Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku Festival: Celebrating Gender Fluidity And Devotion in Kerala

Kerala is renowned for its unique cultural festivals, and one such lesser-known festival is the Chamayavilakku festival. The festival celebrated in the Kollam district of Kerala, is remarkable for its practice of men dressing up as women to worship the goddess Bhagavathy. The festival is celebrated every year in the Malayalam month of Meenam, on the 10th and 11th day, which falls in the second half of March.

The Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku festival takes place at the Kottankulangara Devi Temple in Kollam, which is believed to be self-originated or Swayambhoo. Thousands of men, regardless of their religious beliefs, dress up as women to offer their prayers to the presiding deity. During the festival, men wear sarees, half sarees, or churidars and put on heavy makeup and jewellery. They also style their hair with Jasmine flowers, making it challenging to differentiate them from women.

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The festival is a symbol of men atoning for their sins before the goddess, and they hold the divine Chamayavilakku, a traditional lamp, and take a procession around the temple to show their devotion. The festival has become the largest congregation of the transgender community in Kerala, providing them with a space to celebrate their identity. According to folklore, whoever celebrates the festival will have all their wishes fulfilled and all their sins are forgiven.

Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku Festival: Celebrating Gender Fluidity And Devotion in Kerala

The festival has its roots in a legend where the goddess Bhagavathy visits her devotees, and they offer Anpara and Ezhu para to seek her blessings. The festival’s name, Chamayavilakku, comes from the word “Chamaya,” which means “make-up.” The festival’s uniqueness lies in its practice of men dressing up as women to worship the goddess, making it a carnival of lights and colours. The Kottankulangara Sree Devi temple is the only temple in Kerala with no roof over the sanctum sanctorum.

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The festival begins in the early morning hours when men prepare the chariots of the goddess and decorate them with flowers. They then dress up as women, and the actual festivities commence. The festival has no age limit, and men of all ages participate in this unique ritual.

The Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku festival is a unique celebration of gender fluidity and devotion, where men embrace their feminine side to honour the goddess Bhagavathy. The festival’s message of atonement and fulfilment of wishes resonates with people of all genders, making it a remarkable cultural event in Kerala.

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Rishika Sunit
Hi there! I'm Rishika. When it comes to scribbling, I reckon words have more muscle than Popeye! I love to educate, tickle the funny bone, and get folks all fired up. And let me tell you, turning big-brain stuff into simple, easy-to-digest sentences is my superpower! I'm thrilled to have this space to connect with like-minded individuals and to continue learning and growing together. Thank you for visiting my page!

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