival for last 23 years. Earlier, it was our only chance to stroll openly as women and even now we are very happy and excited to be part of it. I am a hardcore devotee of the goddess and follow all customs associated with the ritual without any fail.”

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