In a unique affair of things, during the Chamayamvilakku festival at the Kottankulangara Sree Devi Temple in Kerala, men participate in a sacred ritual where they pluck their eyebrows, apply makeup, and dress up in vibrant saris. In order to appear as genuine as possible, they also remove their mustaches by shaving them off.
The festival is celebrated every year in March for 19 days. On the final two days, men adorn themselves with glittering jewelry and intricate makeup, wearing saris to partake in the “Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku” ceremony.
This is done as an offering to the Goddess for granting their prayers. A few of these men are so strikingly feminine that it can be challenging to recognise them as men in women’s attire.
Ananth Rupanagudi, an Indian Railways officer, caused a stir on Twitter by sharing a photo of a man dressed in women’s clothing during the Chamayavilakku festival.
“The Devi Temple in Kottamkulakara in Kollam district in Kerala has a tradition called the Chamayavilakku festival. This festival is celebrated by men who are dressed as women. The above picture is that of the man who won the first prize for the make up In the contest. #festival,” read Rupanagudi’s tweet.
The legend is that a cohort of young cowherds would playfully adorn themselves in feminine attire and present flowers and a coconut delicacy called ‘kottan’ to a stone. One day, the goddess appeared before one of the boys. Following this incident, a temple was erected and the custom of men donning women’s clothing to pay homage to the goddess was established.
The stone is considered the embodiment of the deity, and it is believed that it has grown in size over time.